Sunday, March 15, 2015

TED and Shark Tank

I had the opportunity to attend an MIT Sloan Conference this past week and in the process they had students "pitch" their businesses to the audience. I sat through three of them and they were 5 minutes apiece. Now in each case they had the Shark Tank approach. Telling us of how big the market was and how unique they were. However I generally ask three questions:

1. How do you make money, namely cash flow.

2. Who is the team I am betting on.

3. What will kill the business.

In all three cases I had no clue as to how these questions would be answered. However they would show well on a Shark Tank episode.

Now for TED. Today in the NY Times is a fantastic piece comparing TED to a revival meeting. Now I have never attended a TED event, and frankly would never really desire to go, too West Coast "love in" in what I have seen. But the writer noted:

I grew up among Christian evangelicals and I recognize the cadences of missionary zeal when I hear them. TED, with its airy promises, sounds a lot like a secular religion. And while it’s not exactly fair to say that the conference series and web video function like an organized church, understanding the parallel structures is useful for conversations about faith — and how susceptible we humans remain. The TED style, with its promise of progress, is as manipulative as the orthodoxies it is intended to upset. A great TED talk is reminiscent of a tent revival sermon. There’s the gathering of the curious and the hungry. Then a persistent human problem is introduced, one that, as the speaker gently explains, has deeper roots and wider implications than most listeners are prepared to admit. Once everyone has been confronted with this evidence of entropy, contemplated life’s fragility and the elusiveness of inner peace, a decision is called for: Will you remain complacent, or change? Jesus said to the crowds, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.” A skilled tent revivalist can twist those words to suggest that simply showing up to listen makes you part of the solution.

Indeed they are. They are the antithesis of a technical presentation at some professional society, all dry and focused. They shout out new world views that the speaker has just recently been the sole discovered of. They are like so many 1960-1970 West Coast feel good sessions on new life realities, gurus who have discovered meanings of life.

In my limited exposure, I am told by some that I should watch some topic, I have found them to be truly evangelical. The speaker has found a truth and has converted it to a Shark Tank like exposition and is now enlightening us. 

Is this of value? I am far from one to opine on this, never having attended. But those who have seem to have an EST like response. Frankly I would rather share a glass of good red wine on the Left Bank in September in Paris and speak of great ideas, at least the wine and food are great, as is the view. TV seems to have penetrated everything, and reality TV, at least some ersatz reality, is the most pervasive.