2022 Forbes Under 30 Summit: Founders And Creators From Megan Thee Stallion To Hailey Bieber Take The Stage To Talk Entrepreneurship, Mental Health And More – Forbes
Top leaders, founders, entrepreneurs and creators gathered in Detroit for the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit this week, filing into the Detroit Opera House for a week of panels, A-list speakers and networking. The goal? To create the most immersive experience yet, says Forbes Chief Content Officer Randall Lane.
“Reinvention is the name of the game,” Lane, founder of the 30 Under 30 Summit, said in his opening remarks.
Global DJ Kygo and popstar Blu DeTiger kicked off the flagship Summit with a private concert, which included crowd surfing and all, Oct. 2.
This year’s Summit featured celebrity speakers from Hailey Bieber to Megan Thee Stallion, roundtables and exclusive networking opportunities, community service and local culinary experiences.
Below is live coverage of the Summit. To join the conversation on social, follow #Under30Summit.
Grammy Award-winning musician, entrepreneur and philanthropist Megan Thee Stallion doesn’t believe in having a Plan B. And she doesn’t believe in that opportunities ought to be handed to her.
“When you just let people give you things, you don’t get to learn,” Megan Thee Stallion tells Forbes’ Randall Lane. “You didn’t have to go through any hardship. You didn’t have to learn a lesson. You didn’t have to bump your head.”
Despite finding fame and success as a rapper, the pop culture icon decided to finish up her college degree.
“I didn’t treat rapping like it was Plan B, and I didn’t treat school like it was Plan B,” she says. “I was always like, ‘I got two Plan As.’”
Along with her music career, the Houston-based rapper has also opened up franchises of Popeyes. For her brand deals and endorsements, she says she doesn’t partner with companies she’s not naturally interested in, and she’s always thinking about who she’s selling to.
“People wanting to use your face and your image to sell their product is easy,” she says. “But caring about something to me, and caring about who I’m selling something to, and my supporters—I’m not about to get up and talk about something I don’t care about or put my face on something I don’t know about.”
Being authentic is key, she says. And when it comes to mental health, Megan Thee Stallion says it’s something she’s still trying to navigate. “All I can say is there are people that are willing to listen,” she says.
Ryan Breslow has raised nearly $1 billion since founding fintech startup Bolt and now holistic health startup Love. His advice? Be all in.
“You can’t fundraise with one foot in and one foot out,” Breslow tells Forbes Assistant Managing Editor Steven Bertoni. “Go all in and be good at it.”
Breslow’s book outlines his tips and principles to fundraising.
“You have to have a compelling story,” Breslow says. “You have to know why you have a secret about the world and why you are uniquely positioned to execute on it.”
Then it comes time to build a team. Building momentum requires networking, he says. “I find that the more you age as a leader, the more you mature and grow, the more mature leaders you’ll be able to attract,” Breslow says of finding a strong team of grounded, authentic leaders.
Breslow also cites his four-day workweek, therapy sessions, meditation practices and cutting meetings out of his calendar as reasons for his successes.
And when it comes to conflict, Breslow says to let it go. Speaking on his series of tweets about Y Combinator and payments company Stripe that sparked controversy, Breslow says that while some love his tweets, “not everybody takes it the way you intended it to be taken, and so you get over your conflict virginity.”
“You ultimately realize that it doesn’t really matter,” he says. “And you move on with your life.”
Steve-O has gone from the TV-series-turned-movie-series Jackass to a second career as comedian and author. He says the meaning of life is actually “painfully simple.”
“It’s to get off your ass and pick [a goal],” he tells Forbes Senior Editor Maggie McGrath on stage during Day 3 of the Forbes Under 30 Summit. “It’s up to us to assign meaning to our life and what that means is we need to identify a goal because one cannot accomplish shit unless first identifying a goal.”
Steve-O’s advice on entrepreneurship—and life in general—is to make that goal something you’re passionate about pursuing. The multi-hyphenate advises people to find others who complement you—not people who compliment you.
On the Summit stage, Steve-O calls his memoir, Professional Idiot, his “proudest work.” Now in his 40s, his latest book, A Hard Kick in the Nuts, provides a “guide to middle age.” With Scott Randolph, Steve-O has also created a merchandise brand, selling everything from skateboards to hot sauce.
Steve-O says his drive for productivity stems from humankind’s knowledge of our guaranteed death.
“It makes a lot of sense to be hyper-focused on one’s mortality and be very deliberate about how we live out each day, so that we can look back on it,” he says.
Hailey Bieber is a brand-new founder. Bieber harnessed her passion, platform and influence to create her skincare company Rhode, which has had over 600,000 waitlist signups for its products to date.
