13 Essential TED Talks You Must Listen to When Starting a Business

Starting a new business is exciting.

It’s also challenging.

There are so many factors at play. And, any of them can work for or against you.

Generating a winning idea, writing a business plan, securing financing, analyzing the market, choosing a business model, and defining your startup’s brand identity are some of the essential ingredients to the success of any startup.

But, while it’s impossible to anticipate every possible challenge, you can gain a well-rounded entrepreneurship education that will give your new startup its best chance for success.

And, we’ve done the legwork for you.  You’ll find the results of our deep dive into the TED archives below – 13 TED Talks that will prepare (and inspire) you for the challenges ahead.

What you should know about starting a business

The TED Talks in this first section address the practical, philosophical, and strategic aspects of launching a new business or startup.

The “business of the business,” if you will. So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek

There is a simple guiding principle that can help you define your brand, steer your marketing, win loyal customers, and make you a stronger leader.

Author and leadership expert Simon Sinek explains that simple guiding principle in his TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

Sinek’s Talk has been viewed over 54 million times – and for a good reason. Sinek’s Golden Circle should inform the very foundation of your startup.

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2. The Secret of How to Think Like an Entrepreneur – Amy Wilkinson

Amy Wilkinson knows entrepreneurship.

She’s interviewed 200 entrepreneurs. The lessons that Amy shares in this TED Talk come from entrepreneurial heavyweights – the founders of Paypal, Youtube, Facebook, inventors of life-saving cancer drugs, and more.

In Amy’s presentation, she discusses specific, actionable skills that can help every person think like a successful entrepreneur.

Amy will introduce you to the “OODA Loop,” reveal why it’s valuable to bring in an outsider to increase the diversity of your team’s perspective (spoiler alert: this is probably not the reason you expect), share what it means to fail wisely, and explain the importance of “gifting small goods.”

3. How to Get Your Ideas to Spread – Seth Godin

It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is if no one knows about it.

One of the most brutal truths of launching a startup is that the most fantastic ideas can fail if they aren’t marketed properly.

Author, entrepreneur, and marketing expert Seth Godin has made it his life’s goal to understand and overcome that challenge.

In this TED Talk, Godin explains how you can make sure your audience knows about your ideas.

4. The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed – Bill Gross

Bill Gross is both a serial entrepreneur and a student of the science of startups.

He’s the founder of IdeaLab – a startup incubator that helped launch more than 100 companies over 20 years. And, after watching many of those companies fail – he set out to learn why.

Why did businesses with such great potential fail to meet the high hopes their founders, employees, and investors all shared?

So, Gross investigated which factors accounted for those businesses’ success or failure.  And, his research led him to discover the single most influential reason why startups succeed. The reason may surprise you.

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5. Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, renowned author of New York Times Bestsellers “The Tipping Point,” “Blink,” and “Outliers,” offers up a very unique and powerful TED Talk that no entrepreneur should miss.

In business – and in life – we’re often told to find the correct answer.

But, Gladwell shares research that decimates that concept. There is rarely a single definitive answer.

Instead, Gladwell’s insights reveal the importance of learning the diversity of correct answers – and building your business around those.

From choosing your startup’s niche to planning your specific products, this TED Talk has the potential to impact every layer of your business.

6. How to Run a Company with (Almost) No Rules – Ricardo Semler

Ricardo Semler simultaneously ran a successful conglomerate while also creating what he calls his “empty bucket list.”

The unique work/life balance he enjoyed inspired him to rethink the structure of his business.

This revolutionary TED Talk discusses how Semler dismantled traditional corporate barriers to redefine his employees’ working lives. Which, in turn, gave them the freedom to live fuller lives.

Startups are uniquely positioned to define not only their products, services, mission statements, and brands – but also the kind of company they want to be.

Ricardo Semler shares a blueprint for how your startup can put its people first and achieve success.

