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Good people and good values are the most critical competitive advantage that exists—period.


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What Kind of Leader Are You?

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We’ve all heard that a company is only as good as its people. But what does that really mean? TONY TJAN is a serial entrepreneur, progressive venture investor, and the New York Times bestselling author of Good People. By making people a priority, Tjan promises that we can create purpose-driven, profit-fueled organizations that succeed. He offers practical lessons for creating a culture of goodness, starting with authentic mentorship, inclusionary innovation, and the cultivation of character.

Good People not only gives us practical ways to incorporate goodness into our daily lives, but also makes the case for why this is the key to a life of meaning, purpose, and fulfilment.”— Arianna Huffington

Over the course of a high-velocity career founding, leading, and advising path-breaking businesses, Tony Tjan has emerged as a master of pattern recognition and people-centered business.  He identifies and capitalizes on trends that not only disrupt the market, but also create a lasting, positive change for society at large. His current efforts are focused on the two latest businesses that he co-founded—Cue Ball Capital and MiniLuxe. Too much of venture capital has gone the way of the stock market, says Tjan, moving from fundamental investment to momentum trading: a risk-fuelled game of musical chairs for investors whose main intention is cashing out quickly. He became an investor to turn the venture space on its head. Cue Ball is a “people-first and purpose-driven” firm operating out of a permanent evergreen capital pool. It moves the strategy away from exit-as-a-driving force, in favor of sustainable holds and long-term, compounding value. Tjan looks at inefficiencies in the market, but he also looks for good people to work with: those who not only shift categories, but shift the culture. In doing so, he breaks down the barriers to entrepreneurship and creates opportunity for all. Today, Cue Ball has committed more than 50% of its capital to backing women-led, inclusionary ventures, a level that is 20x the industry average. Leading by example, Tjan is changing the way we think about entrepreneurship, business, and workplace culture.

In this vein, he also co-founded MiniLuxe, a lifestyle brand setting groundbreaking standards for health, hygiene, and elevated work practices in the nail salon industry. Since its inception, MiniLuxe has created greater economic mobility for a workforce that’s predominantly female and ethnically diverse. In addition to Miniluxe, Tjan is active in several other inclusionary initiatives such as Jopwell (a diversity hiring start-up), Landit (a female mentorship platform), and his work with The Tory Burch Foundation. Tjan has consistently demonstrated the positive power of people-first, mentor-oriented, and gender-balanced and diverse workplaces, a practice that recently earned him the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Earlier in his career, Tjan was also among the first to participate in the commercialization of the Internet. He founded ZEFER, a multi-disciplinary Internet advisory firm that grew to $100M before merging with NEC, and served as the senior strategic advisor to Dick Harrington, CEO of the Thomson Corporation. Together, Tjan and Harrington catalyzed one of the world’s largest information media transformations, developing the business strategy that ultimately resulted in the creation of Thomson Reuters.

A 20-year member of the TED community, Tjan has spoken twice on the main TED stage.  He serves on the Advisory Committee of the MIT Media Lab and was one of the earliest World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders for Tomorrow. In addition to contributing more than 125 articles to the Harvard Business Review, he authored Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Matters and co-authored Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck: What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business, a New York Times bestseller that was named one of Fast Company’s “Best Business Books” of the year.  Over the past 25 years he has served as a strategic counselor and confidant to several high profile public figures and personalities. Tjan holds AB and MBA degrees from Harvard University, where he served as a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School.

Speech Topics

Rethinking Your IndustryUnderstanding and Applying Transformative Business Practices
When Tony Tjan founded MiniLuxe, he wasn’t just opening up another nail salon. He was consciously reinventing the nail salon by importing best practices from other industries and applying them to the realm of beauty and self-care. Tjan set out to do for the nail industry what Starbucks did for the coffee shop—create a loyal following, at a higher price point, through sophisticated design, in-house product lines, experiential offerings, and an ethical company culture. Today, MiniLuxe has trademarked names and applications for nail shapes; developed their own line of toxin-free polishes; and adopted hospital-grade hygiene practices. It has locations in Boston, Dallas, LA and Rhode Island, and a recognizable brand presence that continues to grow.
In this eye-opening talk, Tjan explores how whole industries can be transformed, elevated, streamlined, and future-proofed. Using examples from MiniLuxe and other companies he’s backed, grown, and scaled, Tjan will explore the shifting needs of today’s consumers, the economic models being reinvented—from online to brick-and-mortar—and the strategies that win in retail’s age of disruption.
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Inclusionary InnovationHow the Democratization of Gender will Transform Business
The concept of meritocracy suggests that people who work hard and have great ideas will naturally rise to the top. Yet time and time again, female entrepreneurs fail to raise the same amount of capital as their male counterparts. Despite owning 38% of businesses in the United States, women account for only two percent of funding. Tony Tjan believes that we have created a closed economy around gender in the venture capitalism space, preemptively deciding who should innovate and where innovation is possible. A purpose-driven, people-first investor, Tjan knows that the systemic barriers to entrepreneurship only cause us to miss out on the true potential of business.
For the first time in history, more women than men are prepared to graduate University. And since education is correlated with earning potential, we’re primed for a massive shift in economic power towards women. The liberalization, democratization, and globalization of gender is coming, and it will rock industries. Just as globalization has had a profound effect on economic growth, the shift in power dynamics between women and men will have a profound effect on business. By opening up about his storied career investing in inclusionary, women-led businesses, Tjan shows us how to stay ahead and take advantage of the next economic wave.
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Corporate Culture
The Only Leadership Decision That Really MattersCreating a Culture of Good People in Your Organization
Today, many professionals assume that social skills, like empathy and self-awareness, have no place in business. We assess employees by what we can measure—profits and accomplishments—and leave the so-called ‘soft skills’ out. But to Tony Tjan, this approach overlooks the fundamental ingredients of real success. He knows that people and values are an organization’s best assets, and over the course of his career, Tjan has committed to a simple theme: work with good people, strive to embody good values, and help others succeed. He’s made mentorship and compassion his highest priorities—over ideas, products, and profits—because he knows that financial results are more a function of people than of anything else. With this mindset, he helped build two major strategic advisory firms—the most people-centric of businesses—and spearheaded a massive cultural shift in a 45,000-person, Fortune 500 business. The pursuit of ‘good’ isn’t a trade-off; ultimately, it’s good for business, too.
In this keynote, Tjan will help business leaders become human-capital centric in everything they do. He’ll introduce audiences to his “Good People Mantra”: five common sense principles about leadership and communications for everyone looking to start or scale a business. When we invest in relationships, Tjan shows, we create enduring cultures that people actually believe in, and valuable organizations that do more than maximize profits—they instill positive, widespread change in their employees and communities.
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