12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. 

TED is a circuit of highly popular conferences that present "Ideas Worth Spreading" - which have quickly grown to become some of the most well known conferences around the world. TED has attracted presenters such as Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Larry Page, and a large handful of Nobel Prize Winners.  

Many of the presentations, known as TED Talks, present ideas that are particularly valuable to entrepreneurs. I put together a collection of TED Talks that all entrepreneurs, including ecommerce store owners, should find interesting and worthwhile. Since a lot of the presenters below have written books, I have included a link to purchase. All of the money earned from Amazon's affiliate program will go to Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Let us know which TED Talk you think should have made the list in the comments. 

Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot by studying behavioral economics. Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather (one of the biggest marketing/advertising agencies in the world), makes the assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value. The idea that intangible value can strongly influence opinion (and purchase decision) is evidenced in Sutherland's humorous and deeply insightful presentation that every entrepreneur - certainly every marketer - should watch.
If you like this TED talk, also see "Sweat The Small Stuff," an equally entertaining argument to put more focus on small details instead of big expensive problems. I also recommend his book "Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man."

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker, and strategic communications professor at Columbia University. Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with his famous "golden circle of motivation" and the question "Why?" 

If you like Simon Sinek's TED talk, you should also check out his popular blog Re:Focus which is regularly updated with fascinating articles that will help entrepreneurs build businesses. Also check out his book "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action."

Dan Ariely: Are we in Control of our own Decisions?

The decisions we make are not only inevitable, but they're also extremely predictable. Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist, professor, and author. He uses his own shocking research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions. 
If you like Ariely's TED talk, also check out his podcast "Arming The Donkeys" and his books:

Seth Godin: How to get your Ideas to Spread

Be remarkable. Safe is risky. Being very good is one of the worst things you can do. Everyone has heard the expression "The best thing since sliced bread" but did you know that for 15 years after sliced bread was invented it wasn't popular? The success of sliced bread, like the success of anything, was less about the product and more about whether or not you could get your idea to spread or not.

Marketing guru and author Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Godin has published almost a dozen best-selling books, some of the most popular being: "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,"  "All Marketers Are Liars,"  "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?"  and "Poke The Box."

Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce

The food industry used to determine what people want to eat by asking them - as you may have seen in the focus groups portrayed on Mad Men. Fact is, people don't know what they want. Ask people what kind of coffee they like and they'll say a "dark, rich, hearty roast" - in fact, most people actually want milky weak coffee.
Malcolm Gladwell, author, journalist, thinker, gets inside the food industry's pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce, and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness. 
If you like Malcolm Gladwell's TED talk, entrepreneurs should also check out his books "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," and "Outliers: The Story of Success."

Tim Harford: Trial, Error, and the God Complex

Unilever (they own 400 brands, including: Dove, Lipton, Becel, and more) hired some of the most brilliant engineers in the world to design the perfect nozzle to squirt out laundry detergent. No one could get it right. So they used trial and error instead. They created ten random variations of a nozzle, and kept the one that worked best. Then they created ten variations on that one, and kept the one that worked best, and so on. After 45 generations Unilever developed a perfect laundry detergent nozzle with absolutely no idea why it works.
In this TED talk, economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. He asks entrepreneurs to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes. Check out Tim Harford's books "Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure" and "The Undercover Economist."

Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From

Entrepreneurs often credit their ideas to individual "Eureka!" moments. Steven Johnson doesn't think it's that simple and shows us how history tells a different story. 

Steven Johnson is a best-selling author of seven books all on the intersection of science and technology woven together by personal experience. Johnson's book, "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation" digs deep on the topic introduced in his TED Talk above. Also check out his most recent book which is only available for pre-order "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age."

Cameron Herold: Let's Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs

Cameron Herold thinks weekly allowances teach kids the wrong habits - by nature, they teach kids to expect a regular paycheque, something to which entrepreneurs usually don't get. Herold's two kids don't get an allowance. He's taught them to walk around the yard looking for stuff that needs to get done, then they negotiate a price. In his TED Talk above, Herold makes the case for a new type of parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish.

