From Wall Street to Main Street

My TED Talk on the Magic of Crowdfunding

The Economics of Abundance

Here are some things I used to believe:

  1. The power of the free market comes from competition
  2. If you are nice to someone, you will be rewarded commensurately
  3. A penny saved is a penny earned
  4. The more scarce something is the more valuable it is

I no longer believe these statements to be true.  To understand why, I’d like to share a little of my journey as an entrepreneur and investor.

In the mid to late ’90s I was working on a startup and getting my feet wet as an angel investor in Silicon Valley.  I, like everyone I knew, was an adherent of the Chicago School of Economics and the Efficient Market Hypothesis.  One of the mantras of this religion is that

The invisible hand of the marketplace will feed us all, but we have to compete vigorously with one another for it to work its magic.

Signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement on a first date — that’s not just good business, but a moral …

Education 2.0

In what turned out to be the most popular TED talk of all time, Ken Robinson asked us to wake up and smell the coffee: our system of education is stuck in the Industrial Revolution where it was invented.  Moreover, it’s killing creativity, crushing spirits, and preparing students, not for success and wellbeing, but rather unemployment and dysfunction.  Waiting for Superman confirmed this this, adding that the public schools in the U.S. are bankrupt, both financially and morally.

Yet, all around the world, there are signs that the Berlin Wall of education reform is crumbling. Here are a few shining lights:


No single institution or movement has done more to spark educational change than TED.com.  Hundreds of millions of people are watching their videos and learning from inspiring individuals sharing ideas and experiences that cannot be learned in a traditional school environment.  And there’s an acceleration effect because many of the talks are about education and the transformation that’s going on in …

The Secret to a Great TED Talk

Recently I learned from two separate people how the Obama campaign won the 2008 presidential election and it’s fascinating.  Basically everyone who was a part of it learned the “campaign narrative” structure and delivered their personal message to spread the gospel:

  • The Story of Me: why I’ve personally been inspired by this campaign
  • The Story of We: why we (me speaking and you listening) are united and inspired by this campaign
  • The Story of Now: why it’s urgent that you take action now; the train is leaving and you can jump aboard or be left behind

If you think about it, this is a very powerful narrative for creating grass-roots action of any sort.  Having just spent the last week watching many dozens of TED talks (and having watched hundreds of them over the past few years), I’ve been thinking about the fact that the great ones all follow a shared structure, which I will share with you now:

  • The Story of

Investing in Superstars, part 2

For the background to this post, start with part 1.  The follow up is here: part 3part 4.

In a subsequent post, I’ll talk about some lessons we’ve learned.  In the mean time, what questions would you have, either as a prospective investor or investee in the above scenario?…

Will You Die From Cancer?

Use the arrows that appear if you hover over the bottom right of the Prezi.  You may want to expand to full screen first.

All feedback welcome.  If you like this, what subject would you like to see addressed next using Prezi?…

The Most Important TV Show in America

Remember Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish?  Well tonight is the prime time season premiere of his Food Revolution show on ABC.  The Huffington Post called Undercover Boss the most subversive show in America, and I can’t disagree.  But in terms of importance to the future of America (and by extension every country which imports American TV and culture), Food Revolution I can’t imagine a more important show.

It’s not just the lives of individuals who eat crap (which is most of the country, frankly, even though they have no idea how toxic what they are eating is).  It’s the happiness and achievement potential of today’s youth.  It’s the emperor with no clothes at the center of the healthcare debate.  And it’s a lynchpin for economic recovery and sustainability.

Watch the premiere, and spread the word……

The Technium

Here are the slides from his talk. My favorites are 3, 4, 8, 10, 15, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 29, 35, 37, 38, 53, 66, 68.

Four Ways to Fix a Broken Legal System (TED 2010)

This was one of my favorites of the year.…

“Bad people do bad things”

In listening to this account of Hemant Lakhani, convicted in 2005 of illegal arms dealing, I was reminded of another This American Life episode about Brandon Darby.  Underlying both stories are accounts of seemingly incompetent, misguided, would-be bad guys who were actualized on a path of evildoing by law-enforcement agents during sting operations.

What I found most interesting was the quote in the title of this post, said by the prosecutor in the Lakhani case.  This was his justification for why it was okay to have the U.S. military supply Lakhani the weapon that he was convicted of illegally dealing.  (If you listen to the story you will learn that Lakhani had been making promises to the informant of being able to procure weapons for a long time and he’d been unsuccessful on his own).

While it seems on the surface that “bad people do bad things” — i.e. that’s how bad things get done, they require a bad person to do them — …

Reinventing Liberal Arts Education

This was one of the most important and encouraging talks of this year’s TED conference:…

Don't Eat That Marshmallow!

Short but brilliant TED talk by Joachim de Posada.  I love the economic point he makes at the end.

Technology Evolution Will Eclipse Financial Crisis

This is a precursor to Singularity sort of argument:…

Mass Adoption of Electric Cars

The Vanguard of Science: Bonnie Bassler

The import of this talk goes way beyond the specific and stunning work that Bassler and her team have done on quorum sensing.  In my mind, this is the prototype for good biological science:…

Military-Industrial Complex Redux

Behavioral Economics With Dan Ariely

If you liked this talk (as I do), check out Ariely’s 3 irrational lessons from the Bernie Madoff scandal.…

How to Change the Climate in 3 Years

Oh, and re-grow the rainforrest, strengthen the social, political and economic climate, save endangered species and increase biodiversity and resilliance all at the same time without any budget.…

TED Talk: Linked Data

One of my favorite talks of TED 2009 was from Tim Berners-Lee, the man often credited with (actually) inventing the Web.  He’s been going on for quite a while about the coming of the “semantic web” and how it will be even bigger than the current web in terms of impact.  But until his TED talk on linked data, I didn’t really get it.  Now I do.  And I think he’s right:…

My Favorite TED Talks of 2009

My other favorites were these:

  • Tim Berners-Lee
  • Bonnie Bassler
  • Rosamund Zander
  • Willie Smits
  • Dan Ariely
  • Liz Coleman

I’ll post their talks when they come out, but you can check them out from the program guide in the mean time.

What were your favorites?…

Focusing Sound

Okay, this is cool.  Be sure to watch to the end:…

The Challenge

Here’s a contest model for spurring innovation that I’d like to explore:

  1. 50 participatns ante a pre-determined amount of money
  2. Each participant submits original work (of a pre-determined type)
  3. Each participant votes for one winner (other than themselves)
  4. Winner gets the money

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

As we approach the inauguration of a new leader who trying to be truly post-partisan, I think Jonathan Haidt’s TED brilliant talk is apropos:…

The Emergent Universe

In a previous post I asked what you thought this was:


Here is the same system at different resolutions (lowest to highest):…

TED Global 2009 Registration Open

For those who liked all of the TED talks that I posted earlier this year, you might want to attend TED Global 2009.  Guaranteed to blow your mind.…