15 Must-Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

15 Must-Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

Let’s face it: Entrepreneurship is not easy.

Because of its challenging nature, entrepreneurs are on a constant lookout for guidance and motivation.

Whether it’s inspiring movies, insightful documentaries, or thought-provoking books, the right piece of content can spur us into action and push us closer to our goals.

Thanks to the digital age, it’s now easier than ever to find online resources to learn new things and gain a new perspective on entrepreneurship.

In recent years, TED talks have emerged as some of the best online resources for entrepreneurs.

The question is: how do you find the best TED talks for entrepreneurs in their massive repository of videos?

To make your search for the best TED talks a little bit easier, I’ve curated a list of must-watch TED talks for entrepreneurs.

Here are the 15 best TED talks I’d recommend to all entrepreneurs.

15 Best TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

1. Paul Tasner: How I Became an Entrepreneur at 66

Entrepreneurship is often believed to be a young person’s game. But age shouldn’t be a deciding factor when you’re trying to follow your dreams.

Wouldn’t you agree?

In this inspiring TED talk, Paul Tasner reminds us that age is just a number when it comes to following your passion. After working for others for 40 years, Tasner combined his experience and passion to launch his startup at age 66.

According to Tasner, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and do something meaningful in the global marketplace.

If you ever have doubts about being too old for entrepreneurship, watch this talk to get inspired.

Best quote from Paul Tasner’s TED talk: “Aren’t the accomplishments of a 70-year-old entrepreneur every bit as meaningful, every bit as newsworthy, as the accomplishments of a 30-year-old entrepreneur? Of course, they are. That’s why I’d like to make the phrase ’70 over 70′ just as commonplace as the phrase ’30 under 30.'”

2. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling book Start with Why, believes great leaders are driven by a clear sense of “Why.” In other words, they are inspired by a sense of purpose and this sense of purpose enables them to inspire other people to follow them in their pursuit.

In this TED talk, Simon Sinek dives deeper into his Golden Circle theory, which explains how some people and organizations are able to inspire others and demonstrate exceptional leadership.

Featuring striking examples and a touch of humor, Simon Sinek’s TED talk is a must-watch for all entrepreneurs.

Best quote from Simon Sinek’s TED talk: “Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

3. Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

A troubling misconception about leadership is that it’s only the extroverts who thrive. This is why so many entrepreneurs hide their introverted nature and try to pass off as extroverts when they are trying to inspire others.

This TED talk by Susan Cain attempts to break that misconception, as she illustrates the importance of embracing your introverted style of leadership.

In this passionate talk, Susan Cain argues how introverts are just as brilliant as extroverts and how introverted leaders can often deliver better results than extroverts.

A must-watch TED talk for entrepreneurs who are worried about their introversion being an impediment in inspiring others. If you’re inspired by this talk, do check out Susan Cain’s bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Best quote from Susan Cain’s TED talk: “Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi — all these people described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to. And this turns out to have a special power all its own, because people could feel that these leaders were at the helm not because they enjoyed directing others and not out of the pleasure of being looked at; they were there because they had no choice, because they were driven to do what they thought was right.”

4. Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

To be a productive entrepreneur, you must beat procrastination.

Since starting my own business, I’ve tried several techniques to shake off procrastination. Helpful tips from books like The Power of Habit, Getting Things Done, and Atomic Habits have certainly helped.

But like a pesky mosquito, procrastination always finds a way to sneak back into my life.

Maybe you can relate?

If you do, then you’ll certainly relate to Tim Urban’s creative and highly entertaining take on procrastination. In this insightful and hilarious TED talk, Tim Urban shares his struggles with procrastination and encourages us to deliberate on the things we choose to procrastinate on.

While you’ll not find any specific techniques to beat procrastination in this video, Urban’s vivid insights on the topic will definitely resonate with you. In the end, it will strengthen your resolve to fight procrastination and be more productive.

Best quote from Tim Urban’s TED talk: “We need to think about what we’re really procrastinating on, because everyone is procrastinating on something in life. We need to stay aware of the Instant Gratification Monkey. That’s a job for all of us. And because there’s not that many boxes on there, it’s a job that should probably start today.”

5. Eduardo Briceño: How to Get Better at the Things You Care About

Not improving at something despite putting in the hard work? You’re not alone.

According to Eduardo Briceño, many of us don’t improve because we are always in the “performance zone.” But in order to improve a particular skill, we need to be in the “learning zone” as well.

