TED is a series of conferences that present “Ideas Worth Spreading” that has garnered recognition around the world.
A large number of Nobel Prize winners have presented at TED, including Elon Musk, Jane Goodall, and Larry Page. Many of the presentations, known as TED Talks, present ideas that are particularly valuable to entrepreneurs.
Need a bit of inspiration? Discover 15 of our favorite TED Talks for becoming a successful entrepreneur.
14 Most Inspiring TED Talks for Entrepreneurs
- Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, failure and the drive to keep creating
- Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread
- Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
- Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed
- Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are
- Bel Pesce: 5 ways to kill your dreams
- David S. Rose: How to pitch to a VC
- Regina Hartley: Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume
- Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work
- Julissa Prado: 3 rules to help you build a successful business
- Tracy Young: How vulnerability makes you a better leader
- Leticia Gasca: Don’t fail fast—fail mindfully
- Sangu Delle: There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health
1. 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.
2. Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, failure and the drive to keep creating
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love. In her TED Talk, she explains that both great success and failure are seen as the same in our minds and vault us into an area of discomfort. However, she then tells us the solution is to find your home.
“Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies to such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”
Meaning, success, and failure will all throw you for a loop. But if you focus on what you love, you won’t lose your way. What that means for small business owners and business leaders is that you can weather the storms of success and failure by getting back to the thing you love—the reason you started your business in the first place—and find your home.
3. 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.
Marketing expert 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 bestselling books, some of the most popular being:
- Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
- All Marketers Are Liars
- Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
- Poke the Box
4. Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
Dr. Brené Brown is a professor, lecturer, author, researcher, and podcast host. In her TEDx Talk, she explains that in her years of research, she has found the courage to be vulnerable and knowing that you are enough are the keys to happiness and being successful.
Vulnerability is seen as a weakness in the business world, but Brown explains that vulnerability is the “birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” If you want to check out more of what Dr. Brown has to say about how vulnerability can make you successful, you can read her book, Daring Greatly.
5. Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed
Bill Gross is the founder of Idealab, a well-known incubator of new inventions, ideas, and businesses. According to Gross, the single factor that has the most effect on whether a startup succeeds is timing. It accounted for a 42% difference between success and failure in the startups Idealab helped get off the ground.
Gross cites a great example of this when he mentions a video streaming company Idealab supported, called Z.com. It was a great idea, and had excellent funding and a great business model, but in 1999, the time the company launched, it was still too hard to watch videos online. Z.com went out of business in 2003. In 2005, after Adobe Flash allowed the world to watch videos online more easily, YouTube appeared.
6. Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are
Fake it until you become it. That’s the lesson social psychologist Amy Cuddy imparts to the audience of her TED Talk. Through lab experiments and her own life experience, Cuddy explains how power posing can physiologically change your mind, your behavior, and your life.
Cuddy says that body language doesn’t just change the way that others see you—it also changes how you see yourself. Her research shows that if you use a power pose for two minutes before a stressful job interview or presentation, it can change the testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain and make you perform better.
If you’d like to learn more about how your body language can change your life, you can read her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.
7. Bel Pesce: 5 ways to kill your dreams
Bel Pesce is a Brazilian entrepreneur, author, and lecturer. After graduating from MIT and a successful run in Silicon Valley, Pesce returned to Brazil so she could help people become better entrepreneurs. In her TED Talk, she goes over the five things that successful people do not think or do.
She explains things like the idea of overnight success—“Your overnight success story is always a result of everything you’ve done in your life through that moment.”—and that the journey to your dream is as important as the dream itself: “Achieving a dream is a momentary sensation, and your life is not. The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of your journey.”
8. David S. Rose: How to pitch to a VC
David S. Rose is a serial entrepreneur and investor, so he’s been on both sides of the table during pitch meetings. His TED Talk is about how you can create effective VC pitch packages to venture capitalists so you can get funding for your own businesses.
