Best Ted Talks for small business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs
August 3, 2021
Running a business or getting ready to launch one can be a lonely, anxiety-inducing experience. Amid keeping up with financials and client demands, it’s easy as an entrepreneur to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose track of loftier, longer-term goals.
Take a breath, sit back and soak in some inspiration, laughter and timeless wisdom from these Ted Talks. This curated list — designed to remind you of your hard work and the power of perseverance — features influential speakers offering valuable, snackable takeaways perfect for both existing or aspiring entrepreneurs.
For entrepreneurs who go against the grain…
Check out “Dare to Disagree” by Margaret Heffernan.
Who she is: Heffernan has worn many hats, from serial CEO to repeat author and TED speaker. Her talks and written work focus on how businesses think and how often leaders ignore the obvious, a potentially costly and harmful habit.
Ted Talk in a nutshell: Heffernan tells the incredible tale of Alice Stewart, who in the 1950s broke down multiple barriers. She was one of the few women in the medical field at the time, and she later went on to be the youngest fellow to serve in the prestigious Royal College of Physicians.
Stewart’s breakthrough scientific work revealed the then-unknown reason so many children from affluent families received cancer diagnoses. Her research pointed to X-ray screenings, a medical procedure only women of means were able to afford at the time. It took two and a half decades for Stewart to prove her case, much of it working alongside a well-known statistician who was initially doubtful of her findings. But through constructive criticism and collaboration, they assembled a more compelling case proving the harmful effects of X-ray exposure to expectant mothers.
The takeaway: Question what’s considered conventional wisdom. And don’t be afraid to engage in what Heffernan calls “constructive conflict” with colleagues, especially with those different from you in personality and approach. As Stewart’s anecdote illustrates, opposites can collaborate to produce innovative, fruitful work.
For creatives with a procrastination streak….
Watch “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” by Tim Urban.
Who he is: No, not the country singer Tim Urban. This Tim Urban, a celebrity in his own right, is the co-founder of Wait But Why, a popular website featuring long-form blogs paired with irreverent stick-figure drawings. His posts have been published in major media websites including Lifehacker and The Huffington Post. Recently, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk commissioned Urban to write a series of deep-dive posts about Musk’s innovative companies and philosophies.
Ted Talk in a nutshell: Urban kicks off his talk with a situation that many of us, especially those who attended college, can likely relate to. Your professor or boss has assigned you a massive project with a seemingly more-than-generous deadline. Yet somehow, we end up completing it the night before it’s due. His situation? Banging out a 90-page senior thesis in 48 sleepless hours. Everything turned out OK, he admitted. But his near-meltdown got him wondering why we, whether we’re entrepreneurs or employees, tend to procrastinate. He ended up writing a blog about this topic, which generated a massive response from his readers — all lamenting the same situation.
The takeaway: In some sense, we’re all procrastinators. Urban distills procrastination into two camps. There’s deadline-driven procrastination, during which something he calls a “panic monster” emerges. And then there’s non-deadline procrastination; this is essentially the continuous shelving of your dreams and ambitions. The latter is silent and perhaps more damaging to you long-term. His advice: Take a long, hard look at your calendar and start prioritizing things that matter, even if they don’t have an official deadline.
For brilliant minds second-guessing themselves….
See “Five Ways to Kill Your Dreams” by Bel Pesce.
Who she is: Pesce is a Brazilian-born and MIT-educated entrepreneur who helms three businesses. Also a TED fellow, she’s written three books: The Brazilian Girl from Silicon Valley, Superheroes: WANTED and The Girl from Silicon Valley 2. Readers downloaded Pesce’s first book 3 million times.
Ted Talk in a nutshell: We won’t give all five away. But here’s one of our favorite points: One way you can effectively kill a dream is by relying on others to have all the answers for you. While some counseling may be helpful, especially in business, over-reliance on others’ opinions can lead you down the wrong path and deter you from trusting your own expertise and instinct.
The takeaway: Fight the urge to run everything by so-called experts. And trust in yourself when deciding on how to proceed. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.
For would-be entrepreneurs mulling launch
Play “The Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed” by Bill Gross.
Who he is: Gross is the founder of Pasadena, Calif.-based Idealab, a venture-capital firm that has invested in the likes of Petsmart.com, Bitcoin giant Coinbase, and Tickets.com, which was acquired by the MLB. He has also personally founded a number of startups.
Ted Talk in a nutshell: For this riveting talk, he gathered data from hundreds of companies and ranked them in order using five major categories. The goal was to discover the most common reasons certain startups succeed while others fail, which happens significantly more often.
What was No. 1? Timing, Gross found. Airbnb is a classic example. As the story goes, investor after investor blew off the idea, fearing no consumer would want to rent a stranger’s room or home. The stranger factor was overshadowed by brilliant timing: Airbnb’s founders launched during the Great Recession. This marked a time when homeowners and renters sought ways to make extra cash and frugal travelers wanted more ways to save.
The takeaway: While a good idea and great execution are key, poor timing can undo the effectiveness of both. Evaluate market conditions and consumer demands before releasing your business out to the world.
Feeling inspired? If you’re a current or aspiring business owner and need financing, we can help. Tell our loan experts about your business, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you.