How TED Talk alternative 99U can help you create your startup

99U is an award-winning, creative think tank from Adobe. It believes in providing practical tools and insights that “empower the creative community”. Based on this mission to help creative people not only generate ideas but also execute them, it has a website, a series of bestselling books, career tips, interviews, a magazine, and also hosts the annual 99U Conference.


Now coming up to its 11th edition, the four-day conference is a mixture of workshops, studio sessions and talks on the main stage. We’ve even heard some people talk about it as a sort of creative alternative to TED talks.

Following on from one of our previous posts on startup ideation, here are some of our favourite 99U talks from a site that’s always a huge source of valuable knowledge and creative inspiration.

The one that challenges old ways of thinking.


Aaron Dignan: How to Think like a Startup

Startups are exciting because of the rapid rate at which they grow compared to most big corporate companies. One of the reasons for this is because old styles of managing and solving problems have become ineffective. It’s made larger organizations take notice, and now they’re looking to startup culture for inspiration and to try to react and adapt to the digital age.

In this talk, Aaron Dignan, who is a writer, angel investor and founder of global organizational coaching company The Ready, is saying that big companies need to recognize that the old way of doing things doesn't work any more.  We really like how he uses examples from biology to explain how innovative startups work.

The one about why design is important.


John Maeda: Fall in Love with Technology through Great Design

John Maeda is a well-known graphic designer, computer scientist, speaker and writer of the book The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code and Redesigning Leadership. In both his design work and his writing, he investigates what happens when design, technology, business and life all collide and uses his findings to help startups apply design principles to leadership and management styles. Really interesting stuff.

This talk is all about why design is important if you want to be a successful tech company.

The one with the ‘startup cheat sheet’.


Kathryn Minshew: 7 Classic Startup Founder Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Kathryn Minshew is the CEO and co-founder of The Muse. If you hadn’t heard of it already, it’s a kind of career-development platform. It was recently included in Fast Company’s 2018 list of the World's Most Innovative Companies and got the nickname “millennial whisperer”.

The platform provides expert advice and cool content for young people looking for the right job who also care about things like the culture of a company and the personality of the people they’ll be working with. In her 99U talk, Minshew shares some of the common mistakes she sees startup founders make and — even better — how to avoid them.

The one about what people never talk about when it comes to startups


Scott Belsky: Lessons from the Messy Middle of a Startup’s Journey

“Everyone loves talking about the moment of conception, and everyone loves talking about what happens at the end.” — Scott Belsky

If Scott Belsky can’t teach us something about how to execute ideas then we don’t know who can. He’s a bestselling author, entrepreneur, Chief Product Officer at Adobe… oh and he’s also the co-founder of 99U. He also really knows what it’s like to run a startup and his most recent talk  (also based on his new book, The Messy Middle) tries to explain why the idea that all startups follow a linear journey is a myth. In the talk, he explains why he doesn’t like the media makes startups sound sexier than they are.

The one that’s a bit like an episode of Black Mirror.


Alexis Madrigal: Why Startups Need To Solve Real Problems Again

“A lot of people are still thinking about the world in terms of mobile and social ventures. I don’t think there's a fresh paradigm for what it is we should be doing next.” — Alex Madrigal

As a writer and journalist, Alexis Madrigal has spent a lot of time watching how technology and Silicon Valley is basically shaping the world. In his 99U talk from back in 2012, he was talking about how startups were having to deal with complacency. He argued that diversity, inclusion, and a completely different way of seeing technology would create a new standard for startups to live up to. Was he right or was he right?