Jeff Rosenthal – Co-Founder of Summit and Co-Owner, Principal Designer, & Developer of Summit Powder Mountain and Powder Mountain Ski Resort
“You just gotta do things that are a little bit beyond people's expectations and imagination.”
Meet Jeff Rosenthal, Co-Founder of Summit, an organization best known for its global community of thought leaders from across disciplines. Straight out of college in 2008, Jeff and his friends found the skeleton key to building connections in the midst of the recession. In this episode, Jeff shares his wonderful ventures and the golden nuggets of advice he picked up from some of the world’s most notable innovators. We’ll also talk about what drove Summit to move mountains and eventually own one, the Powder Mountain in Utah. Find out how to keep it surreal and globally impactful like Jeff, on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow
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Mentioned in the Episode:
Summit’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Summit
Jeff Rosenthal’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/-jeff-rosenthal/
Summit’s Website: https://summit.co/
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I
want to just sort of making sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked out. So your
Kara Goldin 00:14
the only choice should be to focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin Show. So join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. Its Kara Goldin. And this is the Kara Goldin Show. And I’m super, super excited to dive into our next guest’s life and career journey. And today we’re talking to Jeff Rosenthal, my friend, and just an amazing, amazing entrepreneur. I’ve been wanting to get him on here for a long, long time. Jeff is the CO owner, Principal designer, and developer of summit powder, mountain, and powder mountain ski resort in Eden, Utah. And he’s an entrepreneurial Trailblazer in the world of environmental sustainability. And he’s now the co-author of a book called to make no small plans, which I’m super, super excited to chat with him about that. And yeah, I mean, just more than anything. Welcome, Josh. Really excited to have you here.
Jeff Rosenthal 01:33
Thank you for having me. It’s such a pleasure. Such a huge fan of yours, Kara.
Kara Goldin 01:38
Oh, you’re so awesome. Well, you know, it was funny. Somebody was asking me about the summit the other day. And the first I’ll never forget, because a lot of my inspiration, not only are you inspiring but somebody else that we have a mutual connection with. Rachel Sklar and I met Rachel at the summit. In fact, I met a lot of people at the summit. And I think that’s probably everybody’s story for anyone who has, you know, been to summit that the number of people that I still have connections with. And so the first one that I went to was actually before you had the mountain at Tahoe at the squad. And I remember, I went with Ty, and who’s another seminar and we met there, and she introduced me to Rachel Sklar. And the two of us just started talking. And now Rachel founded something called the list and which has just been so educational for me, and so much of sort of my learning journey has come from that. So anyway, it’s all due to you, Jeff. Ultimately, it’s
Jeff Rosenthal 02:46
due to time. I mean, like, you know, Ty’s incredible. She’s John Legend’s manager and founder friends at work. And one of really, like, you know, quietly, the leading activists and criminal justice policy reform, she’s been doing it for a very, very long time, and in a major way. And the fact that she brought you to summit is really the key to our success. It’s the fact that you know, I think it was the right idea at the right time, this concept of gathering interdisciplinary, intergenerational entrepreneurs, and the event you’re talking about was in 2012. So it was like kind of very much all of us are at the beginning of our entrepreneurial journeys. And so of course, you guys all want to go out and build remarkable things. And yeah, I’m just, I’m flattered to be here. I’m very appreciative, you know, and we started summit when we were 23 and 24 years old in 2008. When we kick this off, that’s awesome. And yeah, it’s been quite a journey.
Kara Goldin 03:40
So what made you think about it? I mean, what was sort of the, you know, you were, so your co-founder, and you, like, give us the backstory on that.
Jeff Rosenthal 03:48
So I threw parties in college with Brett Lee, one of my co-founders. He and I were at American University. He was at George Washington. And we were both entrepreneurs. We had our own little startups. And so we bonded on that. And after school, I had gone to New York, and he was in DC, he called me and said, Hey, I and my buddy Elliot are throwing this event in Mexico. So the very first summit Eliot actually did by himself. He was 19 and had a company called biz now in DC. And it was the 19. That was like 2020 to 23. But he got 19 people together in Park City, Utah in 2008. And he put it all on his credit card. So the second event,
Kara Goldin 04:29
which is a crazy time.
