New Napa Summit Speakers: Kawasaki on Startups, Ashenfelter on Wine

Xconomy National — 

McLuhan said that the medium is the message. Here at Xconomy, we agree, and we think it even goes for the venues we pick for our events. When we hold a big conference in a university lecture hall, the message we’re sending is: deep thoughts and nuanced arguments coming. If we gather at the campus of a high-tech company or venture firm, we’re saying: time for some practical business insights. And when we meet at a resort spa in Napa Valley, the message is: let’s relax, have a glass of wine, meet some amazing people, and talk through a few pressing global issues.

That’s what the Napa Summit—Xconomy’s annual retreat on technology, jobs, and growth—is all about. It’s limited to roughly 100 guests and it starts with an elegant (but casual) dinner at Silver Oak Cellars in Oakville, CA, followed by a full day of learning and conversation at the beautiful Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville, CA. Our third annual summit is coming up on June 2 and 3, which means time is running out to request an invitation. (You can do that by e-mailing us at

Guests at the Napa Summit 2014 can expect our strongest program to date. As our CEO and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi announced a few weeks ago, we have an all-star speaker lineup that includes former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, genomics pioneer Lee Hood, Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, Indiegogo founder Danae Ringelmann, Minerva Project founder and CEO Ben Nelson, Kiip CEO Brian Wong, and many others who together should inspire even the most jaded among us. (The full speaker lineup is here.)

Fountains lift the spirits at the Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville, CA.

Fountains lift the spirits at the Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville, CA.

Today I’ve got some exciting new additions to share. We’re thrilled that Guy Kawasaki, the famed Silicon Valley startup guru and former Apple evangelist, will be joining us as the opening speaker on June 3. I just wrote about Guy’s decision to join Canva, an Australian online graphic design startup, as its new chief evangelist, and I expect that he’ll be sharing his insights about the state of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and other important innovation hubs, as well as the self-publishing revolution and the importance of good design in social media and other types of communication.

You can’t have an event in Napa Valley without talking about food and wine. For the second year in a row, the summit will feature an afternoon deep dive (our brand of breakout) session on food technology—with a focus this time on advanced sources of protein and other nutrients. We’ll be joined by David Berry, co-founder and chief scientific officer at pharmaconutrient startup Pronutria; Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, whose company Tiny Farms is developing new techniques for raising insects as food; and Andras Forgacs, CEO of Modern Meadow, which is using tissue engineering to develop cultured meat.

I’m also looking forward to our deep dive session on the relationship between design and innovation. It’s going to be an intimate conversation between me and two leading Bay Area experts on product design, industrial design, and interface design: Aaron Marcus of Aaron Marcus & Associates, whom I profiled back in February, and David Merkoski, a former Frog designer who is now partner and chief designer at Greenstart, the digital cleantech venture firm in San Francisco.

A rose garden accents the grounds at the Silver Oak Cellars winery in Oakville.

A rose garden accents the grounds at the Silver Oak Cellars winery in Oakville.

And as an added bonus, we’ll close the day on June 3 with a tasting of sustainably produced wines from Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, CA. We’re pairing that with a primer on the economics of winemaking from special guest Orley Ashenfelter, director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. Ashenfelter is an expert in labor economics, but he’s also president of the American Association of Wine Economists, and is known among oenophiles as the inventor of a formula for predicting the quality of red wine vintages in France.

The Napa Summit is an invitation-only event and registration is $1,395, with special discounts if you’re at a non-profit or startup; hotel is not included in the registration fee, but we’ve blocked out rooms at the Villagio Inn & Spa. Again, you can request an invitation by writing to