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Last Wednesday, I had the good fortune to attend TEDxDetoit. It was held in the beautiful theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The theater has 1,000 seats and I heard that over 1,500 people applied for tickets. Luckily the event was also live-streamed for those unable to attend.
People are always asking me just what a TEDx conference is and after attending two now, it can be a difficult one to answer. Part of it is, you just have to experience one for yourself. The other is, how do you condense into words what a event made up of business owners, poets, dancers, singers, and a DJ is all about?
They are one of the most entertaining and inspiring events that I have ever been to. This one was focused on Detroit and coming together to collaborate on positive ideas. I do not live within the city of Detroit. Growing up it was always this distant place that we would go to occasionally for a baseball game or visit the art museum on a field trip. It was not familiar and I always hesitated when people would ask where I was from. My standard answer was Metro Detroit. The city has been broken for all of my life.
Now that I am older, I recognize the efforts of some within the city to create a positive space. I am slowly learning about these places and visiting them. Sadly they are still few and far between, but attending TEDxDetroit gave me hope that they are growing.
Here are some of my takeaways from the event:
- The event opened with music from Dixon’s Violin in the Great Hall. Electric violin at it’s finest.
- We took a big X shaped picture in Riveria Court. Sort of. I’m in the green coat to the left of the red X. Found me?
- The opening act was a reading of the children’s book An Awesome Book. Read it, you will smile. And maybe buy one for your kids. Which in turn will get a copy of the book donated to someone who needs it.
- Jeff Degraff from the Michigan Ross School of Business: When companies are almost dead they are more likely to try innovation.
- Geoff Horst of Algal Scientific Company is doing some really cool things with water and algae. All in the name of creating clean energy and keeping our water clean. I’ll be thinking of them every time I have a beer at a brewpub and looking for their water treatment tanks.
- Bil Moore of Strategic Products and Services thinks a 4 year college degree is too long and we should spend less time learning for the sake of earning.
- Got to listen to some music casual from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
- Rick DeVos from Art Prize: Have a direction, get out of the way and let people be creative. Thousands of people are flocking to a three square mile area of downtown Grand Rapids and changing just what people consider art.
- Jocelyn Rainey of J Rainey Gallery is doing some awesome things for kids at an alternative high school in Detroit. She is not only teaching them how to create art, she is taking them into the world to find Mona Lisa. She changing their vision, changing their way of thinking which then changes their hearts, which changes their lives. Awesome.
- Karl Gude is a professor at Michigan State University and master of infographics. Check out the free visual tools that he has collected for others to use.
- Will Smidlein turned the whole idea of needing lots of funds to create a successful business on it’s head. Will is only 13 and considers himself a T.E.E.N. entrepreneur. Totally Epic Entrepreneurial Non-Adult that he is, he doesn’t have to worry about deadlines or making money right away. Instead he can work on making things perfect and be every more successful. Everyone has an idea in the back of their head, go out and start it. No fear!
- Kami Pothukuchi from SEED Wayne is doing wonderful things with growing produce within the city of Detroit and making it available to its residents. Michigan spends $26 Billion on food every year, but only spends 10% of that with local producers. Wow!
- I’m still processing just what is is that Jerry Paffendorf and Mary Lorene Carter are doing with Loveland, but their work on Imagination Station is pretty inspiring.
- Steve Kahn from Wayne State University’s Math Corps. More than just teaching math, this is creating a family for kids who pay for milk through 3 inches of glass. This program has a 90% graduation rate. Steve has a dream of Math Corps schools all around the city to reach out to the 100,000 kids who live there.
- Erik Proulx of Please Feed the Animals and Lemonade fame is on a quest to film a movie about Detroiters who are helping Detroit move into the age of entrepreneurism. He is tired of people showcasing the city’s “ruin porn” and hopes to turn that around with “hope porn.” He highlighted a couple things that he feels are bright spots of hope: Detroit Diamonds, Detroit Cheers, Bureau of Urban Living, W Industries, and Public Artworkz.
- Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and the Cleveland Cavaliers just had one thing to say. He loves Comic Sans. Seriously though, he had very positive things to say about businesses moving their headquarters downtown to Detroit and how important it is for our region to have a business center.
- Victor Green is the Director of Community Relations at Wayne State University and a triathlete. His story of finishing his first triathlon was so inspring. He finished because of the strength of team he surrounded himself with. And Victor, airplane, chicken, soldier was not made up by your instructor. My daughter is learning the same at swim class 😉
It was an awesome day and I am so glad I was able to attend.