Four Trends to Trickle Down the Mountains From This Year’s Summit Series Basecamp 2012

Summit Series is an annual gathering of young leaders across various segments of business, philanthropy, government and the arts. It’s been called everything from the “The Hipper Davos” to “The Next TED.”

At any given Summit, you might rub elbows with Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, the president of Georgia, or drummer ?uestlove from The Roots. The event is not lecture-driven; it’s meant to inspire open discussions and connect people through out-of-the-box activities.

The atmosphere at this year’s Summit Basecamp was even more dynamic and powerful than in previous years. It took place in Squaw Valley, Calif., and brought many attendees together on a deeper level. Regardless of the range of business icons, politicians and artists, Rishi Malhotra, President of Bollywood content distributor Saavn notes, “Summit has this unique ability to make everybody equal.”

Unlike other multi-discipline events, Summit Series doesn’t just promote back-patting and lofty ideas, it actually drives action. Connections kindled through the event have led to hundreds of start-up investments, non-profit initiatives and new art programs.

Here are four trends buzzed around the Summit that could spur the next wave of innovation:

  1. Technology fuels an education revolution. Catalyzed by cloud computing, online video, and the lower cost of tablet PCs, a crop of new initiatives are set to change the way the world learns. Four notable examples are:

    Free classes: Khan Academy, with its mission to “provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere,” is leading this entire space. Over 2600 online videos are now free to the world, covering a variety of educational topics.

    The Behaving Game: ClassDojo has built an entirely new model for managing student behavior in real time. The rewards system feels like the future of getting a “gold star” for good behavior. The company came out of the U.K. last summer and is already one of the fastest growing education technology companies, ever. ClassDojo is diving into the realm of behavior management, a completely untapped area of education innovation.

    Extreme PC makeover: Neverware is another awesome company looking to make “old school computers” new again, thanks to one central server installation. The Neverware Juicebox is a server appliance that ends the need to upgrade all desktops in a school. Once installed on the school’s network, all of the PCs run Windows 7 as though they were new, fast computers. So instead of being forced to replace old PCs, schools can use Neverware’s affordable service to keep machines up to date with the newest OS available.

    DIY coding: Thanks to Codecademy, programming is no longer a skill reserved for the Internet elite. With its interactive self-teaching JavaScript course, Codecademy encourages individuals with no coding background to dive in and learn how to build Web sites at their own pace.

    New companies like these, coupled with Apple’s push behind its iBooks textbook store and Pearson Education’s incubation AlleyOop, which gamifies adaptive learning, demonstrates that major corporate support for the sector is also happening. Combined with this group of start-ups and many others, 2012 should be the year of education innovation.

  2. Beyond Facebook. Despite Facebook’s pending IPO, this year’s Summit buzzed about a new cadre of social media gathering spots.

    Google+ was a popular topic among many Summit attendees. Discussions revolved around Google’s ability to scale its social network and leverage assets such as Gmail and Android. Some attendees believed that Google’s ability to potentially turn on a requirement that any new Android user sign in via Google+ could be a major game changer, resulting in hundreds of millions — if not a billion — new users.

    Interest-based social networks were a hot topic this year. These services, many of which are primarily accessed via smartphone or tablet, cater to specific passions — with particular buzz around services like Pinterest, Thumb, Foodspotting and Instagram.

  3. Go global or risk losing out to your copycat. The old rules of building a start-up in America meant incremental growth: Build a critical mass and then expand, country by country, only making moves when a service or product could meet the needs of a new market and its economics.

    Today’s start-ups are going global at a faster rate than ever before because a good idea spreads faster than ever. The rate of copycat creators in Asia, Europe and Latin America is forcing U.S. start-ups to launch and then expand quickly, before spinoffs of their own products surpass them. A new crop of gatekeepers appeared at this year’s Summit, offering effective ways to take businesses to China, India and the Middle East. Lesson of Summit: Once you create a hit service, you need to rapidly scale it before someone else does.

  4. Self-Measurement. The past two Summits have spread a powerful message of self-measurement. Based on the nearly full sessions ranging from breathing to yoga to self-confidence, tomorrow’s leaders are more in tune with their spiritual, physical and mental health.
    As Tim Chang, Managing Director of Mayfield Fund summed up nicely, “Summit was a great checkup and check in on the power of self-evaluation and the potential for innovation in every aspect of our lives.”

    Additionally, technology and self-measurement are aligning with each other. From blood-pressure-monitoring iPhone apps to memory-strengthening online videos, there was an emphasis on ways to improve one’s daily routine, focusing on a true work/life balance. Expect technology and self-measurement to continue to grow in sync and produce amazing new services.

Let’s see how these trends play out in 2012.

As Chief Talker of VSCpr, Chattha’s agency has led strategy and public relations efforts for over sixty technology brands representing a combined $20bn in public market capitalization and disruptive start-ups that have successfully exited for a combined $4.7bn to the likes of Google, Visa, Nokia, AOL and Omnicom Group. Chattha received the gold star award for Publicist of the Year and Digital Communications Professional of the Year as judged by reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post in the 2011 Bulldog Reporter Stars of PR Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @vijaychattha.

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