Tag Archives: TED

TED2016: A Dream in Action


By Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’well

blog_ted2016_bagReturning to earth is hard. But I am back on land – and in the office – after an incredible week at TED2016: Dream where I spent five days in a custom-built TED amphitheater inside the Vancouver Convention Centre. Can I just say that the setting was my idea of utopia? The beautiful space was surrounded by Vancouver Bay, where seaplanes would land just outside the convention center windows, and Whistler Mountain’s white capped ski slopes were visible in the near distance.

Inside the theater was an equally special environment. The 1,200-plus attendees, or TEDsters as we were called, were asked to be truly present during the course of the event. This meant that phones, computers and light-up screens were only allowed in the back rows of sessions to encourage everyone to be open to the learnings, lessons and insights of each of the 18-minute TED talks. What a breath of fresh air.

While the imagination and inspiration at TED was endless, there were a few things that stood out as must-share experiences that led to personal and sharable revelations.

Chasing the Hum

Let’s start with Shonda Rhimes’ talk about balance. The amazing writer and producer of the hit ABC show Scandal is responsible for over 70 hours of television each season. With her hands in other projects including Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, it was no surprise when she said that she is addicted to work. While I completely relate to this obsession, Shonda gave an honest reflection about why it is important to find balance and happiness in her personal life. She talked about how she chased the work high or what she called “the hum” and how she was only able to rediscover it after finding time for her kids and her personal life. What she learned is that the hum is not work-specific, but “joy-specific.”

Balance is something we probably all know we need and, if you’re like me, don’t always seek out. Yet, the way Shonda spoke about chasing “the hum” made it seem like a necessity for truly claiming the dream of happiness.

Taking a Virtual Journey

The virtual world opened up and wowed me, unlike ever before. Virtual reality, augmented reality and holograms were hot topics this year and dream-like experience unto their own. At one talk in particular, we were gifted Google Cardboard Virtual Reality glasses. Together with the glasses, the entire amphitheater of TEDsters went on a journey through space and time from a U2 concert to an open helicopter ride over Central Park to a sing along in an African village.

The interactive experience was so spectacular that I brought the Google Cardboard back to the S’well office so my team could explore the experience firsthand. It was kind of magical to get the entire team inspired and see individual reactions to something so new and unique.

Chasing Personal Dreams

As sponsors four years running, S’well creates custom TED-edition S’well bottles for TEDsters to stay hydrated in style during the week (and after). Only these special edition S’well bottles are permitted to be used throughout the course of the week. No other drinks, cups, mugs or bottles are allowed.


As founder and dreamer-in-chief of S’well, it is beyond a dream to see TEDsters – from movie stars to astronauts, to writers and scientists, to film and television producers – proudly using their bottles while listening to big ideas about the future.

This was by far the most personal and fulfilling experience at TED2016: Dream, because it was seeing my dream live in action. It helped me return to work this week with a renewed energy for the business and our mission to make a major impact in the world. My guess is that this is exactly what TED meant to do – keep us working toward our dreams. So that’s why I pass this experience onto you.

TED by Sarah Kauss, Proud TEDster

ted 2015 s'well bottle

It’s been one week since the closing of TED 2015 and I think I am officially past the post-TED depression that sets in just after this amazing event ends each year. Attending TED is akin to the feelings of celebrating a milestone birthday, a trip to Disney World, viewing a meteor shower for the first time, all while realizing your last handwritten grocery list won a Pulitzer Prize for writing. There is a fair degree of anticipation, followed by complete awe of the universe, mixed with some astonishing and surprising moments, so much so that you know you will be forever changed upon returning home with this new knowledge and insight. However, upon returning to your post-TED life, you are accosted with a bombardment of your day to day life, including a week’s worth of emails, meetings and calls.

I pushed through last week’s sadness of returning to Earth, and wanted to share a few of my favorite moments from TED 2015.

Let’s start with Monica. The first question that many asked me about TED this year was about Monica. What did I think? How did she make me feel? Was I able to sit through her whole talk? Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I would think about her talk, and I did sit in the back row so I could gracefully exit if needed to escape mid-talk. However, I was rapt with attention and quite moved by her story. I think she is a brave woman and made a powerful argument about online bullying and the power that is granted to each of us with the right of free speech. One powerful line from her talk “Public shaming as a bloodsport needs to stop. Trafficking in shame brings profit to predators.” If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to her talk. It’s well worth 20 minutes to watch this, regardless of how your think you feel about her or the Monica you think you know from decades ago.

Probably my favorite quote from the week came from Dame Stephanie Shirley, who took to signing her business letters as “Steve” to earn the ability to pitch a women-owned and 100% women staffed software company in the 1960s. In her wise wordsYou can always tell an ambitious woman by the shape of our heads. They are flat on top from being patted patronizingly.” Here’s a link to her talk. I have her memoir on my reading list, as she is clearly one of the most impressive business women who somehow was only introduced to me with this talk.

Finally, this year’s deserving TED prize winner is so worth learning more about. Dave Isay started StoryCorps in 2003 as a way to connect with someone else, and honoring them by listening to their story. In his words- “Listening is an act of love.” StoryCorps is now the largest collection of human voices ever collected. Dave is such an inspiration to me. His idea is changing the world in a meaningful and deliberate way. Watch the talk here, or better yet, download the StoryCorps App and make your own interview with someone special in your life today.

Well, it’s back to my mundane life back at S’well, which is still pretty great. At least I have the memories of such an amazing experience. I have my limited edition TED 2015 S’well bottle on my desk at work to remind me to keep the excitement of TED in my heart until this awesome experience begins again next year…

TED 2015 S'well