What I learned at TED

I went to TED for the first time, bandit-style (to quote Erin Griffith) not invited.

What I learned:

1. “Like the talks?” Many civilians don’t know it’s an actual event.

2. The Al Gore/Inconvenient Truth image of the Earth is kind of their proudest moment.

3. Much #humblebragging about “Oh we think we are so important”. I mean, it isn’t WEF and political leaders are absent.

4. It’s small not a festival. Most really big world events are a sprawl of side events and industry sideshows. This one is 95% “inside” the TED velvet ropes. Opportunity: throw a side event next year.

5. Topology: convention center, Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel across the street is the go-to side event venue, and the rest is kind of “far” and “distracting”.

6. There is a hierarchy inside the TED dome. They have super VIP stuff that most folks don’t get invited to, like on Wednesday night. Opportunity: throw your own.

7. It is overwhelmingly dudes. Holy crap. Maybe I didn’t get to see the curated Benetton moments.

8. VCs love it. They are back for the 8th time. Founders are rare. First-timers. The invitation and incumbency ticket system means there is a big gap in the up-and-comer community.

9. Lots of press comp tickets.

10. You can transfer a ticket from someone else who has one, for $1k.

11. Tech was on defense this year! The creators of Adsense and Targeting etc. were not happy under fire; they are used to being treated like God’s Gift. Turns out they are just a Greek God’s gift, like Promethean fire.

12. Vintage TEDsters of the creative class – film, art, media a were way less enthusiastic than the Venture Dudes. Of ten I contacted, most didn’t come (expensive) and said stuff like “In Monterey it was geniuses and superhumans talking; now it’s normal people.”

13. The TED value proposition is partly “Weeklong College”. I overheard quite a few (smart) very earnest debates about Steven Pinker or race in America.

14. But as a famous comedian pointed out, the value proposition and interface layer is much more “what do you do?” Hobnobbing. Laurene Powell Jobs, Al Gore, Vinodh and Doerr, and not Bono.

15. It’s super long. A week… jesus.