Jeff Rosenthal 04:32
Yeah. So it right after the recession, of course, and we all had bread that graduated two years earlier. And the second event was six months later, it was on a beach in Mexico. And when Brett called me and said hey, this is the idea that we have maybe you want to help us do it, bite some people find sponsors, whatever. I was like, oh my god. 15 minutes ago, I had no excuse to reach out to anybody interesting. And now you just call me with a skeleton key that gives me a good excuse to like anybody that I want to reach out to, I can now call and I have something of value to present and provide. And so, you know, we while we were putting together that Mexico event that it was 60 people beach in Mexico, but many of the attendees ended up becoming like generational luminaries in their fields, whether the impact of technology or consumer, certain really, really remarkable people were there. And our third event was at the Obama White House a month after they took office, like 150 days after we started the summit. So it was such an exponential curve for us, in terms of like this thing, just kicking off and happening, but it was really necessary was the mother of innovation for us, you know, like we were young entrepreneurs, we had our own small businesses. And when you’re a young entrepreneur, you typically are screwing stuff up, and then hopefully not repeating those mistakes. And, you know, we were getting more wrong than we were getting, right. And so just the very first time that we were around other people that were like, passionately building something as entrepreneurs, startup founders, or, you know, like, like, people had started their own nonprofits, it wasn’t particular to a specific field, it was just that kind of like, energy, and that necessity of self-improvement. And we were all like, you know, of course, humble, because we didn’t know anything, like, you know, everybody was very much, you know, at the feeling that they were at the start of their journey. So people gave each other a lot of respect. So that was it. That’s how we kick the thing off.
Kara Goldin 06:24
So interesting. So do you feel like, I mean, did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Or were you just hearing you describe what you described? Just now, it seems like the community was such a, I mean, just such a driver? Like, did you even know what you were starting? Or did you just want to bring a lot of people together, I mean, what was sort of the lead on that?
Jeff Rosenthal 06:49
I’m very lucky that I come from a really big, lovely family, in Dallas, Texas, where I’m from right now. And my grandfather, one of his great quotes was, the greatest luxury in life is a large extended family. So this is like a value and as an appreciation for like, the depth of both the family that you have in the family that you choose, the something that was very innate in me, in terms of, you know, throwing parties is also like, it was a business, but it was also very fun in college to like, gather your friends, right, and have a good excuse to like, get everybody together and to help steward some good times for your, for your homies. But um, you know, I think that, that that world community, it’s interesting to reflect on it. So when we did our white house event, Tony Shea was one of the guests. And at the end of the event, he pulled us aside and he was like, guys, are there some people here that you wouldn’t have your house for dinner? Or be their friend or introduce them to your family? If they didn’t have their personal professional success? We were like, Yeah, of course. But that’s not we were tasked with it and say, like, hey, just bring your favorite, you know, cool entrepreneurs. That so there were some people that we don’t need to go into, but that you know, weren’t necessarily of that quality, that like, you know, we really enjoyed their company is valued at values alignment, and he goes, Well, yeah, they can’t come anymore. He goes, when you’re building community, your culture is your most important thing. And if they don’t fit your culture, then they can’t be a part of what you’re doing. And we it’s, you know, now it’s 2021, you’ve heard these words, so many times, if you’re in business, or if you like, self-educated business, this was like a revelation to us, we had never thought about, yeah, he of course, then, like, came out with a book Delivering Happiness. And, you know, and that was one of his, like, key skill sets was understanding this. So that night, it just has been mind-blowing, but feedback. That’s when we came up with the criteria for the summit, which was one of these people innovators in their field, regardless of their discipline. And two, they kind of open minded nice people that we would have to our parent’s house for dinner if they weren’t professionally successful. And, you know, so I think that that plus the idea that it was like, kind of double opt-in, we met everyone that we would invite to summit events to make sure that those two criteria were met. And that and not only in those early days, still, to this day, we have like a team of community directors that work with us that you know, still curate for a living in a sense, but it was always through relationships, right? Like, of course, you can write into the summit and apply to attend the events. But a lot of the original people like yourself have a similar story where a friend came really enjoyed themselves got value out of it, gave value to it, and then you know, invited their buddies to it.
Kara Goldin 09:27
Now that’s incredible. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a ton about, because, you know, as you know, I I am the founder of hint, but also the CEO of hint and, and a lot of my employees are millennials and I think the community is something that I look back on, you know, 15 years ago when I started hint, it’s just become more and more important in the company. And I think it’s really I give it to, you know, I think millennials get a lot of slack, you know, sent their way like oh, there are lazy, they’re this, you know by, especially by my generation, the Gen X generation. And I actually am sort of counter to that frequently and talking about millennials. I’m like they brought community, they brought the importance of actually hanging out and being with people that you like. And anyway, I think that it’s such an important thing. And I’ve never really, I mean, obviously, I’ve thought about the summit as such a great thing. But I think it’s really interesting because it wasn’t like you wanted to go start a company, it sounds like what you wanted to do was actually bring ideas together, right? More first, and we were already we were entrepreneurs,
Jeff Rosenthal 10:38
entrepreneurs, we’d started different companies, like, I think that you’re kind of afflicted with entrepreneurialism, or not, in a sense, like you certainly something that can be learned, and many people that do not start their careers, as entrepreneurs and build a great skill set and something else. Ultimately, you’re much better at it than like, Guys like myself, who, you know, like, this is essentially all I was not a good employee anywhere, right? I never built a trade. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t have, you know, there are so many people that spent time in banking that then moved into entrepreneurial activities and then crushed it right, or, like, you know, all these other disciplines. So I wouldn’t say that it’s exclusive to people that have a gene for it. But we were certainly always like starting our own things and building our own thing. So like, I would think of it as like a makers kind of mentality, that, you know, that that I think we had early on. But to your point about millennials, just because I think it’s interesting to talk about entitlement culture is kind of real. But that’s just through exposure like we’re the first generation to know what we’re missing in this space. Because the internet, right, like, in the same way, that, you know, the Arab Spring had a lot to do with the transparency of, you know, the size of their rulers, houses, or the way that politics are carried out in neighboring countries. Similarly, I think that you know, that impatience that you see with like, you know, many people in my generation, it’s just the exposure. But what I’ll also say is, I think it’s kind of like, intergenerational PR smear campaign, because, you know, we’re the first generation to make less than our parent’s generation, there’s less opportunity as 2008 was like the beginning of the Great Recession, right? So you have this playing field that’s equal in a sense, but you know, it’s not like I can buy a house for half a million dollars or for $250,000, I guess you can, depending upon the neighborhood, but it’s like, you know, I think that some of the things that feel like the grounding, you know, accomplishments of a lifetime, are a bit out of reach for my generation in a way that previous generations had. So it is definitely an unfair assertion that you know, like, Millennials are lazy, it’s like, well, I mean, a lot of it has to do with opportunity.
Kara Goldin 12:53
Yeah, no, I absolutely. And I think that the discussion, it’s something, you know, my book came out in October, and I’ve heard from a ton of millennials, and again, I’m a Gen X, sir. So I’m not you know, I think for me, the responsibility is not just to say, it’s, you know, Millennials are this and that instead, it’s like, well, how do we all work together? Right, and how do we fix some of these issues. And I think also just the whole topic of mental health is also something that millennials, I think, brought forward and said, you know, we need to talk about this, and we need to own it, and fix it, and do what we can to support each other. And, you know, the Gen X generation wasn’t doing it instead, if you had mental health issues. If you were, you know, having a kid and having challenges at home, you didn’t talk about it at work. I mean, it’s a very, very different kind of, you know, mentality and discussion, I think that goes on that I really hand it to the millennials for saying that we need it. And frankly, I afford Gen Z ers at home. And I think it’s, you know, something I look at constantly, because how is that generation different? How are they going to change? And what do you think? I mean, how do you like how do you see that next-generation Gen Z
Jeff Rosenthal 14:10
years, and I’ve been it a from a corporate perspective, like the founders that we need that are like 2425 years old, are remarkable, incredible. I mean, like, the people that work at the summit that you know, fit into that Gen Z category, run our company now to a great degree. So it’s like, in ways it’s, it’s amazing when you find people that are better at core components of your business or enterprise that are better than you and like, we’ve been really lucky, I’d say with like that experience. And then in terms of, you know, like the protests and you know, sort of the enforcement of civil rights for people that aren’t in the don’t match your skin color or gender or you know, like the really like sacrifice your own benefit on behalf of other people. I think That, you know that that was something of the past in the sense in this last year, I think Gen Z really carry the torch. And if you look at like who is on the frontlines of these, you know, police brutality, protests, and Black Lives Matter protests, and, you know, like, the Women’s March on Washington, I mean, like, the leaders of these movements, not only our Gen Z, they also have gotten hit to the game and like, they’ve been disappointed in ways at a young age that I think that is surprising to them that like, you know, came later for us, in a sense, like other people’s self-interest, and, you know, like, your efforts, and then the reaction where I find like, genetics is such, like, an obscure topic now, but like, you know, it’s a much more sort of independent, like,
Kara Goldin 15:43
fear, though. That’s good. Okay. I
Jeff Rosenthal 15:45
don’t know, I don’t know the audience. But like, you know, I find that like, most of my, you know, Gen X fans don’t really trust the system, in a sense, like, it’s very independent. It wasn’t like as much of a team sport to the same degree. You know, groups like the future coalition caveator, one of like, you know, Jin Jin z, environmental leaders, you know, she started with the high school walkouts for gun violence. And I think what she saw is that there’s like, you know, 30 different leaders that are her age who all had these amazing platforms and millions of people behind them. And if they could collaborate with one another, they would boost their messages to a tremendous degree, right? Like, we weren’t hit to that even though the summit was like, the whole idea was to gather and collaborate with people that weren’t inside your own company, like how could you know, our liberation be bound up together? I think that they got it and get it in a way that we weren’t really close to. So I’m, I’m, you know, I’m excited to just take backseat to be the chairman not worked too hard and let our elections he drive the bus,
Kara Goldin 16:51
and let them drive it. That’s awesome. So what? So getting back to the summit? So, you know, obviously, you guys have been planning amazing events. And so you finally built that mountain at Eden Talk to us a little bit about that, back in the early days, how did you decide to make that move?
Jeff Rosenthal 17:09
I think that this is our thinking. We thought that the summit was representative of an emergent culture and ethos of creativity and collaboration and entrepreneurship. And we felt that for movements that lasted the test of time, they needed roots, they needed a home, they need a physical place that could be you know, the embodiment of that culture. I think that you know, we traveled, we were very nomadic in our first say, you know, a decade of building summit, and you know, would move the company from place to place move the events from place to place. One because it kept it fresh, but two, because we didn’t really feel that there was a physical location that really, like embodied that culture. And powder mountain was essentially like a broken private equity deal, they had tried to sell it for, you know, a lot more money throughout that 2008 to 2011 period. And it was just, you know, a perfectly unique moment in time before, you know, I think that these businesses turned back on in a huge way, where, you know, the mountain was quietly for sale. And we had this pre-existing community of people that regardless of where we were, we were going to have a fun time together. So the idea that I also say that we also love nature, you know, like the idea of being in a place that was like an hour from an international airport, you know, close enough to like the major hubs like SF and LA and easy to get to NY or wherever else. And there are no streetlights, there are no stoplights, and even Utah powder mountain is like this, this sort of last great gym, if you think about it like founded in 1972, one of the largest ski resorts in the United States, it’s 100%, privately owned, it’s not a land lease, as the majority of, you know, ski resorts. And, you know, we really had this vision of like living in a national park, like how could we be great stewards of the land, there’s a great like Andy Warhol quote, that the greatest art, you know, is owning a beautiful piece of land and not screwing it up. Right? So we, you know, went through the process of buying the mountain, you know, we, there’s, that’s a whole we can do a whole you know, two-hour podcast just on that craziness. But um, you know, through the again, like, we were just blessed by the idea that we were young and naive, and we had really, really brilliant friends that we could engage to help guide all these different processes, whether it was acquiring the mountain or doing the due diligence checklist or how to actually raise the money and structure the deal to building roads and infrastructure and coming up with an architectural vernacular. So like, I was 27 when we bought powder mountain and had no experience in any of this stuff. But again, what from like, it was sort of like that first phone call with Brett you know, I went from like, not having an excuse to like Learn about all these things and get to play in the space to have like the best excuse because it was, you know, such a bold vision, it attracted really remarkable, you know, founding neighbors and amazing land planners and master developers and architects. And so we got, you know, really like Cynthia greatness. And one of the things I think we’re most proud of is that, you know, came out beautiful, like we built this mountain top village and five and a half mile us the road and five new neighborhoods. And, you know, we have a wonderful community that’s formed up there. And I mean, just to sort of fast forward to now what’s amazing is that with the summit, I think we hosted every weekend for like four years at the mountain to build the beach, right? Like, we just never stopped hosting people. And during the week, we would do charettes, where we’d learn about all these disciplines that we had to get like an accelerated doctorate. And in order to not screw this up, it’s like a development term, when you like, learn about a specific area of interest or focus. And then we would host every single weekend up there. And what’s amazing now with the summit in general, is that there are now hundreds of neighbors that also are hosting their own things and bringing their own friends and using the lodges and spaces to do their gatherings, of course, you know, COVID, COVID permitting now. So it sort of went from this like singular orbit to having kind of like an ecosystem or a solar system of people building and hosting and growing that community up there.
