YHP had the opportunity of interviewing a young, exciting and a future leader in the world, Elliott Bisnow.
A young entrepreneur, only 23 years old and already creating a scene in the entrepreneurial world, Co-founder of Bisnow Media- a niche publishing business with about 30 employees, also Founder of Summit Series- Summit Series, A company he created to connect and inspire the world's most influential young innovators, company founders.
Elliott is not all about making money, spending his time raising money for charities across the world with the likes of The United Nations Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Grassroots Soccer, Charity: Water, Invisible Children.
He also spends time travelling around the world (Already visited 44 countries), playing tennis and creating new businesses.
Definitely someone to look out for in the future or now really!!
Hello Elliot, it’s so nice to finally speak to you, welcome to YHP and how are you doing?
I’m living in Central America right now. I’m here from August until November and have been surfing every morning before I jump on conference calls and start working. It’s 7:53 AM and I’m just back from a 90 minute surfing session in Costa Rica. I’m pretty happy to be relaxing now and answering questions.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I grew up in Washington DC and my focus growing up was on tennis. I would practice for 3 – 4 hours every day after school. I was ranked as high as 37th in the United States and was able to get a tennis scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. Now I’m 23 years old and focus on traveling, adventure sports and running two businesses.
Elliot, Can you give us some insight on what you do?
I co-own two companies. The first is called Bisnow Media and is a niche publishing business with about 30 employees. The goal of the company is to pick local business industries in different cities, which have no daily news- For example, the legal industry in Washington DC or commercial real estate in Chicago. In each industry we bring on a reporter and send out free daily emails all about that industry. We also host tons of events/market conferences/etc. The business makes money from advertising, tickets to events and event sponsorships. I started this business with my dad 3 years ago when I was in my college dorm room.
The second company is called Summit Series. The goal of Summit Series is to create a community of the most amazing young people in the world. There are so many young company founders, entrepreneurs, non-profit founders and well known figures and there is no home for these people. They generally don’t join most groups or go to traditional conferences which have an older demographic. We’ve had hundreds of attendees in the past year including the co-founders, founders, presidents or Chief Executives of companies like Twitter, Zappos, CollegeHumor, Facebook, Youtube, Virgin Records, Mint.com, CAA, MTV, and Blackboard.
Elliot, what project are you working on at the moment,Can you give the YHP Readers some insight on this?
Summit Series just finished a Summit in NYC with President Clinton, which Russell Simmons hosted at his residence in the Financial District. We were able to raise $265,000 for the Clinton Foundation, and this money will be used to fight a number of global epidemics such as aids in Africa and childhood obesity in the United States.
Our next major Summit is in Miami from November 5th -8th. We’ll have 250 of the leading company founders in the world. The average age of our attendees is 29 years old. There is some cool information on it here: http://summitseries.com/events/
Bisnow Media currently publishes in DC, NYC, NJ and CHI. We’re in the process of adding a few more cities in 2009.
Elliot, you’ve met some really cool people, Who has been your favourite so far?
We did a Summit at the White House in March and met a number of amazing young people working there. One of them was Yosi Sergeant who worked with Shepard Fairey to create the Obama Hope Posters/Pins. In less than a year, these two guys, Yosi and Shepard, created a global movement without any outside help and played a major role in the election of the President of the United States- that’s pretty awesome.
What has been your most memorable moment so far?
In 2009 there have been a lot: The White House Summit, going to China with my family and experiencing a new culture, presenting President Clinton with the Summit Series Catalyst Award, learning a new sport (surfing) in Costa Rica, moving to the West Village in NYC for three months and learning all about a new city, finally getting an Apple computer, and watching my brother try out for American Idol.
What are your hobbies away from work?
Traveling and adventure sports are a huge hobby. I’ve been to 44 countries. I’m currently traveling for three months all around Central and South America, staying in a different country for 3 weeks at a time. I travel with 4 of my closest friends who all work with me. One person is our head of online, one person is our head of strategy, etc.
What inspired you to start a business?
When I was a freshman in college my Resident Advisor in my dorm, Anthony David Adams was printing t-shirts. I will take this moment to give Anthony a thank you and shout out! This was the first time I’d ever seen a young person have their own business. My mind was blown. From this moment on, I knew I had to start businesses.
How do you motivate yourself when things aren’t going so well?
As soon as you realize things aren’t going well you take a step back. You figure out what went wrong, what mistake did I make, why aren’t people buying my product, why is this person mad at me, etc. You figure out what went wrong and you dive back in. You put aside your ego and you apologize if you are wrong. If people don’t buy your product then you and all your sales staff wake up two hours earlier and sell harder. Or you make the necessary changes to your product.
I would say that I make a couple small mistakes every day and a major mistake every week or two. The world is a good place. People are good. When you make a mistake and you realize it and you apologize second chances are given.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I would like to create a large media company which publishes in the United States and Europe. I’d like for Summit Series to host events on each major continent. But it’s hard for me to see out more than one year. Even 6 months is hard. Things move so quickly. We did the White House event in less than a week. So to dream about years away is really hard for me.
Is it true you’re currently on course to raise more than $1 million for non profits in 2009?
We are on pace to directly raise more than $1 million this year for non profits. It’s pretty amazing when I step back and think about this. We’ve worked with great organizations like The United Nations Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Grassroots Soccer, Charity: Water, Invisible Children.
What was your reason for starting the summit series?
Summit Series started 18 months ago as a trip for young company founders. As soon as we realized there were thousands of young people who wanted to be part of something, we created a real organization. Our goal is to connect and inspire leading young people.
It was humbling. The opportunity came up quickly. And, to be given the chance to host a Summit at the White House was thrilling. We had 35 attendees, each of whom ran large businesses: Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos, Jared Kushner the Owner/Publisher of the New York Observer, Evan Williams the CEO of Twitter, Ivanka Trump who runs Development and Acquisitions for the Trump Organization, Rob Speyer the Co-CEO of Tishman Speyer, Catherine Levene the COO of Daily Candy, Jessica Jackley the co-founder of Kiva.org.
You are only 23 years old, you’ve achieved so much. How did you become this successful?
Instead of writing business plans and day dreaming ideas, I just use the “Ready, Fire, Aim” technique. I put my ego aside and I just go. And, I have a tentative plan. But I accept that I’ll make mistakes along the way. Mistakes are ok as long as you don’t make the same one twice. The only way to build a big company is to move quickly and keep moving forward. Learn by doing. And have fun. Don’t go to the office from 8AM- 8PM and put in a 50% effort all day because you’re wasting time. When I work I go at 100% efficiency. And, we make it rain.
What advices would you give to young entrepreneurs out there?
Make it rain. No one will make things happen for you. Pick up the phone and make the hard phone calls, close deals yourself. No one else makes it rain. You need to make the rain.
Thanks Elliott for your time.