TEDxPresidio: Ideas that Inspire Us to Action

Occasionally you attend an event where every speaker inspires something in you that moves you to action. That’s how I felt on Saturday while attending TEDxPresidio at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The event followed the traditional TEDx format of combining music, art and amazing people on stage with “ideas worth spreading”. Specifically, TEDxPresidio wanted to share ideas about Business 3.0 and had several social entrepreneurs tell their story.

My favorite presenters of the day were Alex Velez and Nikhil Arora of Back to the Roots. These two men met as business students at University of California at Berkeley, and what started as an attempt to use coffee grounds to grow mushrooms has now grown to a business where they will reuse over one million pounds of coffee grounds in 2011. They originally sold their mushrooms and mushroom growing kits at one store in Berkley and are now on sale at over 300 Whole Foods locations and will soon be available at Peet’s Coffee locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both Velez and Arora stressed that what has made them successful and what they feel Business 3.0 is all about is not only the social impact but also finding a way to maximize the value of partnerships.

Chip Conley, who founded Joie de Vivre Hospitality, had the quote of the day when he said that Business 3.0 is not about being “superhuman”, but it is about being a “a super human”. Conley shared many stories about the transformation of business and people over the past several decades and how we are now experiencing the “meaning” decade. People want to work and do good things while at work, but its also important for them to connect with their families and feel as if they are a part of building things together — whether that’s something they do in the office or spaces like community gardens.

Tying the event together all day were two amazing hosts in Deb Nelson, Executive Director of the Social Venture Network, and Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Managing Partner of Code Green Agency and author of Nonprofit Management 101 (to be released on 4/13). Between speakers, Heyman frequently shared his own thoughts on what people were sharing throughout the day. In addition to noting that leaving TEDxPresidio inspired wasn’t enough and that we needed to leave inspired to action, at one point he also said that Business 3.0 has created a world where “everyone is smaller than anyone”.

The rest of the day was filled with other excellent speakers that shared stories of what businesses and governments are doing to move the world from Business 2.0 to Business 3.0 and also asking what each of us could do to influence the future of business. Some other highlights from the day included:

  • Ari Derfel, Executive Director of Slow Money, asked members of the audience to ask themselves four questions: “1) What world do I want to live in?; 2) What can I contribute?; 3) How committed am I?; and 4) How far am I willing to go?”
  • Julie Hanna, current Chair of the Board at Kiva, shared a very personal story of living as a child in Egypt and contrasting that with the opportunities she had after moving to the United States. She spoke about how we need to find a way to bring our humanity to business and business to humanity, and that those who are poor and facing poverty don’t view themselves as victims, but they want and deserve “fair access” to resources. One of the Kiva success stories she shared was of a sewing cooperative which takes women that have been victims of sex trafficking and teaches them to sew and a new way to make a living. In this way, a “sewing machine represents freedom from slavery and a path towards opportunity and hope”. 

There were many other great speakers, James Kass of Youth Speaks shared an awesome spoken word poem about the challenges of running a nonprofit and working with urban youth, and there were two fantastic musical performances.

If you’re looking for other great ideas, check out the TED Talks archive. I’m sure most of the talks from TEDxPresidio will be posted there in the future. You should also try to see if there is a TEDx event in your area to attend.

Related Stories: 
Ted goes to TED

TEDxRedmond – first TEDx ‘for kids by kids’ is a success! 

Holiday Hero: John Marshall Roberts and Rediscovering Empathy

Photo credit: Palace of Fine Arts by maggie loves hopey


Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Thank You Sue Anne for a very inspiring article.
Will check back for more.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson6 years ago


Harsha Vardhana R
Harsha Vardhana6 years ago

Very interesting and inspiring!!

Thanks a lot

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


Helen Delahunt-Avila
Helen A6 years ago

wonderful thank you

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Many thanks.

Sarah Zemke
Sarah Z6 years ago

Thank you

Bon L.
Bon L6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Hannah W.
Hannah W.6 years ago

Thank you!

Lelle T.
Lelle T6 years ago

and i forgot to say (re the quote i loved - learning to bring our humanity to business and our business to humanity;) that of course i can do this too and i think that i do it in my current job and i try to do it in my volunteer work in Bali.