"THIS IS THE TOUGHEST door anywhere," says Brett Leve, 25. He's tapping frantically at his BlackBerry while the rest of usfour dudeswait at the VIP entrance to Miami's Liv nightclub. It's the week of the city's famous Winter Music Conference, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris is spinning, and 500 impossibly good-looking scenesters are feeling equally stymied.
"This guy plays in front of 70,000 people in Europe," says the crew's headman, Summit Series founder Elliott Bisnow, 24, who comes on with the charm and swagger of Tom Cruise circa Risky Business.
Then, somewhere in the ether, Leve's text messages crack the code. The slick Latin bouncer makes nice, and we're in, surrounded by thudding beats, pulsing lights, and waitresses unsubtly delivering bottles of Dom rigged with lit sparklers. Billy Idol drifts past, displaying a new hairdo that closely resembles a carnivorous sundew plant.
"Hey, Billy!" shouts Jeff Rosenthal, 25, with a fist pump. And so it goesdeep into the night.
The next morning, I'm convalescing poolside at Summit Series HQ, where Jeremy Schwartz, 25, is explaining how eight guys in their twenties have managed to launch a business conferenceequal parts party, hangout, and outdoor funwhose list of attendees could soon rival those of Davos and Silicon Valley's TED gatherings. "Whoever's reality is stronger will win," Schwartz declares. "If you really believe, so will they."
This thing they all believe inthe Summit Series, which comes to D.C. this May 1316is Bisnow's idea to create a community of the world's brightest and most adventurous young business minds. In one sense, the Summit Series is just another conference, modeled in part on TED, but it's specifically geared toward up-and-coming entrepreneurs who would rather ski, kayak, and surf than hang around in hotel lobbies and swap business cards. We heard about the group after Outside correspondent Thayer Walker joined them on a ski trip to Big Skyand then got hired by Bisnow. "Dynamic shared experience" is at the heart of it all, says Rosenthal. "If you go skydiving with someone, you're friends for life." In D.C. they'll kayak the Potomac, play paintball, do Skanda Yoga together, and get inked by tattoo artist Scott Campbell.
Of course, the real measure of any conference is the caliber of the people who agree to speakBill Clinton and Mark Cuban have volunteered their time for Mayand the credentials of the people invited to attend. Raise those two factors to a critical mass and the event starts to snowball like a popular kid's birthday party, even at $3,500 a head.
"You have to be doing amazing work," Bisnow says of the entry criteria, "and we'd want to be friends with you even if you weren't successful." And despite appearances, there's no age limit.