JOURNAL From Global Platform to a Powder Mountain

Global Head of Community for Summit, Courtney Boyd Myers shares the inside track on building global community.


From Global Platform to a Powder Mountain

Global Head of Community for Summit, Courtney Boyd Myers shares the inside track on building global community.

Haven’t heard of Summit yet? You must have been sleeping under a rock.  Kidding… just. While Summit’s impact has begun to gain true global force in the past few years, in the US it has been considered one of the most coveted annual invites amongst business founders, philanthropists, tech-scions, entrepreneurs and creatives since 2008. Back then, co-founders Elliott Bisnow, Brett Leve, Jeff Rosenthal, Jeremy Schwartz and Ryan Begelman hosted gatherings in Park City, Utah, bringing together their dynamic and diverse network while providing co-peer support for budding entrepreneurs. Fast forward 5 years and they were hosting the gathering on a 3,000 person cruise ship off the coast of Miami. As their demographic matured, so did the depth and breadth of their speakers, the kudos of their hand-picked attendees and the overall wow-factor. Just don’t call them a networking event.  Instead, Summit classes itself as a global platform, shaping a creative space interwoven with the most thought-provoking speakers to inspire its forward-thinking community to step outside their everyday and reimagine their relationships, their business and the world from new perspectives.   The force of community they fostered led them to crowd-fund the purchase of Powder Mountain, a three-bowl 10,000 acre ski terrain in Utah in 2012, providing a permanent home for Summit’s community through a residential development that sets out tangible foundations for the ideals they explore.

As Global Director of Community Courtney Boyd Meyrs heads into the final preparations for Summit LA 17, held this year in downtown LA, she shares her insider track on what sits at the core of Summit’s Series success and what lies ahead.

What has been your experience with Summit?

 I first came across Summit as a guest, attending my first Summit in Lake Tahoe at their Basecamp event in 2011 and loved it.  I made a lot of friends while feeling very inspired.  When I joined the team as Community Director in 2014, the objective was to bring in my European network and ensure there was a good male/female balance in our demographic.  I am now  Director of the Global Community, so my role is even more focused on keeping our events – from LA to Tulum to Powder Mountain – as geographically diverse as possible.

What’s your criteria for selection?

We look for people who are founders, innovators, scientists and philanthropists, the kind of people who are focused on making our world a better place. They also need to be people we’d want to hang out with regardless of their profession, and so we have a lot of writers, musicians and artists in the mix.

What kind of figures are we talking?

We have built a network of about 10,000 people over the past 10 years. Next week, we will host 3,500 of the community in downtown LA during our annual event.

For the last 3 years, Summit Series was held onboard a cruise ship that sailed around the Caribbean of the coast of Miami– what inspired the shift?

Going on a cruise with 3,000 inspiring people is very alluring, don’t get me wrong, but by shifting the event back to dry-land, we’ve been able to leverage  our world-class production capabilities and create surreal experiences like urban forests and takeovers of century-old theaters.  It has also really helped with our programming – over the last 3 years we had a lot of amazing speakers wanting to participate but who weren’t able to commit to being on a boat for 3 days. As a result, our line-up of speakers this year is the strongest yet.

And how does this all fit in with Powder Mountain, the 10,000 acres ski resort that Summit purchased in 2012?

The purchase of Powder Mountain was actually crowd-funded, the first in the world.  Through our network we raised around $50 million USD to create a permanent base for our community. We are building a town rooted in all the elements you see in our events.  Community, co-creation and collaboration are core values, along with discussions around music, wellness art, politics and the environment. We have a strong content-led approach to our events, and we love hosting amazing chefs and artists throughout the year. People who come to our event end up coming to the mountain and buying homes there, so it all plays together really well.

How have you seen things shift over the past decade?

Summit was started by a small team of young guys who were looking for mentors and wanted to bring their friends together so they started throwing events and inviting amazing speakers into the mix. Over the past decade, it’s matured into the world’s preeminent ideas festival. As a community we have all grown up. There has been a serious rise to activism, and the level of speakers has reached new heights with the likes of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, as part of this year’s panel. Throughout the year, our core community continue to support each other as both business peers and friends. Many members of our community are starting to have children and it’s a dream to have a place like Summit Powder Mountain where they can go skiing and snowboarding with their family and their parents, while bumping into people they want to work with and be inspired by.

What is the demographic of people investing in the mountain?

At the moment, approximately 25% of the community come from outside the US and this is definitely expanding.  We are only in the first phases of residential development, with the first 8 homes recently launched and the main village under construction.  It’s the largest expansion of a US ski resort in US history, so we are excited to create something different from the glitz and bling of the leading ski resorts in the world.

Living in community is very much where the trend is shifting. People in big cities want to get out in nature, to have more land, but don’t want to be isolated from their peer groups. It’s like the dreamiest kind of senior housing for young to middle-aged people! We have now begun to advise community members who are creating similar types of developments in places like Tulum and upstate New York too.

Who has been a standout speaker for you?

The first one who pops into my head is Wim Hoff – nicknamed the Iceman, who led a breath-work experience. The event was totally packed out and he has a lasting effect. I was with a friend last night who now spends $90 dollars a week on ice after his workshop! Brian Grazer was a great speaker who explored the link between curiosity and creativity, which is one of our core values; then there was John Legend and Harry Belafonte talking about social justice.

Has there been a shift towards greater activism and social engagement in the light of recent global events?

Absolutely. Summit is a platform for conversation and through our programming, we encourage sharing different viewpoints. Standing Rock was a good recent example of an event that saw hundreds of our community members support whether that was by setting up media tents or bringing in donations from big companies like Facebook.

Would you say that the community growth is predominantly active or organic?

We grow 95% organically through in-network referrals and our community team’s efforts to be out in the wild meeting people, and 5% through applications we receive on our website.

What do you love about your job?

To be good at my job, I have to be good at meeting new people in new places. And that’s pretty much my favorite thing to do.