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Courtney Reum

Courtney Reum

Posted: February 19, 2010 12:59 PM

TED2010: A Social Entrepreneur's Perspective

What's Your Reaction:

A lot has been written about the recently adjourned Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) Conference, but I wanted to put in my two cents from the perspective of one of the younger social entrepreneurs. (Check out Arianna Huffington's notes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/notes-from-ted-can-simpli_b_457709.html)

This year, I selfishly looked forward to TED as a surreal, almost dream-like experience that is a welcome change of pace from my daily activities at VeeV Spirits. Yes, açaí is considered cutting-edge in the food and beverage (alcohol) industry and being socially responsible is perhaps even more cutting-edge. However, we're talking about a whole different definition of the word cutting-edge when it comes to TED: from robots performing surgery in place of doctors to imagining a world without cancer and beyond.

As a TED rookie last year, everything was new and I was constantly asking myself, in a good way:

"I wonder what's next?"
In honor of the Olympics . . . it's similar to the type of adrenaline rush the first time down a new mountain. You really have no idea what is around the next turn. This year at TED I at least knew the basic terrain. So, while my heart didn't quite skip a beat because I knew more of what to expect, in other ways it was more rewarding as I was able to focus on the speakers and topics at hand.

If there's one clear thing I take away from TED every year, it's that the world is on the precipice of some monumental shifts, and technology has created an acceleration of these changes at a rate mankind has never seen before. The theme of this year's conference was "What the World Needs Now..." From my perspective, what the world needs now is engagement and action. TED reminds me that there are so many noble causes out there that it's not about choosing one over another, but about being a passionate change agent, and going after that change with purposeful abandon.

In my case, VeeV currently gives me that sense of purpose because we're really doing some ground-breaking things in terms of our business practices and sustainability. Take, for example, our $1 donation to Rainforest preservation per bottle sold, being the first carbon neutral spirits company in the world, and receiving a portion of our power through renewable wind energy at our distillers in Idaho. These are just the highlights of our activities, and I can't wait to fully detail our mission and future goals in our inaugural Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) report set to be released this spring. In short, I think that we have the opportunity to help lead a paramount shift in the alcohol industry in the way that products are created and marketed.

Last but not least, here are my top 10 moments from this year's TED - what are yours?

  • James Cameron - beyond the obvious, explaining how he took his love of underwater exploration and wove it into his career
  • Bill Gates - talking about climate change, which he had never spoken on before
  • Sir Ken Robinson - giving a brilliant talk on education reform
  • Natalie Merchant - reminding me of my junior high days and singing songs from her new album of classic poetry put to music
  • Sarah Silverman - starting out with hilarity but making the TEDsters jaw's drop by the end (and not necessarily in a good way, as you'll see from Curator Chris Anderson's tweets)
  • Ze Frank - wrapping up by brilliantly poking fun at all the speakers and events in an exceedingly humorous way
  • William Li - giving us hope into curing cancer
  • Google phone - not that it's not cool enough, but giving all TEDsters one for free didn't hurt either
  • Philip Howard - delivering a brilliant talk on how our legal system is strangling innovation
  • The snacks - yup, that's right. I've not been at a conference with more food that also happens to be healthy, revolutionary in many cases, and delicious

In case anyone didn't get to watch an associate simulcast of TED or doesn't know what the heck I'm talking about, talks should be up soon at www.TED.com, and there are already thousands of ground-breaking talks up on the site in a variety of languages.