The performance zone is great for maximizing our immediate performance, but in the long run, it can hinder our growth and future performance. On the other hand, the learning zone maximizes our growth and future performance.

The learning zone also helps us adopt a growth mindset, which is extremely important when you’re an entrepreneur.

So what’s the solution to better performance and continuous improvement?

Briceño recommends alternating between the performance zone and the learning zone. We need to learn and build our skills in the learning zone, and then apply those skills in the performance zone.

In this insightful TED talk, Briceño reveals actionable techniques that you can use to keep learning and growing at the things that matter to you.

Best quote from Eduardo Briceño’s TED talk: “When Beyoncé is on tour, during the concert, she’s in her performance zone, but every night when she gets back to the hotel room, she goes right back into her learning zone.”

Related: 10 Best TV Shows for Entrepreneurs

6. Bill Gross: The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed

Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur and investor, has launched or incubated hundreds of startups and has experienced many successes and failures. So after working with so many entrepreneurs, he was curious to learn what factors accounted the most for a company’s success and failure.

In his study, he found five key factors that contributed the most to a company’s success, and after ranking each factor, he found the one factor that stood out from the rest.

In this TED talk, he highlights the one factor that you must consider before starting your own business or before taking it in a new direction.

Best quote from Bill Gross’ TED talk: “Execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them.”

7. Angela Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

What’s the best predictor of success? Is it a person’s IQ? Is it talent? Is it intelligence?

According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, grit is the most significant predictor of success. Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance, and it’s the single most important quality one can adopt to achieve great success in life.

In this TED talk, Duckworth explains her theory of “grit” and reveals why it beats other characteristics to emerge as the best predictor of success. She also explores the growth mindset and offers quick ideas for building grit.

Duckworth expands on this theory in her brilliant book Grit. So if you like this talk, do check out her book.

Best quote from Angela Duckworth’s TED talk: “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

8. Majora Carter: 3 Stories of Local Eco-Entrepreneurship

Majora Carter is an eco-entrepreneur who encourages young entrepreneurs to embrace eco-friendly practices.

In this TED talk, Majora Carter makes a compelling case for responsible entrepreneurship — the kind of entrepreneurship that takes the environment and society into account. She shares three inspiring stories of local ecopreneurs to drive home the importance of her message.

After watching Majora’s TED talk, tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki compared her legendary presentation skills with that of Steve Jobs. That’s probably the best feedback one could receive after a TED presentation.

Best quote from Majora Carter’s TED talk: “It’s time to stop building the shopping malls, the prisons, the stadiums and other tributes to all of our collective failures. It is time that we start building living monuments to hope and possibility.”

9. John Doerr: Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals

Why do so many leaders and institutions fail us despite making bold promises? Is it because they are inherently flawed?

Not quite.

Prominent venture capitalist John Doerr argues that they fail us not because they are bad or unethical, but because they are leading us toward the wrong objectives.

As he explains in this practical TED talk, setting the right goals can mean the difference between success and failure.

Doerr shows how we can get our life back on track with something called “Objectives and Key Results” (aka OKRs) — a goal-setting system employed by top companies like Google, Intel, and individual performers like U2’s Bono.

Best quote from John Doerr’s TED talk: “If we think of the world-changing goals of an Intel, of a Nuna, of Bono, of Google, they’re remarkable: ubiquitous computing, affordable health care, high-quality for everyone, ending global poverty, access to all the world’s information. Here’s the deal: every one of those goals is powered today by OKRs.”

10. Tim Ferriss: Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals

If you’ve read any of Tim Ferriss’ recent books or listened to his podcast, you’ll know fear-setting is a common motif. It’s a concept he explores with many of his podcast guests. Ferris credits the fear-setting exercise as one of the main reasons he’s been able to thrive in high-stress environments.

In this TED talk, Ferris gives us an overview of the fear-setting exercise and encourages us to visualize all the fears that are preventing us from taking action.

When you start your own business, there are several fears that you need to overcome to run a successful business. The exercise of fear-setting, as explained by Ferris, can help you preempt obstacles and improve as an entrepreneur.

Best quote from Tim Ferriss’ TED talk: “The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — these are very often exactly what we most need to do. And the biggest challenges and problems we face will never be solved with comfortable conversations, whether it’s in your own head or with other people.”