The founder and creative director says she’s a perfectionist. Her first products took 16 rounds of reformulation to “really nail it,” she says.
At 25, Bieber says starting in the modeling industry early on (her first major fashion show was in 2014) has helped her understand creative thinking and entrepreneurship.
Looking ahead, Bieber says she’s focused on skincare and beauty formulas and new product launches. Her advice to other founders? “Be prepared for the mishaps and be prepared to make mistakes,” Bieber tells Forbes Senior Editor Maggie McGrath. “It’s OK for that to happen, and you can learn from it. It will help you to drive your brand forward.”
“Customers are making decisions based on companies that align with their value set,” says Ashley Haynes-Gaspar, chief operating officer of U.S. industry and business applications at Microsoft. With that in mind, and as the threat of climate change continues to grow, companies are pivoting to become more sustainable along with their customers.
“If you’re not a sustainable business, your business is unsustainable,” Haynes-Gaspar says.
Haynes-Gaspar joined Alaskan Salmon Co. founder Kyle Lee on the Summit stage to discuss supply chain issues and going carbon-negative.
While Daniella Pierson, founder and CEO of The Newsette and cofounder and co-CEO of Wondermind, announced $40 million in 2021 revenue. Andy Dunn, author and cofounder of clothing brand Bonobos, announced successful funding rounds. They were both were also working on their mental health. But it took them awhile to talk about it.
“I used to think if I become successful, I’ll be the only person with a mental illness that’s successful,” Pierson says. “And that’s just not true. People just don’t talk about it. It’s not visible.”
Pierson cofounded mental health startup Wondermind with singer and actress Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey, CEO of Kicked to the Curb Productions and Gomez’s mother.
Dunn’s memoir, Burn Rate, details his journey through the intersection of entrepreneurship and mental illness. On the Summit stage, Dunn says, “If we can recognize that strengths have shadows, then we don’t need to be afraid of our shadows to showcase our strengths.”
Nine-year-old delivery startup Gopuff broke into the basics this year, trademarking the word “Basically” as the name of its private-label-branded products, from water to batteries. The company’s cofounder and co-CEO Rafael Ilishayev tells Forbes’ Steve Bertoni that Gopuff’s strategy is focusing on the back-end technologies such as its batch-order deliveries that allow multiple pickup points.
“The technology that we built within batching is the best in the world,” Ilishayev says. “It’s unique to our business, and it’s very, very hard to replicate.”
“Your time is the most important thing you have,” says Haroon Mokhtarzada, cofounder and CEO of Rocket Money, a subscription management platform. Mokhtarzada and Everette Taylor, CEO of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, shared advice for building a business during tough economic times.
“There’s going to be different things” you do, Taylor says. “You’re going to fail. You’re going to succeed, but if you have a genuine audience that you build, they’ll support you through the ups and downs and the new things that you want to start.”
Mokhtarzada advises founders and entrepreneurs to outsource when they aren’t experts in something. “The investment is your time,” he says. “Wisdom comes from hard-earned mistakes.”
Singer-songwriter GIVĒON joined Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy and founder of Harvey Mason Media, to discuss navigating the music and entertainment industry and becoming a star in “this new digital version of the entertainment industry.”
Social media has created faster consumption and creation of media and music. GIVĒON says he’s very much a digital-first artist—his career started a day before the pandemic.
In a digital world, first impressions are more important than ever, GIVĒON says. “If you’re a new artist and you’re trying to develop, everyone’s watching you develop,” he says. “Every step of your journey is documented.”
GIVĒON’s advice to finding success and your niche in today’s landscape? Be honest and be yourself. “Anything forced—people will be able to tell right away.”
What’s key to stardom is having a great team, family and mentors to lean on, both GIVĒON and Mason said on the Summit stage.
On stage with Forbes’ Randall Lane, Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC and cofounder of AOL, says expansion everywhere is crucial to innovation. His firm, Revolution Growth, has invested nearly $1 billion in over 200 growth-stage startups in more than 100 U.S. cities.
“We need to back entrepreneurs everywhere if we’re going to disrupt some of the big industries that need to be reimagined,” Case says.
Once the automotive industry’s North American hub, Detroit is now going head-to-head with Silicon Valley. Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl and Dakota Semler, founder of Xos Trucks, an electric fleet manufacturer, spoke with Forbes Assistant Managing Editor Steven Bertoni about EV adoption and the multibillion-dollar industry opportunity.
Semler says fleet electrification will allow company vehicles to not only operate cleaner but also save businesses money. In addition to affordability, Pawl says EV is about combating climate change.
Former Stockton, California, mayor Michael Tubbs took the Summit stage to talk lasting change.
