Denmark’s First University TEDx Inspires & Educates

Original Article for The Local Denmark, available here

 

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Technology, Entertainment, Design; TED – an acronym that many readers are no doubt familiar with. Founded in 1984, the TED brand operates on the maxim “ideas worth sharing” and usually consists of elaborate, well -prepared talks that are often filmed and unleashed to an eager online public. A powerful communication platform, it has branched off into numerous worldwide franchises operating under the TEDx banner, with the “X” denoting events that fit under the TED umbrella but are independently organized.
Paradigm shifts
TEDx KEA, Scandinavia’s first ever university TEDx franchise, brought a wave of inspiration and knowledge to the city on Thursday at the Nørrebro campus of the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA).
Featuring a main event at the adjacent Empire cinema and a live stream inside the campus (and to a worldwide audience) TEDx KEA ‘Emerge’ aimed to unite businesses and local leaders in the fight for a better tomorrow, provoked and emboldened by the up and coming talent of our generation.
Within this frame, speakers ranging from industry heavyweights such as author and serial entrepreneur Lars Tvede to Syrian refugee and women’s rights activist Noura Bittar Søborg gave TED talks that touched on a broad spectrum of topics. The latter received a standing ovation at the end of a compelling talk that told the epic tale of a struggle against violence in a war-torn nation, proposing a change to the status quo with verve and indefatigable emotion.
Others took a less serious, albeit compelling form – as was the case with sports marketing guru Stefan Pflug, who decried the short attention spans of internet-based information consumption. From fashion psychology (Manou Messman) to the need for a better understanding of social entrepreneurship (Lars Hulgård), each of the ten talks given during the course of the day told a personal story that merged with a call to arms within various subject material, asking questions of the manner in which we as a society operate.
More to come
For franchise holder Doug Costello and a massive crew involved in everything from speaker scouting to live stream recording and rhetorical training, the day represented the culmination of many months of hard work and a learning experience for future events of the same kind under the TEDx KEA banner.
The ten talks from the day will be edited and put online at some point, in itself a demanding task, but one that prolongs its longevity as a source of knowledge and inspiration for years to come.
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Final Speaker Announcement: Manou Messman

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Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here

TEDx KEA has spoken of numerous ideas, which embrace an ethos that wishes to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity to a higher level. The final speaker that we are thrilled to announce is an incredible woman who, like many of the other distinguished speakers, has fought tooth and nail to end up where she is today. Similarly, a significant part of her beliefs is challenging the established notions by which we currently live.

For as long as she can remember, Manou has had an unshakeable fascination with fashion; specifically in how and with what intent people dress the way that we do. Despite a dominance of the fashion industry, dictating the social narrative, Manou has witnessed that many of those working within it are shockingly unaware of the needs of their consumers.

“Outfits are first and foremost a means of expressing oneself. There is an underlying psychology of complex individual needs at play that is not being addressed by those with the power of controlling the fashion industry,” Manou says.

Seeking a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanics of getting dressed in the morning, Manou excelled in a Masters of Communication and Psychology from Roskilde University, specialising in fashion psychology.

Bitten by the fires of the entrepreneurial drive, Manou is leaving the safety net of her job at the Ministry of Finance, pursuing her dream of building a business that educates the fashion industry to the true needs of this generation.

“There is a difference between what is produced by the fashion industry and the needs of individual consumers within it”.

A large part of this is due to the industry itself, so intent on pushing boundaries; with new lines and new styles coming out faster than we can try them on. This innovation for the sake of it leaves little time to acquire the capacity to understand the fundamental needs of the people that they serve.

“Many of them […] lack a broader understanding of the complex psychological demands that their customers have, and are unaware of how to address them.”

What follows is, in many cases, production simply for the sake of it, with very little long term vision. For this reason, many associate fashion with allegories of unsustainable practice and a lack for concern for the broader problems of mankind. Things need to change.

Revolutionising the fashion industry in this manner is no small task. But Manou doesn’t buckle under the pressure of facing the impossible.

A loving mother to Nomi and Alba, children born under exceptionally difficult circumstances due to pregnancy complications, Manou has overcome many a struggle to get to where she is. Coldly informed by doctors that she could not bear children, Manou refused the words “it’s not possible”. She laboured through several long, hard months and successfully conceived two healthy children, a boy and a girl. With her family happily settled in a small town not too far from Roskilde, Manou is now ready for the next big challenge of her life.

