30 TED Talks You Must Watch as an Ecommerce Entrepreneur


It’s no secret that TED has over 2,400 talks from some of the world’s best thinkers. But who has time to watch them all? I have combed through the list and have recommended here some of the most pertinent TED talks for eCommerce entrepreneurs.

To Grow Your Business and Implement New Strategies

1. Profit’s not always the point – Harish Manwani

Unilever’s COO talks about the importance of creating not just economic value, but also purpose and sustainability. Corporate social responsibility has grown beyond being a simple buzzword – to the point that even small eCommerce companies will have to prove to their customers that what they are doing goes beyond profit.

It is easier than ever to create a business online, so to stand out you need to have a greater purpose. The talk touches on points also mentioned in Simon Sinek’s talk below about understanding the why before pursuing the what and how.

2. How to get your ideas to spread – Seth Godin

Customers don’t care about you at all according to marketing guru Seth Godin. People have more choices and less time than they used to. While this talk might be from 2003, Seth’s message about creating marketing and products that are remarkable stands true now more than ever.

Seth’s message is especially pertinent to eCommerce entrepreneurs. He explains why you should market to the early adopters that are ignored by mass media if you want to find the early enthusiasts of your product.

3. How to build a business that lasts 100 years – Martin Reeves

The checklist for creating a century-lasting business could be inside you right now. Martin Reeves draws some striking analogs between resilient businesses and the human immune system.

Efficiency, for example, may make for a less energy-intensive immune system and a leaner business, but at the first sign of competition – influenza or otherwise – the system will crumble. Reeves talks about the principles of technological disruption, innovation, and adaptability seen in businesses that have withstood the test of time. He provides lessons that will ensure you are creating a business resilient enough to withstand future challenges.

4. The single biggest reason why startups succeed – Bill Gross

As the founder of Idealab, the longest running technology incubator, Bill Gross has founded over 150 companies in the last 20 years. Being in the business of creating businesses, Bill has a vested interest in understanding the indicators of success in a startup company.

He measures successful and unsuccessful companies both from within and outside of Idealab to discover what factors truly determine whether a business will be successful. As an eCommerce entrepreneur himself, his findings will be of particular interest to grow your business.

5. What consumers want – Joseph Pine

In eCommerce, it can sometimes be hard to convey authenticity to your users, but that task is becoming more and more important as consumers move away from products that are mass-customized.

So how do you remain authentic as a business and still create value? Pine argues that the most successful brands don’t need to say they are authentic. He provides examples of how they prove their authenticity to customers in other ways.

6. 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand – Tim Leberecht

As an online company, it is almost impossible to try and control how every aspect of your brand is discussed and represented. Tim Leberecht talks about ways entities can release control of their brand while still reaffirming their core values.

To Develop Strong Leadership Skills

7. How great leaders inspire action – Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek has become a household name in human capital and leadership thanks largely to the idea he presents in this talk. He reveals a discovery that led him to understand how great leaders and organizations like Apple and Martin Luther King could inspire where others couldn’t. How did two bicycle mechanics become the first to achieve powered flight when they were up against government-funded industrialists and academics?

The answer is: When we sell ourselves on features, facts, and benefits people can understand our message, but there is no emotive drive.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The how and what will follow. Sinek presents the mechanism behind this marketing truth in a memorable talk. His ideas will change the way you think about brands and how you choose to construct yours.  

8. 5 ways to lead in an era of constant change – Jim Hemerling

Self-transformation is usually a positive experience, so why should organizational-transformation be associated with negative experiences? Because changing the status quo can be exhausting and even frightening when considering the risks involved.

Jim Hemerling from the consulting firm BCG gives five tips for turning organizational change into an invigorating and successful experience using large firms like Lego and Microsoft as examples. In the eCommerce world – where new platforms, technologies, and strategies are released with incessant frequency – it is critical to be able to change and adapt effectively.

9. 3 lessons on success from an Arab businesswoman – Leila Hoteit

As a woman in Abu Dhabi, Leila Hoteit has faced cultural and professional obstacles that have shaped her career as an engineer, advocate, and mother.

Using examples from her own life, she teaches:

  • how to turn the negativity of others into fuel for success and resilience,
  • what to do in the face of criticism, and
  • how women can work together for the benefit of all.

An inspiring talk for any entrepreneur on how to solve global problems, even in the face of great adversity.

