XO Summit Recap: Slowing Down to Speed Up

We brought together 40+ startup founders from our portfolio for two-days of learning, networking, and inspiration.

Article by
Emma Ryan
Group Photo from XO Summit

Every year, High Alpha brings 40+ startup founders together from across our portfolio for one special event called XO Summit. This year, we traded our snow boots for cowboy boots and headed to Tucson, Arizona, for a memorable two-day gathering.

During the summit, founders and CEOs engage in strategic discussions, hear from renowned speakers, and forge bonds through shared experiences.

Why We Put So Much Energy Into XO Summit

For many founders, stepping away from their daily responsibilities is a challenge. They shoulder the weight of guiding their teams, navigating critical decisions, and satisfying a myriad of stakeholders, all while making time for their loved ones at home. In today's funding landscape, where doing more with less is the norm, it's easy to overlook the importance of events like XO Summit. However, we believe it's more crucial than ever.

Often dismissed and rarely discussed, the life of a CEO can be a particularly lonely one. According to 2022 research by Deloitte, 30% of executives reported that they always or often feel lonely.

High Alpha was born with a vision to serve and support entrepreneurs on their journeys. We don't sign up to do business with them — we sign up to do life with them. So, as we prepared for our seventh annual XO Summit, we wondered how else we could help them cope as the pressures mount. How could we help them feel a little less alone while providing value not just professionally, but personally, too?

A Focus on Wellness

While discussions around topics like generative AI and effective leadership through scale are integral to XO Summit (we had speakers like Brian Long Co-Founder, Executive Chairman, and Board Director of Attentive, among others, speak), this year's event placed a unique emphasis on wellness and personal development. We dedicated an entire day to these topics, recognizing that they're business-critical.

In recent years, there’s been a growing focus on the relationship between emotional intelligence and high performance. At XO Summit, Miles Adcox, Chairman and Owner of Onsite, defined emotional intelligence as power, understanding, and empathy around your mood and feelings towards yourself and others. Instead of labeling it emotional intelligence, he refers to it as emotional fitness, drawing a parallel between mental and physical wellness. Adcox led us through a series of exercises highlighting the importance of emotional fitness in fostering meaningful connections with those we lead, love, and interact with. Rather than offering advice or solutions, he emphasized the value of active listening, validation, and understanding in supporting others.

Miles Adcox delivering his keynote on "Human School."

Emotional Body Scan and Regulation

Adcox also acknowledged that the workplace is an emotional place. You're mixing people with performance and throwing money in there along the way. And, for CEOs, you’re leading an entire company of people. What could go wrong?

Adcox offered the group a simple yet effective strategy to manage emotions when tensions run high at work (or anywhere, really). Known as an "emotional body scan," this technique involves asking yourself three questions whenever you feel emotionally stressed.

What am I feeling?

The key is not to overthink it. Simply give a name to the emotion that first comes to mind.

Where do I feel it?

Next, pinpoint where in your body you feel the emotion. It could be in your chest, gut, head, hands, or face.

How intense is it?

Finally, assign a number on a scale of 1 to 10 to the intensity of the emotion. That's all there is to it.

Fitness In Mind and Body

Physical fitness was also a focus of our programming. Jennifer Jarrett, a seasoned yoga instructor, wellness coach, and somatic healer, led morning yoga sessions and guided meditations. Jeremy Scott, Arizona-based fitness coach and author, explored "The Performance Mindset," discussing the role of diet, sleep, and physical activity in enhancing performance at work.

Jennifer Jarrett leading the group through a guided meditation to "regulate and reset."

As Always, We Invited SaaS Leaders to Share and Inspire

In addition to the special guests who joined us for the Wellness and Personal Development track, we heard from industry leaders on the business of SaaS, including Matt Kunkel, CEO of LogicGate, Andrés Moreno, CEO of Open English and Chairman of Escala, and Brian Long, Co-Founder, Executive Chairman, and Board Director of Attentive.

During our day focused on the business of SaaS, we explored and discussed how all our CEOs and their companies are thinking about, implementing, and using generative AI to improve efficiencies in their businesses and products. We set aside time for CEOs to connect and nurture relationships that some have now built over the course of 5+ years. And we even organized an unorthodox team bonding activity that had everyone skeptical at first...but led to an incredible lesson in startups.

Scott Dorsey facilitating a fireside chat with Brian Long, Co-Founder and Chairman of Attentive.
CEOs Christopher Shutts, Zach Taylor, and Matt Kunkel participating in equestrian sport, “team penning.”

The throughline of every XO Summit is connection. It gives founders an avenue to connect with peers facing similar challenges and to reflect on their business and personal goals. While the location and agenda may change year to year, our goal remains constant: to offer world-class hospitality for our CEOs, create meaningful moments of connection, and watch the magic happen.

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