TEDxCapeTown - A powerful event

Ideas worth spreading, proudly South African

TED: 'technology, entertainment, design' is a global non-profit organisation dedicated to ideas worth spreading. Annual conferences showcase ideas presented by charismatic people. The brand TED has grown so much that the demand for talks exceeded the supply. Lara Stein, who is originally from South Africa and works for TED America, had the idea to open up the brand and give it to other people to organise events independently. That’s how the events were born, independently organised under their own license. With a set of guidelines to understand the brand, marketing of the event, sponsorship and so on, everywhere in the world there are these events taking place. Together with an enthusiastic team, Justin Beswick and Bernelle Verster organised the first TEDxCapeTown event in April 2011 and are busy organising TEDxCapeTown 2012 (theme 'What We Play Is Life').

"It’s not only an event. It’s showcasing what we as South Africans and Africans can actually create. TEDxCapeTown showcases the talents we have in the country with the speakers," says Justin Beswick (age 24). Originally from Johannesburg, he studied biotechnology, completed a post grad in financial analysis at UCT, owns a clean energy company and has a big passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. Bernelle Verster (age 30), hailing from Johannesburg has a background in biology and chemistry. Her goal is to improve the quality of life, especially for South Africans and Africans at large without exploiting and causing damage by using biology and the thinking behind it. Bernelle met Justin through a business plan competition, while he was working on a bio-fuel concept. Bernelle had the vision for quite some time, to get better communication between business and entrepreneurs, technology and public. In December 2010 it was decided: TEDxCapeTown 2011 is going to happen. The team is a young group with most members of all backgrounds in their mid-twenties - "they have the time, but they also have the passion," adds Bernelle.

"How do we get the public to know about the water crisis without freaking them out, without boring them to death, and how do we make it interesting as well as fun and sexy?"

This was Bernelle’s big question and that’s how the theme 'Be water my friend' was born for TEDxCapeTown on April 16th 2011. The goal was to bring people from various backgrounds together, "that’s how you get solutions," says Bernelle. The first TEDxCapeTown was a successful event with 400 people and 28 speakers at Ratanga Junction in Century City.

"I have been following TED for years and years, it’s a powerful brand and we leverage from that, to take the excitement of that brand to education." injects Justin, while Bernelle continues, "it’s serious in the underline, but the way it comes across is very exciting. So you won’t get bored."

The majority of the speakers are locals. "TEDxCapeTown is proudly South African and gives a fraction of exposure to what’s happening in the country," says Justin. Creatives, people from the IT industry, scientists and others give talks. "Young speakers with great ideas and more seasoned guys with experience get a cycle going for innovation." Being part of a TEDx event is great for a community with like-minded people. Big time inspiration. The talks are recorded - awesome for the ones who couldn’t be part of the live-event.

It’s not just a conference, it’s an experience, and it can be life-changing.

The feedback is overwhelming, and TEDx was 'life-changing' for many taking part. Speaker Anthony Turton felt like he had the 'rock-star moment' of his life at the recent event. "We do it for the people to empower them, and to push their dreams," says an enthusiastic Justin.

TEDxCapeTown will be an annual one-day-event with smaller and more intimate events throughout the year. Bernelle, Justin and their team want to create a TED-ecosystem, to invite people to their events, creating a support system and get them create their own events, for instance TEDxCityBowl. In the plan is also a TEDxMarine with an expedition and TEDx events in Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and other townships in the specific languages and with English translations. "We want to show the world that South Africa is at the forefront of innovation. We bring people on board, give them skills, let them develop and get them to run initiatives by themselves, to make sure you actually grow something more sustainable than ourselves." says Justin. "It takes a fraction of our time to create this and change someone’s life, I feel obliged to do this," he concludes.

Justin Beswick | +27 (0)82 859 3731 | Cape Town | info@tedxcapetown.org | www.tedxcapetown.org

Watch Ard Matthews and Claire Janisch's talks at the TEDxCapeTown 2011.


P.S. TEDxCapeTown 2012 (theme 'What We Play Is Life') will have a live feed, live bloggers and live tweeters communicating the key points of the talks; university lecture theatres will have a live feed; entrance fee will be around R250, 10% of members get sponsored.

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