It is time to re-think the fashion industry, and the time to redefine what is normal. It is time for a new generation to emerge.

See you on December 11th.

Speaker Announcement: Mads Faurholt Jørgensen

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here :

 

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There is plenty that can be said and written of a man who has built over 30 leading Internet ventures all over the world in just five years. Amongst these ventures were giant enterprises such as Zalora, Lazada, Compare Asia Group and The Iconic, all of which are leading online stores and platforms in the Asia Pacific region.

In 2010, Groupon, listed by Forbes as the fastest growing company in the world, announced its continued expansion in Asia. At the helm of this monstrous endeavour was the iconic Mads Faurholt-Jørgensen, aged just 29 today. Four years ago, Mads took on roles as Global Partner and Managing Director at Groupon, driving the company’s success in the Asia Pacific region.

We all want to stand out from the crowd. But what does it take to push our dreams and visions from mere thoughts to tangible realities? Our latest TEDxKEA speaker may have some of the answers to these riddling questions.

Success has come in leaps and bounds for Mads, and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But how did all this come to pass at such a breakneck pace?

Well, for one thing, Mads has always wanted to “stand out and do things differently,” a mantra that has consistently featured in his endeavours, just like when he strolled through a bachelor’s degree at Copenhagen Business School in one year and nine months, as the first ever student to do so.

Not only did Mads blitz through his education, he also made it look like a walk in the park, defying the growing trend of students in Denmark taking longer to finish their education than the allotted time frames. It was also a strategic move to stand out in such a way, taking the quickest route through the stream as opposed to aiming for the highest average – in itself arguably a more complex struggle. Later, Mads crossed the Atlantic to blaze a trail through MIT, racking up no less than 10 scholarships for various achievements in his MBA.

Once out of the college blocks, standing out became a philosophy that was ingrained in his mindset as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. Mads made a name for himself in sales, analysis and private equity before grasping the reins of founding and leading companies. The driving force behind this, was having the courage to stand out and do things differently: as we have discussed – thinking big.

Translated into operational philosophy at Nova Founders Capital, which he founded, Mads maintains that “When building companies, we try to think How big will this be?, as opposed to will this work out? […] We remove all shadow of a doubt by making something that’s so good, people can’t say no to it”.

Naturally, this magnitude of success can never come without an immense work ethic and a burning passion for what you do. “Just like the saying that entrepreneurs will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40, I believe that if you do what you truly love, it never really feels like work”, remarks Mads.

We have previously discussed how lucky we are to have the opportunities that the Danish higher education system offers. Mads, who has seized those opportunities better than most, is ready to school you on putting one foot in front of the other on December 11th.

Fact File

2012 – present: Founding partner, Nova Founders Capital
2011 – present: Founder and Shareholder, Lazada Group (one of the leading online department store in South East Asia)
2011 – present : Founder and Shareholder, The Iconic (One of the leading online fashion companies in Australia)
2010 – 2012: Global Managing Director and Partner, Rocket Internet GmbH (the largest internet venture builder)
2010 – 2011: Managing Director Asia Pacific and International Vice President, Groupon. This company was classified by Forbes as the fastest -growing company in the world.
2007 – 2009: Associate, Mckinsey & Company, Switzerland
2003 – 2005: Sales Manager and coach, Viasat Broadcasting. Under Mads’ leadership, his sales division met its $40 m sales revenue target for the first time in its history. The company was also voted the 3rd best sales / service department in Denmark

Education

  • Bachelor of Science, Business Administration and Economics. Copenhagen Business School. Mads became the first student to ever finish this degree in the short span of one year and nine months
  • Masters degree in Financial Analysis, Copenhagen Business School
  • MBA, Business Administration, Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan  School of Management. In his time at this prestigious organization, Mads was awarded 10 different scholarships.

Enough is Enough : The need for social entrepreneurship

Oriinal article written for TEDxKEA; available here : http://tedxkea.com/enough-enough-2/

 

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photo cred : Dovile Montvydaite

Last week, we discussed the emergence of social entrepreneurship as a catalyst of new ideas. It is true that entrepreneurship in itself, social, or otherwise, drives the inception and cultivation of furthering societies’ evolution.

History is full of champions whose stories have rocked the very foundations of what we believed was possible. The lightning bolt of inspiration is sought after by every would – be game changer, but the method remains the same. A stroke of insight, with the vision to see something that is not there and ask why not? The drive and fire to bring ideas to being, rounds off this age-old method.

This is true of the ideas of Florence Nightingale as it is of those of Steve Jobs. In today’s world, entrepreneurial guile is behind some of the world’s biggest brands and their consumers, stakeholders and so on. In fact, the hard work of a few ambitious people is at the throbbing heart of a world driven by a focus that cultivates entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs generate ideas or latch onto good ideas, string together the interests of different stakeholders and create brand new business concepts that provide goods and services to fulfill needs. Societies benefit from employment and the creation of jobs, industry, infrastructure, connectedness, and the state gains from similar developments. Entrepreneurs themselves fulfill their goals whilst making a profit from the activities spawned of their ideas.

This is all well and good so far and from the outset, a functional model where everyone is happy seems apparent.

Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you will find that this economic model is riddled with flaws. Many of the profits generated by businesses are not re-invested in society, but rather hoarded by entrepreneurs who correctly enough, have worked long and hard to propel their ideas to prominence.

There are other issues at stake that overwhelm the case for the maintenance of this model and the social inequalities it reproduces.

One of the most driven speakers at our event this year, Lars Hulgård is of the opinion that “we need a society with more solidarity from one business to another; a pluralistic society that allows for alternative forms of organisational structure, not merely those that are anchored in making a profit.”

Idealistic as this may seem, we are, right now, on the verge of tipping the scale. This generation has had enough. How many more economic crises’ will it take, how many more screaming examples from history do we need to see that something has to change for our sheer survival ?

As a pioneer within the increasingly acknowledged field of social entrepreneurship, Lars is of the belief that this area of our society holds potential as a vehicle for global change. However, it needs to be more than just a buzzword: “We need to re-think social entrepreneurship outside of the current discourse that is very much based on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and standard economic practice. What happened to the critique of these models and how did social entrepreneurship all of a sudden become a part of this?”

It is this very critique and indeed the definition of the field that Hulgård has spent many years of his life cultivating.

The challenge will always be incentivising this, merging the rewards with idealisms; forging this new paradigm.

All it will take is one valiant entrepreneur to make that splash, to revolutionise an industry and show us there is a way. Social entrepreneurship is emerging in the global narrative of social change but it needs support and solidarity from free-thinkers and society at large. Rest assured, the floodgates will open, but for this we need the actions of social entrepreneurs to be backed by a more aware consumer base and for the free-thinking individuals reading this to rise to the challenge of shaping a more socially- driven paradigm for life on this planet.

Breaking Down Your Stereotypes

Original article written for TEDxKEA , available here:  http://tedxkea.com/breaking-down-the-boundaries/

Turn on, Tune in and Shatter your Stereotypes

The Folly of Stereotypes

We are all guilty as charged when it comes to being horribly wrong about some of our first impressions. The shaggy haired, dodgy – looking bloke that just so happens to be a world class professional skater or the swank businessman clad in a suit who appears haughty and posh but, as it turns out, is a humble social entrepreneur with fairytale dreams of a better tomorrow. It is fair to say that, true to the old adage, a book must never be judged by its cover.

Let’s hit the nail on the head here by looking at a very recent example from our own dear Copenhagen; the young man of Middle Eastern background who appeared nervous as he studied literature related to terrorism for an upcoming exam whilst sat on the train last week. Mistaken for a terrorist by a fellow commuter, Alisiv Ceran turned out to be a keen university student from a modest background and of a pleasant disposition. The police and media hunt that ensued was nothing less than Post 911 tragicomic Hollywood material. Wholeheartedly unnecessary and blown out of proportion, this particular situation depicts the sort of fruits that are borne of stereotyping and profiling. The support that has gone out to Alisiv since ratifies the need for us a society to remind ourselves yet again of the perils of judging things at face value. Yet in a world of so many contrasts and variations, surely, it is quite normal and within the scope of human nature to come to conclusions based on the appearances of things ,at least at first sight. Or is it ?

One of the underpinning visions of TEDxKEA is that of harnessing the educational potential inherent in the diversity of Denmark’s institutions of higher learning. Stitching this vision within the broader fabric of the TED brand, which aims, amongst other things, to give wings to ideas and dreams, it is blatantly obvious that collaboration across diversity needs to be an underpinning tenet throughout. More often than not, diversity within academia and other fields of life has come across as more of a vice than an asset. This is true of collaboration between each independent university as it is true on a micro level, from one student to another. Within the grander scheme of things, we and our forefathers are witnesses to the horrors of what can come of unchecked stereotyping and the cultivation of binary oppositions. Plato once professed that only the dead have seen the end of war. Only the living have the power to change Plato’s cynicism, and part of this, starts with binning stereotypes in favour of a more objective perspective.

Danish Universities, a Stereotype Story

Many of us are no doubt familiar with the stereotypical view of Copenhagen Business school students as posh rich kids interested in money – making, or the equally patronizing profiling of Roskilde University students as a collection of hippies who party their way through their curriculum and wind up with degrees that society has no use for. The same goes for students of Denmark’s Technical University (DTU) – here, the prevalent stereotype is one of socially inept nerds who are excellent at gaming and little else. Another flamboyant stereotype is that of KEA students being sub-par graduates who end up with a pseudo degree that is overlooked within the greater scope of academia. We can extend the game to Copenhagen University and its faculties, where tales have been told of students well versed in a finely tuned academic rhetoric that is rooted in good values but that is overly academic and excessive. Wherever you go, whichever institution of higher learning you choose, you will invariably find a well-established albeit poorly grounded discourse that tends to define universities, their alumni, staff and students. As with many instances of profiling, these stereotypes are both poorly researched and poorly argued for. As is the case with other examples of profiling, these stereotypes are made from the cultural relativism of high income earners as well as low ones. They exist across the board, nestled cancerously within the skeletal frame of society.

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The story of the prevalent stereotypes generic to different Danish universities and institutions of higher learning, some recognisable, some perhaps unfamiliar (Illustration : Barbara Nino Carreras)

Flipping The Coin

Having said all this, it is important to note that, like our swank businessman with his pristine suit and posh mien, Copenhagen Business School students can just as easily be humble, socially-engaged philanthropists with the drive and guile of adept salesmen. They could also be (and there are no doubt some who are) driving range junkies with little or no empathy for the socioeconomic inequalities of our world. Similarly, as in the case of our shaggy haired, dodgy-clad lad, RUC students may be pragmatic left – wing idealists with ambitious hopes and dreams for a free tomorrow just as they may be the best minds of their generation wasting their young years being pseudo hipsters in the fake post Beat generation world that has laid waste to the liberal nous of the sixties. Denmark’s technical university (DTU), in similar vein, surely consists of a fair share of socially-astute, intelligent I.T and engineering professionals mastered in their craft. Conversely, it too, houses the antimatter of the ideal student that it intends to mould. For their part, KEA students can carry their weight within the matrix of post-graduation life, creators and innovators with technical and practical skills that are needed in today’s webbed world. It goes without saying that there are undoubtedly some who lack these attributes and who will simply go on to ratify the negative profile associated with this particular institution of higher learning. Students of Copenhagen university, as well versed rhetoricians and semioticians, shoulder the responsibilities of providing an academic perspective to various matters. Equally, there are some who are literature geeks with the social skills of a plank of wood. What is obvious from all of this is that there are different types of students at the various institutions of higher education in this country. Additionally, more often than not, the stereotypes cultivated by those alien to the workings of each independent organisation localize on isolated elements within the grander scheme of things that do not necessarily provide an objective worldview of each situation.

TEDxKEA envisions a situation in which the things that make us different from each other are the very same things that make us richer as a society. We strive to work past the banal brutishness of stereotyping our fellow students in such a way that we fail to harness the fruits of a fertile and diverse student body in a country laden with opportunities for young people. We aim to fuse the shrewd and practical savoir-faire of students of Copenhagen Business School with the humanitarian humility and neo-idealist drive of Roskilde university comrades. To this mix we add the aerodynamic verve of the well-crafted DTU engineer and for good measure, why don’t we toss the creative flair of KEA students into it all ? Our boundaries ladies and gentlemen, are endless and infinite. Our ideas, y(our) ideas are but specks in this infinite tapestry of open sky at the moment but they can, and surely will, with co-operation, collaboration and a touch of friendliness, turn into an orchestra of soaring dreams.

Welcome to the show, please put away your stereotypes for the duration of this transmission, sit back and enjoy the ride.