Kara Goldin 21:25
I love it. Well, you are feeding into something that I talk about a lot, which is being a lifelong learner too. And even though this stuff was hard, and you weren’t exactly sure how it was all going to work out, you just kept jumping in and saying, Okay, let’s, let’s get the architect, let’s get, right. Like, let’s invite some more people. Let’s just keep going. And I think that I’m sure that really was also helping your curiosity to just become better. Right? And overall, so I think that’s, that’s super, super awesome. And it’s great that you were able to jump forward and do that. So one of the quotes that I dug up from Jeff, get ready, that I found interesting that you don’t like the phrase keeping it real. And, Jeff, why is it important to keep life surreal instead of real,
Jeff Rosenthal 22:17
it’s not my quote, it’s it’s a friend of ours named Michael hab, who’s like, the food provocateur of his generation, like, he’s, like, he was a pop-up dinner. And he understood sort of like the the deep opportunity that the dinner table presents, right? Like, you know, it’s it could be seen as the greatest piece of human technology ever created, like where we came to break bread and collaborate scheme for a better future for ourselves and for others. And so, this idea, you know, with some events, we went from, like, throwing a younger hipper TED or conference that, you know, is lecture driven to, you know, creating social sculpture, like having better metaphors, you know, the idea that, you know, through the narrative and arc and incorporation of different experiences, you can change the texture of someone’s memory, right, like, you can have like something that really sticks out in your mind from the past, right? Like, what was a really, truly transformational experience, a peak experience? And, you know, Michael, one at one point was like, Hey, you know, people say, keep it real. And we’re like, Yeah, he’s like, don’t do that. So you got to keep it surreal. You just got to do things that are a little bit beyond people’s expectations, and imagination. It’s about surprise and delight. And I mean, I’ll give you some examples. I was thinking about this RDC 10 event. 2010 was probably like our first real conference. And we had Ted Turner speak, and Mark Cuban, and Michelle Rhee, and john legend, and like, all these amazing talks, but we also had tea and cookies with mine and Elliott’s grandmother’s, they were the two living grandmas, I think out of our four co-founders, and they literally baked and, you know, and everybody showed up and had an incredible time. And so it was also like a window in for us that like, you know, the key components of experiences were happening outside of the lectures, right? They were, you know, they were the more humanistic, the more fun the more like sticky shared experiences that people were having. And so that’s what as we grew summit, we started to, you know, build towards versus, like, by the time you got to Basecamp This is like this ideology was deep in our thinking about how we would, you know, build and administer these events and experiences.
Kara Goldin 24:35
I absolutely love it. And yet you had another one you’d like to say generosity breeds abundance. And I know you’re talking about that a lot on your podcast as well, that Jeff’s podcast, which is amazing, and he actually had me on as a guest as well, but the art of the hustle. And it’s such a good podcast with so many amazing entrepreneurs on there too. So I love that you’re doing that as well. And you’ve got, I was, you know, as you’re talking, I was thinking about, I wonder, I think Jeff might have the biggest network I know of people. I mean, you just know so many people, it’s just, it’s crazy, right. And I believe that it’s not just a high hire, I feel like you actually understand people, and you really have taken the time to understand people, which I think is just really lovely in so many ways. And so I appreciate that.
