The 9 Best TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

Woman getting ready to film a TED Talk for entrepreneurs.

Last Updated: By Michaela Dale

TED is an idea-sharing platform built to inspire, educate, and motivate people from all walks of life to achieve their full potential – and entrepreneurs are no exception. As a startup founder, there is always something to be learned along your entrepreneurial journey. 

These TED Talks by authors, entrepreneurs, psychologists, and researchers provide valuable insights into the world of business and personal growth to inspire you to execute your vision and better your life. Whether you’re looking for practical tips or personal growth strategies, these are the best TED Talks for entrepreneurs.

Top TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

From personal growth philosophies rooted in vulnerability to learning to be a leader that inspires action, these are the best TED Talks for entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals both personally and professionally.

1. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

  • Best for: All Entrepreneurs
  • Recorded in: May 2010

Simon Sinek is a well-known figure in the startup community. Author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” Sinek’s TED Talk of a similar name details the speaker’s belief that people don’t buy what you do, they buy the why behind it. 

Sinek’s leadership theory is rooted in a model he calls the ‘golden circle of motivation.’ The model begins with the simple question: why? As Sinek believes, the greatest leaders are driven by a clear sense of the why behind their actions. In turn, this clear motivation inspires others to follow and support their efforts.

“If you don't know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will you ever get people to vote for you, or buy something from you, or, more importantly, be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do. Again, the goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

Sinek’s TED Talk is a must-listen for entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey. Whether you’re an early-stage founder or a seasoned CEO, finding the “why” behind your company is integral to the success of the startup, its team, and the vision overall.

2. Angela Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

  • Best for: Startup Founders, Executives, and Achievers
  • Recorded In: May 2013

It’s no secret that founding and leading a startup takes strength. According to Angela Duckworth, psychologist and author of Grit, there is a single most significant predictor of success: grit. Or, as Duckworth describes it, a combination of both passion and perseverance. 

In her TED Talk, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, the speaker makes a case not only for the power behind grit and why it results in a higher likelihood of great success – she also provides valuable insights and ideas to help build grit and develop a growth mindset. 

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.”

Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk isn’t just a great lesson for entrepreneurs, it is a masterclass in the growth mindset for anyone hoping to achieve greatness in their lives.

3. Sylvain Duranton: How Humans and AI Can Work Together to Create Better Businesses

  • Best for: Entrepreneurs in Tech Sectors 
  • Recorded in: September 2019

Artificial intelligence is shaping the future of business. In the TED Talk How Humans and AI Can Work Together to Create Better Businesses by Sylvian Duranton, global leader of BCG GAMMA and business technologist, Duranton unpacks the steps businesses can take to integrate AI into processes without sacrificing efficiency. 

The talk begins by discussing the paradox of AI adoption and business, the natural bureaucracy of AI, and the dangers of the technology. However, the talk provides valuable insights into how businesses can leverage AI technology alongside human intelligence, not as a replacement, including a “Human plus AI” formula to achieve this. 

“I am convinced that in every company, applying AI where it really matters has massive payback. Business leaders need to be bold and select a few topics, and for each of them, mobilize 10, 20, 30 people from their best teams -- tech, AI, data science, ethics -- and go through the full 10-, 20-, 70-percent cycle of "Human plus AI," if they want to land AI effectively in their teams and processes. There is no other way.” 

AI has already made a massive impact in the world of business and beyond. With technology scaling quickly, this talk is a great resource for entrepreneurs looking to implement artificial intelligence to grow their businesses ethically.

4. Bill Gross: The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed

  • Best for: Idea-Stage Entrepreneurs 
  • Recorded in: March 2015 

Bill Gross, founder of notorious incubator Idealab, is an expert in what makes startups great. In this TED Talk, The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed, Gross makes an argument about the catalyst of startup success he’s seen across startups that have begun their journey in Idealab. 

The reason Gross gives is timing. According to the speaker, timing was responsible for 42% of whether startups he’s witnessed have either succeeded or failed out of five key factors the founder determined impact a startup’s chances of success. 

“I tried to look at what factors actually accounted the most for success and failure across all these companies, and the results really surprised me. The number one thing was timing. Timing accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure.”

This TED Talk is a great watch for founders validating or refining their ideas as Gross provides valuable insights, generated from his years of experience in the startup ecosystem, about determining if there is enough market opportunity for your startup idea.

5. Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating

  • Best for: Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Creatives 
  • Recorded in: April 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” took to the TED stage to share her wisdom on success, failure, and creativity. After the author faced six years of rejection for her writing, Gilbert decided not to let the setbacks stop her from realizing her potential. 

In her TED Talk, Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating, Gilbert details the journey from failure to success, identifying with the former self and how she persevered to achieve her goals. Plus, building a home out of your passions, finding your center there, and always coming back to it whether you stray from success or setback. 

“The only trick is that you've got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don't budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.”

While Gilbert’s TED Talk isn’t rooted in entrepreneurship principles or business strategies, it is a powerful listen for aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives looking for the motivation to overcome setbacks and return to themselves after immense success.

6. Seth Godin: How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

  • Best for: Established Entrepreneurs and Marketers 
  • Recorded in: February 2003

Author, marketing strategist, and co-creator of the TED conference, Seth Godin, is no stranger to innovative ideas. In his TED Talk, How to Get Your Ideas to Spread, Godin's theory doesn’t simply revolve around creating the best startup idea possible. Instead, it focuses on the power of how you market your ideas.

According to Godin, this means much more than simply spreading the word about your startup idea. It involves targeting your message to customers who are interested in hearing it for the greatest impact possible. 

“Market to these people because they care. These are the people who are obsessed with something. And when you talk to them, they’ll listen because they like listening. It’s about them. And if you’re lucky, they’ll tell their friends on the rest of the curve, and it’ll spread. It’ll spread to the entire curve.”

This TED Talk is a masterclass in targeted marketing and the power of the target market. Entrepreneurs looking to establish product market fit and get their product or service into the hands of the right customers will gain immense value from this talk. 

7. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

  • Best for: All Entrepreneurs Seeking Avenues for Personal Growth
  • Recorded in: June 2010

Dr. Brené Brown boasts an extensive list of titles, from author to researcher to podcast host. One of the most popular TEDx Talks of all time, Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, is a meditation on human connection, vulnerability, and self-worth rooted in years of research. 

 In the world of business and entrepreneurship, Brown argues that vulnerability is not a weakness but rather a powerful tool in the pursuit of greatness. Furthermore, that sense of belonging and worthiness resulted in the confidence and courage to pursue goals. 

“There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging.”

While this talk isn’t rooted in business ideologies, the tactics for personal growth are important lessons for entrepreneurs struggling with self-belief or taking the leap to pursue their business goals. 

8. Martin Reeves: How to Build a Business That Lasts 100 Years

  • Best for: Established Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders 
  • Recorded in: May 2016

What do a long-lasting business and the human immune system have in common? Strategist Martin Reeves, chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, shares the commonalities in his TED Talk, How to Build a Business That Lasts 100 Years

The talk centers around the connection between biology and business, the issues that plague both, and lessons that can be carried through from human biology to build more adaptable businesses. 

“I think in addition to the mechanical thinking, we now need to master the art of biological thinking, as embodied by our six principles. In other words, we need to think more modestly and subtly about when and how we can shape, rather than control, unpredictable and complex situations.” 

This is a different kind of TED Talk, one that draws parallels not often seen in the business world. With the lessons from this talk, however, entrepreneurs can shift their philosophies around business to build more sustainable, long-lasting models.

9. Tim Ferriss: Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals

  • Best for: Entrepreneurs Working Toward Important Milestones 
  • Recorded in: April 2017

Author, entrepreneur, and host of the popular business podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, Tim Ferriss is an expert in what it takes to achieve your goals. One of Ferriss’s most powerful tools is his fear-setting exercise rooted in stoicism. 

In his TED Talk, Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals, Ferriss describes the exercise as one of the chief factors in his successful journey through high-stress situations, providing an overview of the exercise as well as an argument for defining your fears as a method of moving past them and towards your goals. 

“I can trace all of my biggest wins and all of my biggest disasters averted back to doing fear-setting at least once a quarter. It's not a panacea. You'll find that some of your fears are very well-founded. But you shouldn't conclude that without first putting them under a microscope. And it doesn't make all the hard times, the hard choices, easy, but it can make a lot of them easier.”

While defining your fears over your goals may seem antithetical, the argument made by Ferriss in this TED Talk is a powerful message about identifying and overcoming the roadblocks that are holding you back from realizing your full potential. 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, the wisdom needed to launch, grow, or maintain a successful business isn’t found in an MBA course. Whether it’s insights into personal growth to better your business and yourself or tactic advice on integrating AI into your business model, TED Talks are a great resource for entrepreneurs to expand their horizons, learn new things, and grow their business to its full potential.