10. How to run a company with (almost) no rules – Ricardo Semler

Ricardo Semler started asking sincere questions about his business and his life 30 years ago. Questions like:

  • What if I found out I had six months to live, and
  • What would happen if people chose their own salaries?

Dramatic inquiries for a complex company with thousands of employees. But Semler uses examples from his extraordinary life to explain how questions like these reveal the importance of creating and sustaining the power of human wisdom.

11. What it takes to be a great leader – Roselinde Torres

Roselinde Torres left her job consulting Fortune 500 CEOs on leadership to research different leaders from around the world. She looked at everyone from political figures like Nelson Mandela to leaders of NGOs who were making a global impact with very limited resources.

Torres questions why we are teaching people to lead for a “world that was and not a world that is or that is coming.”

She poses three questions all successful leaders should ask themselves:

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?
  2. What is the diversity measure of your network? and
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?

From this talk, forward-thinking entrepreneurs will learn how they can create the businesses of the future from positions of limited resources.

12. What I learned from 100 days of rejection – Jia Jiang

While fear of rejection plagued Jia Jiang from a young age, he reveals how a simple game taught him to not only become desensitized to rejection but to also embrace the benefits that come with asking.

He also created a blog that followed his journey as he sought to be rejected every day for 100 days. His talk is a must watch for any entrepreneur.

13. 4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines – Tim Leberecht

“Half of the human workforce is expected to be replaced by software and robots in the next twenty years.” In the face of automation, Tim Leberecht talks about the importance of creating organizations that are beautifully human.

In eCommerce, automation is becoming not only easier to implement with tools like Pixc, but also inherently necessary. But how can you stand out when everyone is automating towards the same goals? That is where the human beauty Leberecht alludes to applies.

He offers four strategies for creating an authentic business where your human action will make you stand out in the crowd.

14. Success, failure and the drive to keep creating – Elizabeth Gilbert

How do you continue to ensure your creativity survives its own success? Elizabeth Gilbert faced this problem after her book Eat, Pray, Love found international acclaim.

By sticking with what was successful, she risked her work becoming stagnate and being remembered only for her one success. But by choosing to do something different, she could alienate her current fans.

It is a problem that every eCommerce entrepreneur will face if they want to grow their business. How do you choose which path to follow while building upon your previous wins?

To Encourage Practical and Innovative Design

15. What can we learn from shortcuts? – Tom Hulme

Customers don’t care about how much time you have spent on design if it doesn’t solve their problem. They will create their own shortcuts to meet their needs.

Tom Hulme explains real-world examples of everyday shortcuts that have naturally arisen from poorly-designed products – everything from parks to cities and airports. He gives advice on designing responsive products that meet real needs.

This talk is pertinent to how we design eCommerce stores. How are customers navigating your store? Are they hacking their way to certain pages through the search bar? What can you do to adopt these shortcuts and make navigating easier?

16. How Airbnb designs for trust – Joe Gebbia

The Airbnb co-founder talks about his first hosting experience and how that shaped the company we know today.

But how does Airbnb build trust between two complete strangers to the point that they are willing to share a home? As an eCommerce entrepreneur himself, Gebbia’s TED talk is a fantastic source of insight and data into building reputation and trust online.

17. Design for all 5 senses – Jinsop Lee

Having products that look great is critical for eCommerce success, but we often forget about the other four senses.

Product photography can help sell the product online, but we need to envision how it will impact the customers’ other senses when they receive it. How will it feel wearing it? What will it taste like?

Lee provides an approach to better measure and communicates the value of your products outside of how they look.

18. How photography connects us – David Griffin

In a talk filled with beautiful examples, National Geographic photo director David Griffin shows us how photography and images can be used to tell stories and capture the imagination.

Images are arguably your most important medium in eCommerce so seeing their potential and benefits from the perspective of a master is an invaluable experience

19. How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too) – Margaret Gould Stewart

How do the world’s biggest websites design features that are used billions of times a day? Features like the Google search bar and the Facebook Like Button? Features we don’t even think about but probably use many times a day.

Margaret Gould Stewart is the Vice-President of Product Design at Facebook and talks about how they design elements at that scale. She explains the work that goes into redesigning something as simple as a button and the limitations they face.

You’ll learn the importance of:

  • maximizing accessibility for all users,
  • using data as a compass for decision-making,
  • understanding your customer, and
  • iteration and testing.