Jeff Rosenthal 25:31
Thank you, I think that’s a consequence of my profession, you know, it’s, we’re Our job was, you know, to build community. And, you know, the validation of sort of the summit platform was being able to thoughtfully connect people in ways that would be beneficial to them personally, or professionally, or whatever, it was, like, you know, it could be a health issue, it could be an existential issue, it could be selling a company, it could be hiring a performance marketer, right? Like, for us, what’s really fun is that you know, because of the nature of our profession, sort of the community that we gather, you know, the outcome is that we know, brilliant people in all of these different spaces. And not only do we know, you know, the top people in those spaces, we know what they’re into, and what they’re going to resonate with, right. So it made us really great, you know, connectors, where a simple idea for us, you know, just pops in our heads where we’re like, oh, wow, these two people from these different disciplines or, you know, maybe different generations in the same discipline, you know, should definitely know each other would love to collaborate because these things are complimentary, that became really, I mean, amazing for us, because we went from again, like not having anything really of value to bring to the table for all these, like, remarkable people like yourself, and your husband. And, and, you know, to having like, these deep, wonderful relationships that, you know, we’re always learning through. So to your point about lifelong learning, like it’s, that’s, I think, that takes you to know, you build a reputation and drops and you lose it in buckets. And there’s a triangulation of goodwill. So when you talk about that generosity breeds abundance, quote, it’s, that’s essentially what we’re thinking like to give without the expectation of return, is the greatest way to get forward in life. It’s counterintuitive, and it’s paradoxical. But that’s our experience. It’s not like some hippy woo-woo bullshit that like I read, you know, put on a poster, it’s like, this was our life experience, we had no business being in 99% of the rooms that we were in. But through exposure to all of these different people and platforms, and disciplines and ways of thinking and seeing and working. It made it so there was like some pattern recognition between these silos, right? So I also think that the timing is great, right? Like, this is not this wouldn’t have had any value in 1995. Like these silos of different businesses were pretty well defined. Whereas now we’re kind of like, all in each other stuff like you as well, right? Like you have advocacy things that are really important to you, you’re an author, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a mom, you’re like all of these, like you’re right, you know, we’re all like 810 people in professions and one these days, so yeah, the summit was just like this incredible accelerator for us. And for the people that participated in it over the years.
Kara Goldin 28:15
No, I absolutely love that. So your book is coming out in October of this year. So excited about that. My book had launched in October, we’re in October, right?
Jeff Rosenthal 28:27
plans are the name of the book.
Kara Goldin 28:29
I love it. So tell us a little bit about it.
Jeff Rosenthal 28:32
It’s just our story. You know, it’s like we it’s, it’s how the four of us met my co-founders, Jeremy, Brett Elliot, and myself. You know, a lot of it is just like the early days and the early team that came together to build summit, a lot of the experiences that we had, and what we tried to make sure that we would do throughout the whole thing was like, really kind of tell the real story. You know, it’s not necessarily that flattering to us, like, I can sound quite sophisticated now. 36 I, like did a bunch of stuff. I had a bunch of experiences. But the way that we learned these things was embarrassing often. And like, you know, I think that critical feedback is like a great gift, right? Like plenty of people will tell you like, hey, yeah, it’s great. Just like, never paid much attention or talk to you again, or really help you grow. So ultimately, like, we tried to just like, share the lessons that we learned throughout the, throughout the process, and all of the, you know, big, great stories that were definitive along the way So, but, you know, like, we also feel like it’s a little premature to be writing like a book like this, because, you know, we’re still at, you know, the front half of the journey. And I think that in terms of like expertise, you know, like, when you see a player in a professional sports league, they’ve played three or four seasons, they make an all-star game, and that’s great and they could be terrific, but when you see people who are like on their 18th 19th season and just been you know, like playing championship levels for that long It’s a different thing altogether in business and impact. And, you know, like, in civic participation, these are like lifetime sports, right? So the people that, you know, we look up to the most have been in the game a lot, a lot longer than us. But um, you know, I think that we’re just hoping that, you know, people that are on their own entrepreneurial journeys, you know, it can be valuable to them. And that was really what we were trying to air towards. It wasn’t like, how do we, you know, puff up our chests? It was like, how do we, you know, tell really meaningful stories and, and try to explain some of the components that like, you know, led to us going from zero to where we are today, and what was what feels now, you know, relatively short amount of time?