11. Regina Hartley: Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Perfect Resume

Imagine you’re given a choice between two qualified candidates: Candidate A has an excellent resume, outstanding credentials, and great references. Candidate B, on the other hand, is a job hopper, average credentials, and experience of working in odd jobs.

Which candidate are you going to pick for your startup?

Most of us would naturally gravitate towards Candidate A, right? But human resources expert Regina Hartley prefers Candidate B.

Hartley calls Candidate B “the Scrapper” and Candidate A “the Silver Spoon.” According to her, Scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up because they have survived so many early hardships. On the other hand, the Silver Spoons have been engineered for success their whole life, so they may find it more difficult to handle tough times.

In this TED talk, Hartley provides compelling reasons as to why she would hire Scrappers over Silver Spoons and encourages us to do the same.

Best quote from Regina Hartley’s TED talk: “Take this resume. This guy’s parents give him up for adoption. He never finishes college. He job-hops quite a bit, goes on a sojourn to India for a year, and to top it off, he has dyslexia. Would you hire this guy? His name is Steve Jobs.”

12. Dao Nguyen: What Makes Something Go Viral?

Love them or hate them, but Buzzfeed has mastered the art of creating viral content.

In this insightful TED talk, Buzzfeed’s Publisher Dao Nguyen reveals how her team creates their viral quizzes, listicles, and videos. She also gives a glimpse into a system Buzzfeed has developed to consistently create content that resonates with their target audience.

If you’ve ever wondered how you can make your content go viral, this video is for you.

Best quote from Dao Nguyen’s TED talk: “Many media companies and creators do put themselves in their audiences’ shoes. But in the age of social media, we can go much farther. People are connected to each other on Facebook, on Twitter, and they’re increasingly using media to have a conversation and to talk to each other. If we can be a part of establishing a deeper connection between two people, then we will have done a real job for these people.”

13. Seth Godin: How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

Seth Godin is one of the most influential marketing gurus in the world and the author of over 18 bestselling business books. One of his most popular books is Purple Cow, in which he explains how businesses can stand out by creating something remarkable in a world full of boring products.

In this TED talk, Godin provides an overview of his Purple Cow concept and explains how individuals and businesses can get their ideas to spread by being remarkable.

Best quote from Seth Godin’s TED talk: “Cows are invisible. Cows are boring. Who’s going to stop and pull over and say, “Oh, look, a cow.” Nobody. But if the cow was purple — isn’t that a great special effect? I could do that again if you want. If the cow was purple, you’d notice it for a while.”

Related: 75+ Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

14. Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

When it comes to motivation, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Most businesses adopt extrinsic motivators such as rewards and punishment when they should be using intrinsic motivators such as autonomy and mastery to motivate employees.

In this TED talk, Daniel Pink, career analyst and the author of Drive, examines the science of motivation and explains why the secret to high performance is not rewards and punishment, but the intrinsic drive to do things for their own sake.

Best quote from Daniel Pink’s TED talk: “The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe we can change the world.”

15. Luvvie Ajayi: Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

To be a successful entrepreneur, you often need to step out of your comfort zone. Luvvie Ajayi, writer, activist, and self-proclaimed professional troublemaker, has never been shy of stepping out of her comfort zone. She has always valued speaking up over quieting down, and this simple approach to life has helped her achieve phenomenal results.

In this uplifting and humorous TED talk, Ajayi argues why it’s important for us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

She shares three questions you need to ask yourself whenever you have doubts about speaking up and encourages us to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable by speaking hard truths when they are necessary.

Best quote from Luvvie Ajayi’s TED talk: “In a world that wants us to walk around as representatives of ourselves, being yourself can be a revolutionary act. And in a world that wants us to whisper, I choose to yell.”

Final Thoughts

So that wraps up my list of best TED talks for entrepreneurs.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

Did I miss out on any of your favorite TED talks? Which is the one TED talk you’d recommend to entrepreneurs?

Please share your favorite TED talk in the comments below.

If you found this article useful, please share it on Twitter using the link below:

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on 26 November 2020 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness. 

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Sandeep Mallya
Sandeep Mallya is the Founder & CEO of Startup Cafe Digital, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Bangalore, India. He is an active member of the startup community, having worked with several early-stage startups and accelerators. 99signals is Sandeep's online marketing blog. The blog currently features 200+ in-depth articles, how-to guides, and hacks on a wide range of online marketing topics such as SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, blogging, and more.



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