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Harvest Summit Focuses on Outside Perspectives

by Kerana Todorov
October 22, 2018
Jessica Kilkullen welcomes Harvest Summit attendees to Chalk Hill Estate winery in Sonoma County. Kilkullen founded the event to exchange ideas and foster collaboration and innovation. Photo by Kerana Todorov/Wine Business Monthly.

About 250 entrepreneurs and business executives from across the country and beyond gathered at Chalk Hill Estate near Healdsburg Friday to discuss and share ideas on topics that included biotechnology, wine, sustainability and high tech.

Harvest Summit founder and Sonoma County winegrower Jessica Kilkullen organized the first gathering three years ago to foster innovation, collaboration and “authentic” conversation by inviting leaders from different industries.

Kilkullen wanted to create an inclusive, progressive event for men and women leaders - unlike the all-male Bohemian Grove.

Friday’s venue offered sweeping views of nearby vineyards.

Biotechnology entrepreneur Kees Mulder of the Netherlands kicked off Friday’s conversations with a presentation on his newest venture: SpaceLife Origin’s missions include enabling the birth of the first baby in space by 2024.

“We all can go out of our comfort zone,” Mulder told the audience.

Hip-hop artist and high-tech entrepreneur Ryan Leslie discussed the development of SuperPhone, a program he uses to reach out to fans directly.

Matt Carpenter, chief financial officer of Audi of America, discussed various topics, including the future of driving. Lyft’s research indicates 250,000 of their users now exclusively use rideshare services. “The scale is profound,” he said. Audi is responding by creating new products, including a car subscription service in Dallas.

“We’re trying to be more flexible with access to Audi,” Carpenter said.

Audi officials brought the auto maker’s new electric car – the “e-tron 55 quattro” to Chalk Hill Estate for the conference.

Carpenter shared the stage with Kate Henningsen, senior vice president of operations and general counsel at Arcadia Power. Arcadia Power is partnering with Audi to provide the car maker’s e-tron customers who re-charge their cars at home some green energy options.

Other speakers addressed digital mapping, wine, Sonoma’s recovery from the 2017 October fires, artificial intelligence, sustainability at Apple, and cancer research.

Val Wright, president of Val Wright Consulting, an author and innovation leadership expert, is a member of Harvest Summit’s advisory board and has attended all three Harvest Summits.

“I love meeting people I wouldn’t normally meet. I love the venue, the opportunity to look at this view and be able to get out of the usual day to day and be inspired,” said the British-born Wright, who is based in Los Angeles.

“It’s becoming known as a place to be for chief innovation officers, for CEOs, and for executives who are looking to the future and are looking to disrupt, and each year we have repeat guests, we have new guests, we have new media partner. So it just keeps growing,” Wright said.

Kilkullen said all attendees are vetted. There is a waiting list.

Maura Mazzoni, direct-to-consumer director at Crescere Wines, was among this year’s attendees.

She wanted to attend Harvest Summit after helping set up the event last year at La Crema where she worked. She wanted to be inspired.

The conversations are empowering, the people, forward thinking and innovative, Mazzoni said.

She said she enjoyed listening to Ryan Leslie talk about SuperPhone, the program that personalizes text messages on a large scale.

“In the wine industry, we still have a hard time personalizing and customizing on a small scale. How can we get up to speed?”

Keith Woods, chief executive officer for the North Coast Builders Exchange, participated in a discussion on rebuilding after a disaster like the 2017 October wildfires.

“This exceeds my expectations,” Woods said, of the event. “It’s an amazing array of speakers,” he said.

“Clearly the average IQ level is way above mine,” he added, tongue in cheek.

Kilkullen plans to keep Harvest Summit in Sonoma County. “It’s home for me and I want to share this really special sense of place.”

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