Inside This Year’s SALT Conference — aka ‘Davos in the Desert’

Mark Cuban, Tulsi Gabbard and Anthony Scaramucci were inspiring.

I’m always seeking out ways to grow my network, so I’ve been thrilled this week to have the opportunity to hear from some of the top leaders in business, investing and public policy at the SALT conference, which just wrapped after a stellar few days at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. SALT featured powerhouse speakers like Mark Cuban, democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, and I’m still trying to get over how phenomenal it was.

Conferences like these provide an incredible return on investment — they offer industry insights and intelligence, networking opportunities and chances to connect with potential talent, mentors and strategic partners. I’m excited to have heard from so many interesting speakers, rubbing elbows with some of the world’s best and brightest.

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What Is SALT?

Nicknamed “Davos in the Desert” after The World Economic Forum, SALT is a global business conference that brings together more than 2,000 of the world’s most influential investors, business executives and public policy officials to discuss issues related to finance, technology, work, politics and philanthropy.

The conference is now 10 years old, and over that time it’s evolved to address the needs of today’s business environment. The goal of SALT is to prepare entrepreneurs and executives for the ongoing changes they face, and it’s a great learning and networking opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders.

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Relevant Industries and Critical Topics

This year the event has featured more than 60 sessions and 175 speakers, including such notables as Ben Carson, former military official Gen. John Kelly (Ret.) and former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. SALT also hosted the FQ Lounge, the home for equality, sponsored by Tony Robbins, philanthropist and the nation’s foremost life and business strategist. The array of speakers truly represented everything from finance to technology, politics to academia and sports to entertainment.

Over the course of the conference, the panel discussions, fireside chats and keynote remarks were full of surprising moments — like totally spontaneous, not-so-subtle hints that Haley should run for office. Or when Shelley Zalis told Anthony Scaramucci that she thinks we need to be able to discuss taboo topics if we want to move forward.

This year’s event also included an event stage dedicated to emerging industries, like digital assets, distributed ledger technology, fintech and ed tech. Scaramucci, who founded SALT, told me that he and his team spent considerable time identifying the most pressing issues to discuss as part of this year’s conference agenda.

“SALT is focusing on impact — whether technological, financial or from a public policy perspective,” Scaramucci said. “We’ve got the foremost experts in artificial intelligence, human longevity and cryptocurrency, who will discuss emerging investments that stand to change the world. If you’re interested in unlocking new opportunity in long-ignored parts of the country, there are panels with economists, urban planners and analysts who have vast expertise in opportunity zones and impact investing.”

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Growing With the Times

One thing new to the conference this year was the SALT mobile app, which participants used to track events throughout the conference and to interact with other participants.

The app also offers a VIP program that provided access to exclusive year-round events featuring prominent thought leaders. It will certainly help me stay connected to the community and keep track of all the contacts I made.

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Adding To the Discussion and Directing Change

With the ever-growing complexity in business issues and ways to address those problems, getting diverse perspectives can help stimulate new ideas for potential solutions. Change doesn’t happen from the confines of offices and boardrooms. That’s why the SALT conference has brought as many different people from different backgrounds and industries together as possible to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems over the last decade.

“In the past, conferences have had a more narrow focus, but it’s going to take a combination of public policy, private investment and technological innovation to address issues like income inequality, climate change and achieving greater diversity in corporate boardrooms,” explained Scaramucci. “We’re really looking at it in a new way, where Washington, D.C., Wall Street and Silicon Valley work together to make an impact.”

Besides all the hard work and heavy thinking, the SALT conference has offered some fun and relaxing ways to step away from the day-to-day company decisions and connect with other like-minded individuals. It’s been so much fun to attend the 10th anniversary of the event — be sure to add it to your calendar next year!

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