Rose gets straight to the point and goes through practical and logistical details that should be included in every VC pitch package. He covers:
- How many seconds you have to catch an investor’s attention
- The 10 characteristics you need to showcase in your pitch
- How long your pitch should be
- How you should structure your pitch
- The tools you should get for your presentation (i.e., what software should you use, remotes, etc.)
If you’d like to learn more about how you can be a more effective presenter in investment meetings, you can pick up his book, Angel Investing.
9. Regina Hartley: Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume
The perfect résumé doesn’t mean that a candidate is perfect for the job. Regina Hartley expresses this point by presenting the résumé of a candidate who was given up for adoption, had dyslexia, never finished college, job hopped for a while, and then went to live in India for a year. Who was the candidate? Steve Jobs.
Hartley is a human resources expert and presents her ideas of the silver spoon candidate and the scrapper in her TED Talk. Through her research and experience, she highlights the idea of post-traumatic growth and how it makes scrappers put forth better work. And that in the end, whatever is on their résumé, if you give them the opportunity, people with passion and grit will amaze you.
10. Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work
In this TED Talk, Shawn Achor humorously explains that you can train your brain to be more positive. He shares the importance of positive thinking to your success and happiness. Citing various research, he shows your brain, when positive, is 31% more productive than when it is not.
Achor is a psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc. If you want to learn more about the power of positive thinking and how you can train your brain, check out his books Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being,and The Happiness Advantage.
11. Julissa Prado: 3 rules to help you build a successful business
Julisa Prado quit her corporate job and founded Rizos Curls—one of the first Latina-owned hair care brands aimed at celebrating natural hair. In this TED Talk, she goes over her three rules for building a successful business.
Her strategies center around using your small business stature as a strength, knowing who you are, and trusting yourself. Prado uses a great anecdote about how Rizos Curls entered a major retailer for the first time.
As a self-owned, self-funded small business, she decided to break some rules when marketing the launch. Instead of using traditional business wisdom and investing a huge amount of marketing dollars, she hired a mariachi band, rode to the store on a horse, and put the whole thing on TikTok for less than $1,000.
12. Tracy Young: How vulnerability makes you a better leader
In this TED Talk, Tracy Young shares how her inability to be her full self stunted her own personal growth, as well as the growth of her company. She openly shares her experiences as a woman CEO and how she felt pressure to hide her womanhood. Young even recounts how she had a miscarriage at the office and simply went back to work right after, pretending that nothing happened, because she didn’t want to be seen as weak or vulnerable.
Then, Young explains how when she dared to be her full self and asked her team for help, it changed everything. The entire team pulled together and they were able to increase their revenue growth and get them from a startup to a medium-sized business. And it also changed the culture of the company for the better.
13. Leticia Gasca: Don’t fail fast—fail mindfully
“In premodern Italy, failed business owners with outstanding debts were taken totally naked to the public square, where they had to bang their butts against a special stone while a crowd jeered at them.” This is the visual Leticia Gasca gives at the beginning of her TED Talk. She uses it to explain that excessive punishment for failures stifles innovation and business creation.
Gasca is the co-founder of the movement Fuckup Nights and the Executive Director of Failure Institute. Her premise is that the business mantra should change from “fail fast” to “fail mindfully.”
She explains that:
- You shouldn’t be ashamed of your failures. Failure is essential to growth.
- You should be aware of the impact and consequences of the failure of your business. Remember you have employees that are now out of a job, and suppliers and investors who may have been depending on you.
- You should learn from your failures.
- You should know that you are responsible for sharing these lessons with the world.
14. Sangu Delle: There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health
Sangu Delle is an entrepreneur and clean water activist from Ghana. The message of his TED Talk is simple: take care of your mental health. Delle talks through his journey of dealing with his own bias that men shouldn’t worry about their mental health. He discusses how he learned to deal with anxiety in a world that doesn’t value emotions.