For designers, this is a great insight into how the experts do it. But there is nothing stopping you from applying these practices to your own store. Tools like Optimizely can help you run tests on different aspects of your store to see what works best.

To Understand New Technology

20. How the blockchain is changing money and business – Don Tapscott

The rise of eCommerce has been made possible through the advancement and adoption of internet banking. But the structure of banking remains the same – with large intermediaries making sure value is safely stored and transferred without being duplicated.

Don Tapscott, blogger for the Bitcoin Code, argues that technology like Bitcoin and Ethereum built on the blockchain could replace the cumbersome financial services industry, which would have huge impacts on online commerce.

Watch for a glimpse into the next era of eCommerce transactions.

To Maximize Productivity

21. 10 top time-saving tech tips – David Pogue

Tech journalist David Pogue shows you ten quick tech tips for tasks you do every day that will help you be more productive and reduce repetition.

Even as a fairly tech-literate person, I found some useful tips here that will shave off a couple of hours every week.

22. How to gain control of your free time – Laura Vanderkam

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to figure out:

  • which tasks need to be prioritized,
  • how much time to dedicate to new pursuits, and
  • when delegation is appropriate.

Free time can often seem like a luxury.

Laura Vanderkam recorded a time diary of 1,001 days for extremely busy women and discovered an interesting approach to creating the life we want.

23. Inside the mind of a master procrastinator – Tim Urban

Wait but Why creator Tim Urban is an expert on the mechanisms behind procrastination.

He illustrates the pitfalls of procrastination to entrepreneurs, in particular, because they lack the deadlines that exist in traditional careers and gives a unique strategy for framing just how dangerous procrastination can be.

24. Flow, the secret to happiness – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a renowned psychologist who has contributed to our understanding of creativity and happiness. He talks about a productivity concept he describes as flow, where the human mind receives the optimal amount of information and works towards the right task.

Whether you call it being in the zone or flow, he provides tips on how to achieve this optimal state to drastically increase the productivity of yourself and your employees.

25. Forget multitasking, try monotasking – Paolo Cardin

How efficient is multitasking really?

Maybe you are one of the 2% of supertaskers who can work on many tasks at once, but, if not, watch Paolo’s video to see his interesting approach to ‘monotasking’.

With so many things needing attention, eCommerce entrepreneurs are more prone than most to fall into the trap of multi-tasking. Paolo Cardini offers a different theory that might help you become more productive overall.

To Explore Interesting Ideas

26.) Inside the secret shipping industry – Rose George

Have you ever wondered how your stock makes its way across the world to your warehouse? Global shipping has grown to account for 90% of global trade and contains some of the biggest companies in the world, but it still remains a largely invisible industry.

Rose George lifts the veil and shows us what happens on a container ship voyage and examines some of the impacts on the industry.

27. A skateboard, with a boost –Sanjay Dastoor

By using off the shelf parts, Sanjay Dastoor and his team at Boosted Boards have created the world’s lightest electric vehicle.

Not only are Boosted Boards a great product created by Stanford students, but they’re also an awesome example of a company with a strong eCommerce strategy.

28. Inside America’s dead shopping malls – Dan Bell

In 2015, Dan Bell started filming the Owings Mills Mall in Baltimore where he used to work as a teenager. Far from being the busy metropolis it was when he attended the mall’s opening in 1986, he found it was eerily devoid of life. After uploading the videos to YouTube, Bell realized this wasn’t a problem unique to Baltimore.

This TED talk offers an interesting perspective on the changing commerce landscape and how quickly an industry can come crumbling down when lifestyles change.

29. This is what happens when you reply to spam email – James Veitch

Have you ever been curious as to what would happen if you started replying to fraudulent orders and spam emails?

James Veitch was and decided to see how far he could push it. A light-hearted TED talk on an email exchange with a scammer.

30. Pop an ollie and innovate! – Rodney Mullen

Rodney Mullen talks about his creativity and passion in skateboarding with an excitement that is great to watch.

But, more importantly, he revolutionized skateboarding by bringing it to the streets and helped create one of the biggest and most unique communities in the world. All of this was driven by content in the form of skateboarding videos which helped drive the sport even further.

As an entrepreneur, it provides a unique perspective on how passion and constant innovation can propel your brand to new heights.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of TED videos worth watching, but hopefully, it will provide some tips, insight, and inspiration on ways to grow and improve your eCommerce business.

Which one has inspired you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

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