TEDxFrankfurt: Inspiration from around the world. / by elton rivas

This afternoon, while sitting at a busy coffee shop in downtown Jacksonville, I took a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about my experience as a speaker at TEDxFrankfurt last week. It was the first TED-related event that I’ve accepted to speak at and I found myself sharing the stage with a number of individuals that are truly transforming the way that we perceive, consume and interact with the world.

I landed in Düsseldorf last Wednesday morning for a short presentation on One Spark and the startup community in Jacksonville. The folks at the denkubator were hosting a group of about 15 people from all sectors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They welcomed me in, we shared some tea and some soup, then we got down to the topic at hand. After spending some time in Germany over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to have a fond appreciation for the efficiency and approach for conducting meetings. If you’re ever in Düsseldorf, check out the folks at the denkubator.


After our time in Düsseldorf, we headed to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) and took the ICE down to Frankfurt in the evening to meet with all the other speakers and the great TEDxFrankfurt team for a speakers dinner and reception.


I had the honor of meeting the talented individuals that would share their story the next evening. From “Beautiful GMO’s” to “The Science of Emotions” and everything in between, the line-up was stellar. After the socializing and sharing stories, it was time to call it a night.

Thursday started off with a morning of work and preparation for the talk. I tend to get up early when traveling in Europe to catch up on emails and work before the team in the states gets going. After a run-through with the wonderful TEDx speaker coaches, it was time for some final presentation polishing and then off to the venue for the afternoon/evening. The event was sold out with over 450 people attending for the evening session. The full listing of speakers and talks can be found here and we’ve been told that the videos of talks will be online in the near future. Personally, I was really impressed by all my fellow speakers.

There were three specific topics that stood out to me: Keira Havens’ discussion of GMO’s, Andrew Bastawrous sharing about his fight of avoidable blindness and Dan Emodi’s emotions analytics tool (we’ll update this post with links to their talk videos once they are live). GMO’s is such a hot topic of discussion around the world. The challenge for us is how should we think about it - good, bad, evil or wonderful. Andrew inspired me to continue to keep things simple, focused and impactful by using technology in a way that’s appropriate and not just for the sake of “because it can be done using technology.” Dan spoke just prior to me as part of the second session, and I must admit it was a bit nerve-rattling to have someone tell people to download a voice/emotion analytics app just prior to delivering my first TEDx talk! In all seriousness though, you should check out their app - can download it here.

After the talks wrapped up, all the speakers spent a little time together before we headed back to our own corners of the world.


There’s a special bond that’s created when you share the stage with someone else. When you listen to that person put their ideas out there and truly care about what they have to say. I’ll be forever thankful for this experience and the opportunity to share more about One Spark, about Jacksonville - its struggles and its passionate creative community.

Oh yeah! What was my talk about? Perhaps it’s best to just wait for it to be online… hopefully it isn’t too far off. I shared this theory:

“In order to have the best chance for success in launching a new idea, you must first understand the moments that are happening in the people’s lives around you.”

This can be a brutally difficult thing to do. As humans, we’re not wired to be open and trusting, but we are built to create new things.

Even with an inspiring trip abroad, I am glad to be back state-side. Jacksonville finds itself in a pivotal time right now with support for our creative and entrepreneurial community. I look forward to seeing where it leads us.