The TED Diaries

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. First up, The Canadian Tourism Commission’s SVP Marketing and Communications Greg Klassen dishes on his first two days.

DAY 1 (click here for Day 2)

It’s amazing the people who you meet at TED—and discover why we’re here. The tourism consortium that negotiated bringing TED to Vancouver in 2014 (me, Rick Antonson from Tourism Vancouver and Ken Cretney from the Vancouver Convention Centre) wisely made three golden tickets to attend TED in Long Beach this week as part of the deal. This year’s event is its 29th and final year in California where TED was born and nurtured.

TED tickets, as Vancouverites have found out in the past weeks since the announcement that TED was moving to the city, are extremely difficult to come by. Not only do you need $7,500, but you also have to prove in an essay that you’re TED-worthy. While we’re privileged to be here, the three of us realize that it’s likely our first and last time.

Negotiating a partnership with TED was important for Canada and Vancouver. Important not just because filling hotel rooms and convention centres is important; international convention business to Canada contributes $1.7 billion annually to Canada’s economy. Rather, a partnership with TED promises to bring 1,200 of the most interesting, progressive and intellectually curious people in the world to the city each year.

Among these 1,200 delegates will be future investors in Canada. They will be future hosts of conventions and meetings, future travellers in our country, future students in our universities and future buyers of our clean technologies, fuel cells and inventions not yet invented.

The first person I met was a six-year TED veteran from West Vancouver. He spoke warmly about the amazing people and connections he had made over those years and how connections are made, mostly organically. Many of the connections he referred to are of the type where the charity people meet the money people, heads of corporate and family foundations dedicated to ideas that will benefit the charities that align best with their interests and values.

I met my second TEDster at the hotel reception desk, a gentleman from New York from the venture capital industry who chatted about his years of TED experience. We entered the elevator with one of the TED speakers: a 13-year-old boy from Kenya. My new friend said to the young man, “You must be a very special person to be here. what is it that you do?”

That would be an unreasonable question of any 13-year-old Vancouverite but then this is TED! The Kenyan boy’s response really hit home that I was not in Kansas, or Vancouver, anymore. He said he was an “innovator.” I love that term, particularly when it comes with the unbridled and unapologetic confident enthusiasm that belies a TED speaker.

It turns out this fellow is a sheep herder in Kenya and had invented a system using household electrical goods to deter lions from pillaging his flock, solving a generations’ long problem. So here I was, between a venture capitalist and a Kenyan sheep herder in an elevator and there was no way I was getting off first!

This year’s TED delegates include about a dozen Hollywood stars, about 50 CEOs of some of the world’s most progressive and tech intensive companies, venture capitalists, heads of foundations, scientists, engineers, and inventors, and hundreds of people that will undoubtedly become household names in the years to come.

These are the kinds of delegates that will descend on Vancouver next March. When they arrive, they will find a progressive, forward-thinking city, in a progressive, forward-thinking country, open for business. And we’ll be ready for them.

Check back often for more TED Diaries and dispatches from California all week.