Cameron Herold is an entrepreneur through and through. He's been building businesses since he was born - moved on to create 1-800-GOT-JUNK, now he coaches CEOs all around the world. His book "Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less" came out last year, and is a step-by-step guide to grow your business.

Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing

Physics and marketing don't seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley (one of Google's marketing directors) is passionate about both. Using Newton's second law of motion, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the scientific method, and the second law of thermodynamics, Cobley explains the fundamental theories of branding.

Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work


The office isn't a good place to work, meetings are toxic, and ASAP is poison. In Jason Fried's TED Talk, he lays out the problems with "work" and offers three suggestions to fix a broken office. 
Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of 37signals, a company that builds web-based productivity tools. Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote the book REWORK, which is about new ways to conceptualize working and creating. 

Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Sometimes using money as motivation does more harm than good - and people perform far worse when motivated with cash. 

Daniel Pink is a best-selling author, journalist, and the former chief speechwriter for US Vice President Al Gore. If you enjoy Pink's TED Talk, check out two of my favorite books by Daniel Pink, "Drive: The Surprising Truth Abou What Motivates Us" and "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need."

Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success

Why do people succeed? Is it because they are smart? Or are they just lucky? The answer is neither. Success Analyst, speaker, and author Richard St. John asked over 500 extraordinarily successful people what helped them succeed. He analyzed their answers and discovered eight traits successful people have in common. His book "The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to Be Great" goes into further detail on each of the traits that are briefly outlined in his TED Talk above. 

Looking for more great inspirational content? Check out 12 Must Watch "Non-TED" Talks for Entrepreneurs.



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43 comments

  • kelly
    kelly
    September 12 2012, 11:29AM

    where are the women??

  • Emma
    Emma
    September 12 2012, 11:34AM

    Goodbye Morning… :)

  • Vertically Challenged
    Vertically Challenged
    September 12 2012, 11:59AM

    And what about us midgets? We are always shortchanged.

  • RE: kelly
    RE: kelly
    September 12 2012, 12:06PM

    I’m sorry is any of this advice less valid because these are men giving it? Did you even watch any of these videos? I for one have seen many great TED talks, in many different fields, made by women, so if you’re making the case that women aren’t represented here, you have absolutely no leg to stand on. Where is your common sense?

  • Mario Pineda
    Mario Pineda
    September 12 2012, 12:09PM

    I second Kelly

  • Kim Brubeck
    Kim Brubeck
    September 12 2012, 02:53PM

    GREAT talk by the great growth coach, Cameron Herold!! Love that he made this list.

  • Doug
    Doug
    September 12 2012, 03:22PM

    No Derek Sivers? -10pts right there.

    http://www.ted.com/speakers/derek_sivers.html

    how to start a movement is great…

  • David
    David
    September 12 2012, 07:52PM

    Where are the vietnamese? You can’t possibly post anything anywhere without having all ethnicities, body types, genders, nationalities, etc represented equally. After all, the content and message are clearly not paramount. Only the messenger’s physical traits that they had no control over.

    (dripping with sarcasm if you didn’t get that)

  • Mike
    Mike
    September 12 2012, 10:13PM

    Every book link has an Amazon affiliate code. Do you really need that Shopify? So whose code is thebluwes-20?

  • Aaron
    Aaron
    September 13 2012, 02:03AM

    Mike – What’s wrong with affiliate codes? You have problems with people earning you money?

    Well, I bet you have no problems earning other people’s money.

  • Kelly
    Kelly
    September 13 2012, 07:00AM

    @Kelly, I think that they are all sitting quietly under the glass ceiling!
    In all seriousness though kelly, I am not sure of how much ted talks you watch, however, their are very few women compared to men speaking about business. Most of the women speaking at ted talks are Dr.‘s and scientists unless they are speaking about women as entrepreneurs or other topics referring to women only roles, and this collection from what I have gathered is not gender specific. I’m sure however if a female entrepreneur gives a speech which is not conducive only to women, then they would get added to a collection such as this.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    September 13 2012, 09:40AM

    Mike: If you read the second paragraph, you’ll see I used Acumen Fund’s Amazon affiliate code. They’re a non-profit venture that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries.