At just 26, Tubbs became the youngest head of a major U.S. city. Now, the Forbes 30 Under 30 member is taking his leadership and experience into venture capital to create change and more opportunities for others.
His new journey, Tubbs Ventures, is an early stage venture fund focused on creating opportunities for everyone regardless of background.
“At first I thought politics was the only way to change the structure of society and change this road,” Tubbs says. “Part of it also has to do with capital, because no politics alone can explain why Black families only have 13 cents for the dollar of every white family.”
Cami Téllez, founder, CEO and creative director at undergarment brand Parade, and Greg Schwartz, cofounder and COO of luxury marketplace, share what it takes to build a modern brand.
Listening is key, Téllez says. Conversations with friends helped her understand the underwear category and Gen Z customers more. For the Gen Z consumer, Téllez says the early 20s is when consumers start to build relationships with brands, have emotional experiences with underwear and make their own money and “vote with their dollars.”
“This is really a category about loyalty,” Téllez says. “The other piece, being a Gen Z CEO, is this is an audience of people who have embraced mass cultural shifts. Underwear went from being a category that was about intimates, privacy, not wanting to share your body, to women really being empowered and excited to make this social, to make this about self-expression and to share their stories with their audiences.”
On stage, the founder says one of Parade’s latest initiatives is influencer marketing, particularly focusing on micro influencers—creators with smaller social media followings compared with celebrities. The move helps the brand cater to new audiences such as the Gen Z customer, a target consumer StockX is also focused on.
“This next gen customer—they’re trendsetters,” Schwartz says. “Older generations look at the younger generation for what’s cool, and so for us, it makes a lot of sense, as we’re thinking about the products on our platform, that we’re targeting that younger customer that is setting trends for the next generation.”
Lyft is the first ride-sharing platform to offer commercial autonomous-driving vehicles, cofounder John Zimmer told Forbes’ Maggie McGrath.
“We led with our mission,” says Zimmer, “to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.”
Creators are entrepreneurs, says Lucy Guo, the founder of Passes, a Web3 creator platform. And founders like Guo and Cameo cofounder Devon Townsend are maximizing on those creators.
Speaking with Forbes’ Jabari Young, Townsend and Guo emphasized the power of influencers in the era of social media.
At Cameo, the video-sharing marketplace where fans and brands can pay pop culture personalities to create personalized video messages, Chief Product Officer Townsend says their fastest growing business line is now Cameo for Business. “We’ve focused on direct-to-fan monetization,” Townsend says.
Randall Lane took the stage to announce 64 $100,000 Yass Prize grants. The fund helps education entrepreneurs.
CAULIPOWER founder Gail Becker and Misfits Market founder and CEO Abhi Ramesh have worked to change long-held public opinions to build household brands.
Becker’s food brand CAULIPOWER is working to reinvent cauliflower and healthy eating while Ramesh’s online grocery service Misfit Markets reimagines grocery shopping.
“Our view is that online grocery continues to grow extremely rapidly,” Ramesh says.
Innovation requires a customer-first focus, uniqueness and human touch. That’s the message Etsy CEO Josh Silverman had as he spoke with Forbes’ Steven Bertoni.
“Our mission is keeping commerce human,” Silverman says.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the e-Commerce site had about 40 million buyers. Now, Etsy has almost 100 million items for sale and nearly 90 million customers.
“[Customers] crave something which expresses identity, which expresses a sense of specialness,” Silverman says.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman speaks with Forbes Assistant Managing Editor Steven Bertoni.
During the Summit’s first panel, Shark Tank kept up with the Kardashians. Chocolate maker Mid-Day Squares cofounder Jake Karls and comedian Benito Skinner joined the stage with Forbes Deputy Editor Kristin Stoller to talk brand-building and bouncing back from embarrassing moments amid ever-changing technology and trends.
“I think the hardest thing about the internet is how fast it moves,” says Skinner, known to his fans as Benny Drama.
Skinner is known for his comedic sketches imitating the Kardashians. Rather than feeling pigeonholed, Skinner has branched out with live shows and says his next ventures include starring in a film later this year and writing a TV show.
Karls says he’s looking forward to getting more creative with Mid-Day Squares.
The chocolate maker was sued by Hershey’s last year over the alleged use of its orange-colored packaging. Karls’ advice for businesses going through legal battles, or “David and Goliath-type things,” is to not be afraid to get creative.
“Make unaverage decisions because it leads to unaverage outcomes,” Karls says.
Attendees lit up the Detroit Opera House with their phone flashlights Sunday night. Global star and DJ Kygo and bass artist and pop icon Blu DeTiger kicked off the 2022 flagship Summit with a private concert.
Kygo performs at the Detroit Opera House Oct. 2 to kickoff the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit.