While thousands of other Millenials were dancing their days away at the Governors Ball Music Festival earlier this month, more than 500 of the best and brightest entrepreneurial-minded young people could be found in a decidedly different environment: at the Hotel Pennsylvania attending the Next Gen Summit between June 3-5. Founded last year by 2016 914INC. Wunderkind Dylan Gambardella, 20, and 19-year-old Justin Lafazan of Long Island, it’s already evolved into a must-attend event.
“The summit exceeded any and all expectations,” says Gambardella, who was raised in Cortlandt Manor. “After the three days in Austin, Texas, last summer, I couldn’t have imagined a better weekend, but somehow we managed to top it.”
The conference featured a variety of high-quality speakers from across the country, enthusiastic attendees, and a jam-packed schedule, all aimed at helping individuals tap into their entrepreneurial instincts. Opening speaker Tayo Rockson helped establish some of the weekend’s reccurring ideas when he urged listeners to go out and dare to be great, because, as he phrased it, “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”
Other common themes included taking time to work and to rest, creating ventures that align with your beliefs and goals, and the need for a good support system. Those sentiments were universally echoed by everyone from the founders of Jopwell (which aims to help connect minority students and professionals with innovative companies) to Partha Unnava of Better Walk (makers of a new type of crutch), to on-demand work opportunity app Forge’s Stacey Ferreira and John Meyer of Fresco News (a beta app that would notify users when news outlets are seeking timely photos or videos).
Beyond the orators, two panels in particular stood out: “Inventors” and “Politics Breakout.” The former featured four Harry Paul, who’s behind an improved implant for scoliosis that grows with the patient; Kai Kloepfer, who’s developing a smart gun; Anne Makosinksi, inventor of the Hollow Flashlight; and Benjamin Stern, creator of eco-friendly shampoo Nohbo. All of them addressed the need to find work/life balance, as well as the sacrifices it takes to make it, from grades to social life. The “Politics Breakout” featured Daniel Zolnikov, 29, a three-term member of the Montana House of Representatives, and Josh Lafazan, 22, a member of the Syosset School Board on Long Island, both of whom spoke out about the need for young people to get involved with elections, either by running for office or simply voting.
“Next Gen Summit has established a community of innovative and inspiring Millennials that I’m honored to be a part of,” said attendee Michael Russo, of New York-based Sticky Quotes, which emblazons its namesake reminders with inspiring quotes.
“While NGS stands for Next Gen Summit, after attending this year’s conference, I believe it’s really an acronym for Never Gonna Stop,” added Zach Barden, founder of Buzz Cocoa, a caffeinated hot chocolate. “This gathering of young hustlers is entrepreneurship on steroids—some really high energy.”
As for what’s next, Gambardella says he simply looks “forward to continuing to grow in order to help even more entrepreneurs throughout the country and across the world.” And, of course, that he and Lafazan are “already beginning plans for NGS 3.”