The TED Diaries: Day 4

The TED Diaries | BCBusiness

Vancouver’s TED organizers are keeping BCBusiness readers up to date on the last TED Conference in California before it migrates north to Vancouver in 2014 and 2015. The Canadian Tourism Commission’s SVP Marketing and Communications Greg Klassen dishes on his last day.

DAY 4 (click here for Day 3)

Friday is our final day here at TED.

As I get ready to wrap up my time here in Long Beach—and before I can even contemplate how we’ll pull it off in 2014 in Vancouver – it occurs to me that I’m going to be really annoying at dinner parties from now on. When I share this thought with my colleagues Rick Antonson (Tourism Vancouver) and Ken Cretney (Vancouver Convention Centre) who are here with me, they both agree.
Yet, it feels like the opportunity we have had to be that fly on the wall—among the one per cent of the one-percenters in what Ken calls “rarefied air”—should be shared. The knowledge we have been privileged to acquire is so interesting, so profound and so mind bending, it would be a shame to keep it to ourselves.

This is precisely why TED is so special. Yes, some of the world’s most intellectually curious  and talented people from all walks in the business, engineering, scientific, cultural and philanthropic communities get to be part of TED live. But the rest of us can watch these speakers—free—on the web.

In fact, it’s this goal that seems to really drive TED the most—sharing great ideas with the world. Some of the talks we heard are up on right now. Two in particular will change your views on the beleaguered music industry and on our education systems. Go to Amanda Palmer’s video on crowd funding the music industry, “The Art of Asking.” And check out the $1 million TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra, on “Build a School in the Cloud” if you’ve ever wondered how kids really learn.

One of the coolest things we learned at TED was the opportunity to demo some of the next-generation products and services that may truly change how we do business in the future. During the breaks we met entrepreneurs who told us about their startups—and yes, many were seeking venture capital, and yes, many were already looking successful.

Here are two of the ideas that I found intriguing:

1) A guy working on disrupting the rental car industry like what Airbnb is doing to disrupt the temporary accommodation industry. While our cars sit idle for days or weeks as they often do in bigger cities, why not rent them out? That’s how Airbnb works but with short-term room rentals in people’s homes. Cheaper for the consumer and cash for the owner.  Airbnb now has $120 million in capital, 200,000 property listings and 10 million guest nights. Stay tuned for this one.

2) A team demo-ing their next generation skateboard that goes up to 30 km/h using a battery and a motor commonly found in children’s toys. Seeing these skateboards whip across the stage was fascinating. I even got to demo one in the plaza. Imagine getting to work by skateboard… portable, no need to lock it up outside, take it on the bus, take it on vacation and travel up to 30 km in an hour. Awesome.

Other ideas included crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing, collaborating. These seemed to be big business themes. Apparently even a super computer is no match for a team of geeks collaborating to make the next chess move.

For all these great ideas, inspiring stories and cool products, there are dozens more just waiting to be discovered, some grown right here in our own province and country. Perhaps we will even see and hear more about them at TED in the next few years, here in Vancouver!

These experiences were just the tip of the iceberg. TED calls these “ideas worth sharing” which I will do, but hopefully with some restraint! I’m heading to two dinner parties this weekend. I hope I can keep my mouth shut!