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Feb192017

All for worthwhile causes

All for worthwhile causes
By OON YEOH
19 February 2017

IF you’re a web-savvy individual interested in innovation, you probably would have watched a TED Talk video. You might have even attended a TEDx KL event, now in its seventh year.

For the uninitiated, TEDx is a TED-approved programme of localised events that allow more people to share a TED-like experience. The main TED body has some strict requirements but individual TEDx events are very much self-organised.

The person who first brought TEDx to Malaysia is Daniel Cerventus Lim, an entrepreneur and a big fan of TED. His motivation for doing this is to show that contrary to popular perception, there are a lot of innovative Malaysians.

“I want to create the closest TED-like experience for people in this country and also use it as a platform to highlight talented individuals with amazing ideas and doing remarkable stuff,” he says.

The following highlights the origins of TEDx KL and Lim’s plans:

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BIG SUCCESS?
When I was 13, I was put in charge of my school’s computer club. I helped grow it to become one of the biggest clubs in the school. I guess the seeds of entrepreneurship within me began there. My first real business was a portal selling cars in the early 2000s. I also had some success consulting on online marketing, but what took off for me was running an education tourism company. The company organised study tours, bringing foreign students to Malaysia to study English. It was conducted like a summer camp.

WHAT DID YOU ORIGINALLY ENVISION OF TEDx KL?
Initially, I thought it would be a gathering of some like-minded people interested in ideas, technology and science but TEDx KL quickly became more than that. The audience kept growing and growing.

HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO GET PERMISSION TO DO THIS?
It’s not as difficult to get as you might think but we were one of the early ones. When I applied for a TEDx licence in 2010, the concept of TEDx was still very new. We were the 36th licensee globally. Now there are well over 10,000 licences around the world with events being held in remote places like Scott Base, Antarctica, which happened quite recently. In Malaysia alone, there are probably more than 50 licence holders now. Most of them are held in other states or focused on universities or colleges. There are some that focus on different languages such as TEDxPetalingStreet, which is conducted in Chinese.

AT FIRST YOU DIDN’T CHARGE ANY ENTRANCE FEE BUT LATER YOU DID. WHY?
One of the conditions for the licence, which is given for free, is that the conferences cannot be for profit. I self-funded the very first one but I couldn’t keep bearing all the costs so we had to start charging, if only to cover expenses. There is also an unexpected positive side effect of charging. More people started attending the event. Apparently, people don’t appreciate something when it’s free. When we started charging RM50 for the ticket, more attended. When we raised it to RM150, we had thousands attending the event. I can only explain this by saying people tend to appreciate things more and are more committed to attending when you charge for the event.

HOW DO YOU SOURCE FOR SPEAKERS?
We maintain and update a list of interesting people. We also spend a lot of time researching and vetting them through multiple independent sources to ensure they are credible. After that, we will have exploratory discussions with them to see if they are indeed suitable to be speakers.

YOU’VE ALSO CREATED A YOUTH OFFSHOOT OF TEDx KL, RIGHT?
Yes, it’s called TEDxYouth@KL and the next event titled What Now is set for Feb 25. This year’s speakers come from an array of backgrounds, and they include notable personalities such as Journalist for Social Change Ian Yee, Advocate for Social Image Rozella Marie, Experimental Musician Takahara Suiko and Ethical Fashion Activist Sasibai Kimis. You can go to tedxyouthkl.com for details.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR TEDx KL?
We’ve launched TEDx Adventures where ticket holders get exclusive access to various workshops, sessions or even tours by our speakers or partners. So far, we’ve had public speaking workshops, a Tesla test drive, tours around KL to discover the history behind the street names, and drone flying lessons, among other cool activities.

SINCE TEDx KL IS NOT A BUSINESS AND IS NOT FOR PROFIT, WHAT IS YOUR MAIN BUSINESS?
I have two main businesses, Artsys and The Wayang. Artsys is a start-up studio that focuses on building new businesses together with different partners. For example, we are collaborating with DiGi to launch KreativeCrew, which is a crowdsourcing platform for creative idea and projects. The Wayang is our video production house and we have done some work for clients but we are also launching our own online channels for business, music and food.

ARE YOU A HEAVY INTERNET USER? AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WEBSITE?
I am such as heavy Internet user, mainly for podcasting. I listen to a lot of these. My favourite website is called ProductHunt, where you can find out about new product and services. It really keeps me up to date on such things.

DO YOU DO A LOT OF ONLINE BUSINESS NETWORKING?
Actually, I hardly do that at all. To me, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting so when it comes to business networking, I’m still a traditionalist. I prefer to meet people in person rather than online.

WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG THING THIS YEAR?
Video — including live video — will be big this year. We are consuming more and more video each day and we will see a lot of new experimentation on video this year.

ARE YOU A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR?
I think of myself as a problem solver. If there’s a problem worth solving, I am interested. I’ll do something if I think it’s a worthwhile cause. And there are many worthwhile causes out there.

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