Entrepreneurs

This guy ‘cold camps’ outside Sun Valley to ask billionaires, CEOs and VCs for advice—and it works

Dushime Gashugi
Courtesy of Dushime Gashugi
Dushime Gashugi

For the last three years, 29-year-old entrepreneur Dushime Gashugi has been determined to get advice from the most successful and powerful people in the world.

To that end, Gashugi travels from his home in California to the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho every July and hangs around the annual top secret Allen & Company conference, which attracts A-list CEOs, founders and venture capitalists. This year's attendees include Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Ivanka Trump.

And, according to him, his plan has worked.

Gashugi, founder of Gashugi Advisors, says he's gotten advice from moguls, executives and venture capitalists. Some have even become mini-mentors, he says, in that he reaches out to them when he has a question.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., waves after the morning session during the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 13, 2017.
Getty Images | Bloomberg
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., waves after the morning session during the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

So how did he pull it off?

It all started in 2014, when Gashugi's first business, a small investment fund, tanked. "I was not listening to anyone or taking advice," he tells CNBC.

With the goal of one day being the best CEO in the world, he wanted to find a way to ask the smartest and the best business people for guidance. The Allen & Co. conference seemed like the place to go.

"I thought, 'I'm just going to show up,'" says Gashugi, who has a degree in economics from the University of Chicago.

In 2015, he put together a list of people he wanted to talk to, booked an Airbnb and drove 14 hours to Sun Valley.

That first year, he hung around inside Sun Valley Resort as the conference was taking place, he says. Security was light.

"I would just walk around the premises — only in the public areas — and if I saw someone on my list, I'd walk up and say, 'Hi.'"

The grounds of the Sun Valley resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Tuesday, July 5, 2011.
Getty Images | Bloomberg
The grounds of the Sun Valley resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Tuesday, July 5, 2011.

Gashugi would then ask the billionaire or VC or CEO if they had a moment to give him some advice. "I asked them the question: Who do I need to become to produce on your level? You have 24 hours in a day, I have 24 hours in a day, so what's the difference between us?"

To the Allen & Co. attendees, Gashugi was just some random guy. Yet so many took the time to talk to him. He was humbled.

In those moments, those powerful people "made me feel like their most important client," he says. Many said no one else had ever tried to talk to them during the Sun Valley retreat.

Gashugi declines to publicly name the attendees he has spoken to, out of respect for their privacy, but he claims that some of the most helpful included a billionaire fashion mogul, the founder of a company that does about half a billion in annual revenue, and several billionaire VCs.

It inspired him. "They don't have anything to prove. They're not looking for anything in return," he says. "How can I not treat people at least as kindly as they treated me?"

In 2015, Gashugi made a list of the top 25 people on the Forbes' billionaires list, which ranks the richest people in the world. And he developed a new tactic: He read all their books, and when he saw one of them in Sun Valley, he used their work as an ice breaker. Then he boldly asked for their contact information. One of his goals was to build a priceless network of mentors before his 30th birthday.

According to the entrepreneur, he met about six people on that list. His visit was cut short, however, after security guards asked him to leave.

This year, Gashugi was back, but he stuck to the town square in nearby Ketchum, less than a mile from the resort. According to him, attendees often drive between Sun Valley and Ketchum to eat, network and broker deals.

Michael Bloomberg attends the fourth day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 14, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Getty Images | Drew Angerer
Michael Bloomberg attends the fourth day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 14, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

He only had two people on his list this time around: Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg. He's stood on Sun Valley Road, with a sign that read, "Messrs. Bloomberg & Gates: Entrepreneur from CA seeks advice. Coffee's on me." It also listed Gashugi's cell phone number.

Though this year he had no luck getting a response, he was inspired in a new way. Local business owners and residents were cheering him on. Some brought him provisions, including ice cream and bottles of water, says Gashugi. And one 20-year resident, pediatrician Dr. Gary Hoffman, gave Gashugi a folding chair, a cap to wear and even invited Gashugi home for dinner with him and his wife. They had lasagna and talked business, Hoffman tells CNBC.

"It really gives me faith in humanity," says Gashugi.

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