What is it like to attend an event where all the world’s “top young entrepreneurs” gather to mingle and costs over $1,000 to attend? We braved the sweltering L.A. heat to find out at the annual Kairos Summit in Hollywood this week.
Tickets for the event, which were reportedly sold out, cost $1,300. Around 600 people attended this year. Of course, as a publication that draws millions of readers a month, we got in for free with media passes.
The Kairos Society is an organization that spans over 100 universities all around the world and supports talented young entrepreneurs. Their annual summit invites those young entrepreneurs to meet elite venture capitalists and investors, pitch their startups in a contest and network with other founders who are disrupting various tech industries.
After battling L.A.’s brutal traffic, we arrived at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a historical cemetery, where guests’ cars were valeted. As we drove past acres of graves, we couldn’t help but think of it as an ominous symbol for what happens when startups don’t succeed.
After parking, guests are checked off a list and then shuttled just down the street to Warner Bros. Studios’ replica New York City film set where films like “Blade Runner” and “Batman Returns” were filmed.
Guests were then checked in to get a name badge before heading into the event. Booths for the 50 startups in attendance, known as the K50, lined the streets of the city set as umbrellas protected entrepreneurs from the beating sun and 90-degree heat.
Men were typically dressed in suits, which couldn’t have made them comfortable in the heat, and women wore day dresses. However, the smartest guys at the Kairos Summit wore T-shirts and shorts.
Everyone there was very open to meeting and greeting, though it must be fun to talk to new people when you can answer the question “What do you do?” with “I’m an investor for (insert multi-billion dollar tech investment firm)” or “I started and sold five companies before the age of 25.”
Billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper was in attendance checking out the K50 startups.
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TOMS Shoes founder and CEO Blake Mycoskie was also at Kairos. TOMS was a sponsor for this year’s Kairos Summit.
Even Spider-Man, a.k.a. celebrity-turned-entrepreneur Tobey Maguire, dropped by to check out the entrepreneur scene. In 2011, Maguire and friend Leonardo DiCaprio became tech entrepreneurs when they invested in Mobli, a social mobile photo- and video-sharing platform.
One L.A.-based startup called Local Roots focuses on sustainable, locally-produced and water-efficient indoor crop production through the use of special full-spectrum lights and hydroponics. Their booth gave out pieces of incredibly fresh and tasty lettuce.
Another startup called Nannofood utilizes phytoplankton to make nutrient-rich and sustainably produced food to end global malnutrition. Their booth offered chocolate cupcakes topped with green frosting made from algae.
It tasted like normal sweet frosting with a hint of what you could describe as a green tea flavor.
At around 1 p.m., a simple boxed lunch was served as Kairos guests scrambled for a place to sit outside away from the heat of the sun.
We got an extremely dry chicken breast sandwich, a cup of pasta salad, a sugar cookie, Doritos and an Apple. Apparently, a $1,300 ticket does not promise a gourmet meal.
Josh Elman, a partner for notable VC firm Greylock, found his perfect seat on the stoop of a fake New York apartment building.
At 2 p.m., the crowd quickly gathered inside a massive screening theatre, the only air conditioned building on the set, for the beginning of the panel talks.
The panels were opened by Los Angeles’ Chief Innovation Technology Officer Peter Marx and was followed by a distinguished panel of VC investors that included Atom Factory’s Suzy Ryoo, Crosscut Ventures’ Brett Brewer, L Investment’s Candice Beaumont, and was moderated by author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi.
Later panels featured Tim Draper, who held an AMA with K50 alumni, and TOMS Shoes founder and CEO Blake Mycoskie, who talked with Popular Science Editor-in-Chief Cliff Ransom.
The panel talks were then followed by the Kairos pitch contest. Each startup had two minutes to give a pitch that was then voted on by the audience. The winner received $50,000 in prize money. This year’s winner was ChemiSense Inc., who created a real-time air quality monitoring device. TOMS CEO Blake Mycoskie also invested $25,000 in Ava, a mobile app that transcribes conversations to aid the hearing-impaired.
After the awards were handed out, it was time to party. Shuttles took Kairos guests to the Avalon Hollywood for a private open bar party featuring guest DJ-duo Lost Kings.