7. Don’t Fail Fast – Fail Mindfully – Leticia Gasca

Conventional business wisdom tells us to fail fast so we can get busy learning from our mistakes.

And, most entrepreneurs launch their businesses anticipating that they will beat the odds and succeed.

But, the reality is often somewhere in between.

Failure isn’t the alternative to success. It’s a frequent pit stop on the journey to success.

And, how you deal with failure is more important than whether or not you fail.

Leticia Gasca’s Talk “Don’t Fail Fast – Fail Mindfully” demystifies failure and provides entrepreneurs with a new, more helpful framework through which to view it.

8. How to Pitch to a VC – David S. Rose

David  S. Rose is known as “The Pitch Coach.”

He’s raised millions of dollars for his businesses as an entrepreneur. And, he’s funded millions of other companies as an investor. This experience positions him perfectly to coach others on how to pitch to investors.

Pitching to a venture capitalist is a rite of passage that many startup entrepreneurs must face – and most dread. But, it’s vitally important. Raising the necessary funds to launch a business is the hurdle that stops many startups from ever getting off the ground.

So, tune in and learn how to nail the single most crucial element of your start-up pitch – you.

9. The Fastest Start-up Ever Created (Probably) –  James Alexander

In this action-oriented TEDx Talk, James Alexander launches a startup in just 10 minutes.

Philosophy and strategy are all well and good. But, sometimes, what you need is to see where the rubber meets the road. And Alexander’s talk is informative, inspiring, and accessible.

So, if you’re looking for a detailed step-by-step, check out this practical, big-picture roadmap to launching a startup.

Personal management

Launching and running a startup requires a lot of work on the business itself.

But, many entrepreneurs ignore the fact that it also requires a lot of internal work.

You are the most critical asset – or hindrance – to your startup.

And, looking at what you’re bringing to the table may be uncomfortable. But, it’s essential if you want to succeed.

Here are a few of the top TED Talks for helping you become the best entrepreneur you can be.

10. How to Make Stress Your Friend – Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist. And, she’s got some vital information for you.

Because, as an entrepreneur, you will face stress.

And, how you deal with that stress will determine whether it kicks your butt (leading to poor health or early death) or fuels your life.

Kelly’s talk is a science-based examination of how stress – and, more importantly, our perception of stress – impacts your health. And, she shares some vital information about what you can do about it.

11. How to Motivate Yourself to Change Your Behavior – Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot knows your brain better than you do. She’s a neuroscientist.

And, if you’re serious about starting a successful business, you’re going to need to master a pretty wily foe – your behavior.

Whether you battle procrastination, perfectionism, task-hoarding, or any other productivity-inhibiting habits, there will come a time when you need to change your behavior to enable your business to grow.

Sharot offers physiological insight into your mind, what motivates it, and how to initiate lasting change.

12. The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown is, in her own words, a researcher/storyteller. She is also an author, professor, and expert on shame, vulnerability, connection, and leadership.

Brown’s groundbreaking work into shame, vulnerability, and human connection began with six years of research and thousands of data points. She shares the highlights of her conclusions in this outrageously popular (at the time of this writing, over 52 million views) TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability.”

While entrepreneurship is often regarded as a solo endeavor, it requires vulnerability and connection.

And, the truth is you cannot create a startup in a vacuum.

You must connect with clients, customers, investors, and vendors. Creativity, innovation, and growth all depend upon vulnerability. And, you can’t inspire and lead employees without authenticity and connection.

BrenĂ© Brown’s insights will prepare you to conduct business authentically, dare greatly, connect, and grow.

13. 3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Everything You Do – Stacey Abrams

Success is rarely simple or easy.

And, most things worth doing (like starting your own business) come with setbacks.

Stacey Abrams knows a little something about success and setbacks.

In this TED Talk, she shares three vital questions. Questions that – when answered thoroughly and honestly – will equip you to plan, try, regroup, and try again.

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