David Blatt '00
Anyone who attended a GUS dance DJ’d by David Blatt ’00 and his brother, Josh, won’t be surprised to learn that David has pursued a life in business and entrepreneurship. Even as an eighth grader, David was buying sound equipment and scheduling gigs, first at GUS, then at Pingree, launching his first business when barely 14 years old.
These days, David owns several income properties around Boston and is the CFO of Summit Series, an organization that hosts conferences and events for young entrepreneurs, artists and activists.
After GUS and Pingree, David attended the Honors College in the School of Management at UMass Amherst. “It was a program with 60 students,” says David. “We studied finance and operations; the dean of the School of Management was our adviser. It was a smaller community within the UMass community.”
Following up on his first entrepreneurial venture, David started a painting business during summers in college, with crews of up to 15 working for him. At the same time, he kept up the DJ business. Then, after graduation, he purchased his first property in Boston and rented out a couple of rooms to friends. Inspired by an uncle who taught him to tinker and solve problems, he added to his portfolio and now has half a dozen properties in Boston and Salem. With his real estate license in tow, he was doing sales and leasing, and finding deals “that were flowing.” All this in addition to a day job, of course, first at KPMG accounting firm and then at CohnReznick, a consulting firm focused on helping developers acquire and renovate multi-family buildings using a low-income housing tax credit, thereby encouraging the development of low-income housing.
Things were going well when a new opportunity appeared that had irresistible appeal. David had always wanted to be a developer and “build something from nothing.” Two friends from Pingree called him with a proposition. Brett Leve and Jeremy Schwartz had started Summit Series, an opportunity for like-minded entrepreneurs and other innovators to connect, collaborate, and share ideas at events around the world. Think TED talks meets Burning Man, says David as way of explanation. In 2013, Summit acquired Powder Mountain in Utah with a plan to build a permanent home for this community of game changers to gather. It was then that David’s former classmates contacted him and asked him to lead finances and operations for the company. “I fell in love with the place and the vision,” David says. He moved out there in August of 2013 to “build a town on top of a mountain,” his dream of a total raw land development project. When it is complete, there will be hotels, stores, conference sites, and homes, as well as a ski resort and all the infrastructure needed for a community of 15,000 people. Already, 100 home sites have been sold, all marketed to people who attend Summit Series conferences and events. The first homes will go up this summer.
Who attends Summit Series events and conferences? Founders of companies such as Virgin Airlines, Netflix, DropBox, TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Google, and Uber, to name a few. “People doing amazing things in their fields,” says David, “innovative things in food and food technology, in science, in health, a whole mix and mashup, amazing ideas and points of view.” According to an April 2015 article in The New York Times, “some 10,000 people have attended Summit Series events, from founders of digital media start-ups to professional athletes, clothing designers to scientists. The company Qwiki, maker of an iPhone video sharing app, was hatched at a Summit event and acquired last year by Yahoo for $50 million; Basis, a company that makes wristwatch health trackers, secured its first major investment at Summit and was sold to Intel last year for over $100 million.” And it’s not just for-profit big companies who benefit from the contacts. People in nonprofits have hooked up with philanthropists, the Times article noted, and musicians have discovered collaborators.
It’s no surprise that David loves his job. “There is amazing flexibility to travel and meet amazing people doing inspiring work,” he says. And he gets to realize his dream of building something from scratch—a whole town!
David keeps up with some GUS classmates. “Greg Curtin and I are still best friends. I was the best man at his wedding in July 2013. Morgan Baird and I are still close friends as well.”