Kara Goldin 30:41
Yeah, no, definitely. And I think it’s, I mean, that’s, that’s a lot of what my book does as well. I mean, there’s their stories in there where even john legend is one of our investors. I mean, john got a preview of my book. And he said, I kept turning the pages and then and saying, Okay, this is where they shut the company down. And then I said, Wait, oh, wait and shut the company down. And it’s, you know, it’s a story of it. For me, it was a reflection, it was actually therapy. In many ways. This was my journal. I mean, maybe a lot, you know, very similar. Maybe you didn’t call it a journal, but the stories I would share with some friends, not all of them, but they would say, God, you know, I’d see you and you actually held your stuff together pretty well. But there were points where you were, like, you know, really teetering off of a cliff. And we were, and it was just an and I think it’s, but I think that knowing that, I mean, you’ll learn I think over time, too. I mean, I look at you what you’ve built as pretty fantastic, and pretty spectacular and stuff that you’ve been, you know, it’s not all shiny along the way, and you had fears and failures and doubts. And you clearly, you know, as you talked about your doubters, I had doubters as well, but I mean, I think at the core of it is that you tried, and you built something pretty damn awesome. And that you guys should be really proud of,
Jeff Rosenthal 32:09
thank you. I think you and I are more similar entrepreneurs, like, you know, there are people like the founders of Nixon, the watch company, they like performed exactly to plan their first year or like, you know, Katelyn Smith at simple Mills, like just, she’s lights out, it’s kind of ridiculous. Like, she planned it and then did it and it worked. For us, in our early days, we had plenty of we had you had a term for it, you’re referring to is called final Fridays, because Friday is the last day, you can send the check-in before the banks closed for the weekend. Right. So so I think that you know, when you’re in your early years, having those final Fridays, is, you know, like, unnecessary and not to be celebrated. Because it’s avoidable. And like, you know, it has to do with really bringing in people that have walked the paths before, to advise you in a deep way. Like it took us too long to have like a real board, and have brilliant people who were like, incentivized in our success, who have done it 20 times over who is more sophisticated than you, you know, like to, like really help you down the path, we didn’t really have that I don’t think you did either at that stage, right, like, so it’s avoidable, and it shouldn’t be celebrated. However, it also means that you’re living on your edge, you know, it means that you’re like pushing it to the limit, which is typically the way that you breakthrough, right, so like, a lot of people quit, or to be honest with you, a lot of people could have built weebill could have you know, outshined us in our space. In 2010, there were plenty of other organizations that were building communities and companies like ours, right, and conferences, and most of them just tagged out before they found a model worked, right. And like, I think that you know, for us, it was so we just loved it. Like, if you don’t love it, you’re gonna be out of the game. Because like, it’s hard to have what you do, especially going from like zero to one. And someone will run circles around you because like, what’s worked for you is a pleasure for them. So like, we just absolutely loved what we did. And it made it so you know, it was all working, it was all play. But you know, in order to like jump to a more sophisticated place, I think that if I were to advise people, like, you don’t need to do that, as you can, you can, if you you know, refine the idea and get to a place where, you know, like, it’s really thinking what you’re doing, like everything takes, you know, iterations everything takes pivots and everything, you know, nothing’s perfect. And you should start by starting and like, you know, let it break a little bit along the way. But the one piece of advice I would give it’s counter to our experiences is I do think that like once it was clear that we had some lightning in a bottle, we had something really special. I if I had to do it over again, I would have put some advisors and some board members around us, you know earlier in the process to avoid a couple of those stressful moments.
Kara Goldin 34:59
Yeah. And I think that the thing that I’ve realized, though, is that and probably those advisors and board members would say this too, if you, you know, I don’t know, maybe give them a glass of wine and have them really tick, take a look at who they are, they wouldn’t have actually taken the risks that you did. Sure, right. It wouldn’t build what you built. And so I always say to people, when you’re starting companies, it’s, I remember, like the the people that we had early, early, early, that was scrappy. And I would be really sad when they were leaving. And you know, we were getting to sort of the next level. And, you know, they just, they didn’t want bosses, right? There were, I mean, I could go through that’s an hour in and of itself. But you have to be able to recognize as you’re getting to these different stages, what you need in order to grow. And it’s so hard. And it’s probably the hardest thing about being a founder and asking yourself, like, what more do I need, but I think that those visionary founders, which clearly is what you are, I think that none of this get started without the visionary founder, right. And frankly, when, you know, the visionary founder totally disconnects from projects, that’s how they end up getting messed up, unfortunately. So I think it’s something that, you know, I’ve learned over the years, you know, that is really important. And while people want to come in, and dot all the i’s, and cross all the T’s and put balance sheets and eba, and everything else in there, like without your like visionary leadership, and you know, that it’s, it’s an important piece that you should not, don’t let anybody ever tell you that that is not important, because it is,
