How a Park City father and son duo created a startup worth a listen.
When you think of a crazy successful startup business, thoughts oft en wander to tech companies in Silicon Valley—Airbnb, MailChimp and Uber all come to mind. A startup designed solely to provide thoughtful dialogue on a stage in Utah generally doesn’t make the list. But that’s exactly what father and son team Gary and Rob Lauer created with the Wasatch Speakers Series, a subscription-based series featuring seven of the world’s most prominent thought leaders.
Like most startups, there were sleepless nights, countless hours of work, big gambles and no guarantee any of it would pay off . Though it certainly did. And both men are blown away by the success of the first season. “It was completely unexpected,” admits Gary. “When we came up with the idea, we just hoped to fill half the seats in the auditorium. But our lineup was impressive, and not only did we pack the house in the 2017/18 season, we sold out for the 2018/19 season before tickets were available to the public. And there’s quite a long wait list.”
The concept behind the Wasatch Speakers Series was contemplative: bring a human element back to the conversation. That’s why none of the speeches are recorded or rebroadcast. The evenings are meant to be a discussion with some of the most highly accomplished people in their fields, as they share a greater awareness and a broader understanding of new, and sometimes controversial, ideas.
“Our goal is to expose audience members to different points of view that may challenge their assumptions,” Rob added. “We’re dedicated to bringing world leaders, innovators and scientists, humanitarians, game-changing policy makers, award-winning journalists and authors to the stage. We are equally committed to representing various perspectives, both genders, and only featuring leaders recognized for their personal and professional integrity.”
With dignitaries like Vice President Joe Biden, primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace, Dr. Jane Goodall, and CNN Medical Correspondent and neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta topping the inaugural season lineup, the Lauers knew season two needed to deliver an equally impressive list.
Despite this daunting task, they managed to surpass expectations, securing speakers like former FBI Director James Comey, the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“We are beyond humbled by the support we received from our subscribers and look forward to off ering another season of intellectual stimulation, inspiration and insight in an unbiased and respectful manner,” said Gary.
To Gary and Rob’s delight, their idea was such a hit in Utah, they’ve been able to duplicate it in the Phoenix market. “I think our success demonstrates people are hungry for civility and dialogue,” Rob said.
The Wasatch Speakers Series is held October through March at Abravanel Hall in downtown Salt Lake City. The format of each event consists of 40-55 minutes of prepared remarks, followed by 35-45 minutes of an audience-driven question and answer session.