Business Startups

2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit’s First Year in Detroit

October 31, 2019

Thousands of 20-somethings from across the country participated in the four-day conference held at the Masonic Temple.

By Carmen Nesbitt

The 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit brought the nation’s young leaders, celebrities and aspiring entrepreneurs to the Masonic Temple in Detroit this week.

The four-day event, which ended Wednesday, featured more than 200 A-list speakers, including athlete Serena Williams, CEO of Serena Venture; NBA all-star Kevin Durant; Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan; “Queer Eye’s” Antoni Porowski; and Sophia Bush, actress and co-founder of Detroit Blows. Almost 10,000 people from 70 different countries attended and took part in 227 sessions.

This is the first of three years that the summit will take place in Detroit. Previously, it was held in Boston.

Carmen Nesbitt for SEEN

Attendees gather in the Crystal Ballroom before a panel discussion.

Detroit-based panelists included Melissa Butler, founder of The Lip Bar, and Steven Mazur, co-founder and CEO of men’s clothing line Ash & Erie. Topics ranged from entrepreneurship to cannabis. Besides panel discussions, attendees participated in photo booths, tequila tastings and could test drive a Cadillac.

Reppin’ the D

Though outnumbered, Detroit businesses left their mark. On Tuesday, five Startup Hub finalists pitched their business to a panel of judges, which included Dhani Jones, CEO of Petram Data, and Heidi Zak, co-founder of ThirdLove, for a chance to win a $250,000 media package from Forbes. In a surprising twist, the judges selected two companies to split the winnings: Autobooks, a Detroit-based software company for small business accounting, and COMMUNITYx, a social activism app.

Kyle Bazzy, Autobooks’ vice president of enterprise growth, says most small businesses fail because they don’t know how to manage their financials. Autobooks solves this problem by linking directly with a user’s bank account to provide real-time financial management and predictions. With their winnings, the company plans to expand its impact on small and micro-businesses. “We are proud to represent this great city on a global stage like Forbes,” says Steven Robert, who co-founded the company in 2015.

Photo Courtesy of Autobooks

Kyle Bazzy pitches to judges at the Startup Hub Pitch Competition.

Kyle Bazzy of Autobooks with Forbes CEO Mike Federle.

Detroit entrepreneurs, like Iyinoluwa Omishope, showed up to prove that Detroit hustles harder. Her company, It Comes Naturally, an all-natural skincare line, was selected by Forbes to take part in the Startup Hub exhibit. She used the opportunity to showcase her toxic-free insect repellent.

“We created this company to save lives. Our mission is to reduce the amount of insect-related illness and death worldwide,” Omishope says, adding she’s glad her sister inspired her to apply for the event. “It was unforgettable. I met so many people that could really help with our goals. I also had the opportunity to sit one on one with investors.”

Photo Courtesy of Iyinoluwa Omishope

Iyinoluwa Omishope at her booth.

Other Event Highlights


The Under 30 Music Festival, hosted by Pistons’ Blake Griffin, brought down the temple with performances from The Chainsmokers, 21 Savage and Normani.


  • Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, revealed an Uber Eats Delivery drone design. The company will begin testing in San Diego next summer.
  • Though Serena Williams was running late from London, she (lucky for us) made it to the main stage where she discussed her newly released clothing line, S by Serena.
  • Tinder co-founder Sean Rad announced a new nonprofit called Good Today.
  • Finally, the conference hosted its first presidential debate featuring Republican presidential candidates Mark Sanford, William Weld and Joe Walsh.
Carmen Nesbitt for SEEN

Michelle Kwan leads a yoga class Tuesday.


  • Michelle Kwan instructed a yoga class, leading office-clad attendees in exercises that could be performed seated at a desk. The Olympian said she has been exploring her passions for cooking, baking and yoga while also working for Joe Biden.


  • The last day of the event was all about service. Forbes members interacted with Detroit Public School Community District students to offer them mentorship. The day ended with yet another pitch competition where four groups of students competed for $1,000  toward a future project.


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