Summit Series, a tech entrepreneur networking event which has been described as “the hipper Davos“, is using Burning Man’s name to promote themselves and their new community in Utah. It’s a high-tech hub for Burners who like to ski, socialize, and startup-invest.
Investors and innovators have a new social playground in America’s newest mountain village. Summit Series, host of a popular annual conference known for mixing revelry and social good, such as flying in Richard Branson to deliver a keynote on a Caribbean cruise ship, is creating a permanent settlement for the mission-driven organization on Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah.
“Imagine authentic friendship and community of something like Burning Man, but with deeper substance, a la a TED,” explains investor Tim Chang, managing director of the Mayfield Fund, who has convened a few gatherings up at Summit’s temporary lodge. After months of business news speculation about the (reported) $40 million mountain project, Summit has revealed plans to build a 500-home village to foster startups, artists, thinkers, and nonprofits who will build their own version of utopia.
A permanent Burning Man? In the skifields? With nerds giving talks, and wannabe VCs doing deals? And, one suspects, a shitload of spliffs being smoked? These would be some true “high rollers” then. Up high, getting high, on their own supply, in their own micro-community experiment, on their own freaking mountain! Sounds good to me…what DJs are playing?
With notable names came indirect financial impact: Summit has raised money for startups from taxi service, Uber, to eyeware outlet, Warby Parker, and they even raised $1 million from investors, such as Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, to preserve an ocean habitat in the Bahamas.
The team got a tip on some relatively cheap land outside Salt Lake City and were inspired to build a permanent home. “What if Summit wasn’t just four days a year? What if you could actually build a permanent place that could actually gather folks 365 days a year,” says Summit Series founder Elliott Bisnow.
Every aspect of the new village will be open to social experimentation, like building a healthier version of a local bakery, and the Summit team wants to allow its meticulously curated community to pilot elements of a typical city.
Despite the social focus, Summit Series is a for-profit business. The majority of investment has been reportedly raised through selling plots of land to big-ticket investors who want an unorthodox vacation home. Continued revenue will stream in through the ski resort of Powder Mountain (the largest ski mountain in the United States, with 10,000 acres), conference hosting, and, perhaps, taking cuts of startup investments.
Here’s their promotional video: