Back in 2009, when Peter asked me whether I wanted to bring TEDx to Zurich with him, I did not know too much about TED. I had watched a couple of talks, had worked together with Bruno Giussani on a previous job, and had realized that web video was becoming a serious thing. Diving a bit into it, it became clear to me that TED was actually a pretty cool thing, bringing ideas from across the world together, and sharing them openly, free, for everyone to watch.
We assembled a team – Peter Hogenkamp, Nico Luchsinger, Hugo Schotman, Guy Spier, Martin Steiger, Thierry Blancpain, Oliver Süess, Urs Bucher, Daniela Schläpfer – and started to put together an event. Martin Zimper of Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) believed in this crazy group of people and made available the main auditorium of the old Museum für Gestaltung for the event and his team of students at Cast for the production.
Building the event together was a showcase for how Zurich works: people trusted us without much of an event track record. We were able to assemble a great roster of sponsors (among them Migros, who support us to this day), speakers started to prepare, caterers worked with little prepayment, students built a stage, we were even on the radio.
On October 20, 2010, we had 250 people in the hall at ZHdK, 17 live speakers with their Ideas Worth Spreading, and James Gruntz as a musical act – a true “Intellectual Vacation Day”, as we positioned it. Some ideas have grown and lived on, such as Nicola’s talk on More Brainpower for Switzerland or Marco Tempest, who was also “discovered” here by Bruno Giussani and got on the TED stage seven times, beaten only by the famous Hans Rosling, and ahead of Bill Gates.
On the very same evening of the event, we decided to do it again. One attendee of the first TEDxZurich helped us reach the next level: Alex Hefter made it possible for us to have our next event in the SRF studios, a partnership that also continues to this day.
About 5´000 attendees have joined the ten TEDxZurich main events that have taken place so far. And by sharing the speakers´ ideas online, we have achieved a far greater spread of those ideas: TEDxZurich Talks have received a total of more than 12 Million views, both on ted.com and Youtube. The three top talks (James Glattfelder on Complexity in the Economy, Alexander Wagner on Honesty and Values in Business, Charles Eugster on Bodybuilding at Age 93) with their ideas, have touched a global audience of more than 1.5 million views each.
Over time, the TEDxZurich team has changed. My co-founder Peter left in 2011, I handed over operational responsibility and hosting the event after 2012 to new Heads of Committee (Markus Popp, David Nydegger, Jessica Gaines, Nina Schneider, Fareena Chaudhry, Christina Haupt, and Florian Bucher have been in this role since then), and I have remained in the background together with Martin, Karin, Nina, Fareena and Nicolas in the TEDxZurich Association board mainly running relations with TED, and stepping up only in very rare instances such as “lack of team”, “lack of money”, or solving a conflict. TEDxZurich has become much more diverse in background, female, and international – in the team, speakers, and audience – than when we started back in 2010, and we have provided a first “home” to many international people moving to Switzerland and looking for integration.
Nowadays, we also play an active role in the global community of TEDx organizers, an amazing, very diverse group of people who share one objective: presenting a local audience with great ideas, and giving those ideas global visibility. Curiosity, wonder, and a desire for excellence are three more attributes that embody the spirit of TEDx and TED.
I am incredibly proud of the all-volunteer teams doing a terrific job in running multiple high quality events per year now here in Zurich, including TEDxLive, TEDxZurichWomen, and TEDxZurichSalon. Even in this difficult year, the full TEDxZurich Team will strive to deliver moments of awe and inspiration.
Take care of yourself, and, if you can, someone else too. Enjoy TEDxZurich now and in the years to come. To quote Chris Anderson, Head of TED: On with the show!
President of the TEDxZurich association