  • RE: RE: kelly
    RE: RE: kelly
    September 13 2012, 10:26AM

    Why are you so angry? I think Kelly poses a valid question that is not necessarily critical of the writers of this article, but just an observation of the field today. Why are there not as many women in entrepreneurship? Why is it automatically assumed that when women want to see more women in a field it’s because they hate men, or they want to destroy family or Western society. Where is your common sense? I don’t think you know how to interpret a simple question or respond to it rationally. How do you function in normal society?

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    September 14 2012, 08:34PM

    @RE: RE: kelly

    Are you serious? You made some pretty bold implications there, my friend. I don’t see how you could possibly make any of those conclusions out of the information presented here.

    @Vertically Challenged and @David:

    lol

  • Scooby
    Scooby
    September 19 2012, 07:51PM

    @RE: RE: kelly

    Why do you think your interpretation of Kelly’s comment is any more valid than anyone else who has responded to her? If Kelly wanted to make “an observation of the field today” and didn’t want to people to make assumptions as to her intention, perhaps she should have used more than four words to make her point.

    Where is your common sense? I don’t think you know how to interpret a simple question or respond to it rationally. How do you function in normal society?

  • Juliette Kurth
    Juliette Kurth
    September 21 2012, 11:07AM

    Yeh! Why aren’t there ANY WOMEN on here, was my FIRST take on this, and I DO listen to the Ted Talks!

  • Mike
    Mike
    October 12 2012, 03:44PM

    I love TED! Thanks!

  • Tony Abou-Assaleh
    Tony Abou-Assaleh
    October 21 2012, 11:30PM

    Thanks for the list. I really enjoyed listening again to some of my favs as well as hearing several new inspirational talks.

    Hey, here is a startup idea: Ted playlists. Or did someone do it already? That’d be awesome!

  • Arina
    Arina
    November 01 2012, 08:14AM

    Thanks for the list, I love TED talks. I compiled my own favorites list at http://www.arinanikitina.com/best-of-ted-top-41-inspirational-ted-talks.html

  • IAMAWESOME
    IAMAWESOME
    November 03 2012, 12:28AM

    The women is making me a sandwich. =) Seriously, who cares. I hope that someday human beings judge each other by color of skin or gender but by character.

  • teacher
    teacher
    December 06 2012, 05:20AM

    Has anybody seen kelly, Kay EE Double yel Wai

  • CLIFFORD
    CLIFFORD
    December 06 2012, 07:16AM

    I love TED talks.Thank you for inspiration.

  • James Marks
    James Marks
    January 13 2013, 10:25PM

    I also wish the speakers weren’t all white guys, but that doesn’t discount the quality of the information. Fantastic stuff here, thanks for collecting.

  • Re James
    Re James
    February 28 2013, 01:23PM

    Malcolm Gladwell is white?

  •  Iken
    Iken
    March 13 2013, 03:06AM

    How to start a comment war.
    Write down a chick name, say KELI,
    post “where are the women”,
    then watch the fireworks

  • @kelly also
    @kelly also
    March 23 2013, 04:45PM

    Seriously, grow up!
    go burn your bra somewhere else, this is a place where someone is offering to give you a selection of free information – why are you abusing it? Take what you can get from it, then go find a feminist website somewhere else and have your rant.
    Thank you shopify by the way, you are the best website I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

    - written by a woman. booyah!

  • Chris
    Chris
    March 25 2013, 01:53AM

    Could it be that men are just better entrepreneurs? Men and women should be treated equally but that does not mean they are equally skilled at everything.

  • suhana
    suhana
    April 09 2013, 08:38AM

    HI
    Today i came across this amazing new website named nupinch.com…i really think you guys should check it out..
    Link: http://bit.ly/XczfI3

  • Olayinka Akinrinola.
    Olayinka Akinrinola.
    April 13 2013, 01:51PM

    Thanks immensely for this motivational and inspirational ideas, it has metamorphosed my perception about entrepreneurship. I have just watched one of the speakers on Facebook and to be factual it was “SERENDIPITY”. Please! Keep the good work going for the upcoming entrepreneurs. Thanks and God bless.

  • naimesh
    naimesh
    May 16 2013, 03:15AM

    @Kelly – where are women???

    in your mind!!!

  • hank Klinger
    hank Klinger
    May 27 2013, 12:10PM

    Awesome post thanks for sharing this, I love Ted talks, its great to have a post I can check out quick with tons of the best speeches.

  • Bill Durso
    Bill Durso
    June 07 2013, 01:52PM

    While it is good to help fund a new business with the proceeds of this charity. Why not help the little man in this country ? The money could really help a natural born citizen of the US get their business going. Instead the immigrants who do want to start a business here already qualify for many low interest loans and the natural born citizen of the US doesn’t qualify. Lets get our country to help our country first.

  • Lish
    Lish
    June 10 2013, 01:28AM

    Who cares if there are women up there or not! These men have good knowledge to share. Don’t blind yourself on who is giving good knowledge. Listen, learn and be the next women up there giving the talk. Knowledge can be good if you hear it from a man, woman, a midget, or a complete stranger. Knowledge is power regardless of where it comes from! Women’s rights weren’t too long ago and we still have a long way to go, but don’t blame these people who are out to share ideas for sharing knowledge! Kinda feels like your missing the importance of their message. And so what if it is these men that had better ideas over the women this time. Suck it up learn from it and beat them out the next time!

  • Lisa
    Lisa
    July 08 2013, 12:23PM

    When will we stop leaving “Only Women”, “Only Men” comments? How about, these are the 10 best this guy thought we should know about. If you require one of each Seeing-Impaired, Hearing-Impaired, Handi-Capable, Transgender, Native American, African American, Mentally Challenged, Morbidly Obese, Anorexic, Pacific Islander, Narcoleptic you will have to discriminate by eliminating one from the group. The “Where are the” comments deeply offend me.

  • Carmen Gutierrez
    Carmen Gutierrez
    August 05 2013, 12:05AM

    I agree that we need more women represented. Let’s fix it!
    http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

    This talk above could be totally added to the list, to start. :)

    Women are frequently overlooked even though their ideas and thoughts are completely valid and important.

  • DNTMb
    DNTMb
    August 08 2013, 01:27PM

    Another great post and inspired me
    Thank you very much,

  • Anne Marie
    Anne Marie
    April 14 2014, 06:47PM

    I third Kelly.

  • malala
    malala
    June 29 2014, 02:13AM

    Kelly; the message made a request for otger TED TALKS that u think shuld have made the list. I think its fair that we bring those ‘women’ out. I dont think its partriarchy, its rare to associate the Entrepreneur name with women. Let alone those who made presentations on TED TALK. Kelly could help us discover more women

  • Hukux Zain
    Hukux Zain
    July 07 2014, 11:31AM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmKeSIVpNR8 Do you make decisions, really? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppQUCPJWKOg Are you just listening to zionist white kosher nationalists pretending about semantics of feminism and ruining every culture on the planet, funding all sides of conflict since Napoleon and into total control of realty, resources and monetary systems? don’t understand why over 50% of the world’s billionaires are the tinniest pro-racial and pro-racist gene line who never mix-race for power transfer only love children for some sick gaming? Listen to it all again and hold your GMO food.

  • Sarah walker
    Sarah walker
    July 30 2014, 07:57PM

    I don’t care what size, shape, gender, or color of the speaker as long as the talks deliver ideas worth spreading. That it what TED is all about. Sheesh!

  • Cadenas E Swordoski
    Cadenas E Swordoski
    August 16 2014, 08:34AM

    PNC

  • Lalit
    Lalit
    September 01 2014, 04:23PM

    You will find a good collections of curated videos for startups here as well…

    entrepreneurtube.in

  • Susan
    Susan
    October 24 2014, 09:42AM

    Yeah, kind of disappointed not to see women among the selections. Ted has a lot of women speakers, so they are represented. They’re just not represented on this list.

    Still, as a regular reader of the Shopify blog, I wish they were.

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