Jeff Rosenthal 36:44
I appreciate that I agree with you. It’s not often you see a brand or a voice change in something that was like founder-led once it started, right? It’s pretty rare. We’re like, you know, it’s the whole kind of identity of a brand shifts because it wouldn’t have worked in the first place that that vision had been executed on. But I love what you’re saying about the people, the way I think about it’s like, those were the pirates, you know, that jumped on your pirate ship, where you really are like, Where are you sailing? You’re like, I don’t know, they’re like, Great, let’s rock. Right? You know, it’s like, it’s like, they learned how to do the jobs as like, the jobs came to us, right. And as the business scale. And you know, when you’re later in a process, to your point, it’s like a different the stability, excitement, trade-off to a degree changes the sort of like existence in no system is where you thrive versus like, the necessity of a system at a certain scale in order to really grow into something big. And that’s why most founders aren’t like founders, CEOs like yourself, right? Like, most are more like me, where it’s like, you know, myself and my co-founders, were really good founders, but we’re not the right CEOs for our ventures at this point in time, right? Like, there’s, there’s whereas like, you know, I always admire, you know, folks like yourself that can do both and, and really, like, grew to the challenge, and responsibility to being, you know, the person responsible day today for the governance of the organization, right, like I thrive with a team and love the fact that I’m not that responsible party, frankly, it’s fascinating, because like, the people that you know, work at the summit today are like the most capable, talented, brilliant, you know, like people that we couldn’t have attracted in 2010. That being said, the people that worked at a summit in 2010, have the craziest ingenuity and like, just pulled a rabbit out of hats, like, yeah, during the venture forward, right. So, you know, there’s no, I don’t know how to value other than, like, it’s not that one’s better than the other. It’s that like, you really do need both depending upon the stage of the organization.
Kara Goldin 38:55
And I think, but I laugh at that because I look back, people often ask me, how do you get those first people and I said, so picture this, this woman who had been a tech executive with four kids under the age of four days, I’m going to start a beverage company come join me, like, all they needed to do was have a heartbeat. Right? I said, I mean, like, why should they believe me? Right? I didn’t have I was using my own money. I mean, right? Look, it’s just, it’s crazy. And I mean, the same with you. You’re, you’re like, eventually we’re gonna bring a lot of people together, and it’s going to be great. And, you know, then we’re going to go build a mountain. I mean, look, I owe so much to those early people who actually followed me, right and that and I look at it, but I also look at those people too. And I say that they’re good for the built. They don’t need the go do this. Go do this. Go do this. Right. They’ll just go and they’ll go get some stuff done and a bunch of watermelons will hopefully, like stay on the cart right now. And hopefully not too many will fall off, but they will, they’ll fall off, and hopefully, it won’t be that big of a disaster but that those people are so critical. And it’s just any way I think it’s something I’m sure you have so many Sir, I cannot wait to read your book. So I really appreciate it. I will be an I will buy the pre-release for sure. And you have to let us know I’m actually launching a LinkedIn live just for authors. So when it comes out, I’m going to be interviewing people just out of my area. Yeah, so definitely we’ll have you on for that too. So anyway, where do people find you, Jeff? what’s the best way on social
Jeff Rosenthal 40:40
I’m pretty private on social I don’t know I I’m you know summit co if you want to learn more about the summit and you know, hello at summit CO, if we should be collaborating in some way, shape or form. And, you know, I just want to say thank you again, for listening and care for you having me on I really am flattered and appreciative and, you know, hope that my, you know, thoughts, experience, experiences are valuable and helpful to anybody that’s listened to this far to the podcast, and just yeah, then of course, if you ski or if your mountain bike if you just appreciate camping in beautiful places, powder, mountain, Eden, Utah, the gorgeous, gorgeous spot to do all those things.
Kara Goldin 41:23
I love it. So thanks, everyone. And thank you, Jeff, so much for sharing the journey and giving so much inspiration. And I love talking about just entrepreneurs and having their own fears and owning things. And you know, that they’ve done along the way and you clearly have had on a sort of achieved so much and have shared so much of that with us too. So really super, super appreciate it. So thanks, everyone. We’re here every Monday and Wednesday. Give Jeff five stars and let everybody know that we’re doing this great podcast at the Kara golden show and come back and say hi. All right. Thanks, everyone.
Kara Goldin 42:06
before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head-on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple Podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn at Kara golden thanks for listening
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