Q&A with Lara Stein & Kaila Colbin
Founding Partners of Boma.
Please join Family Office Insights for this luncheon on Wednesday, June 6th 2018 at 12PM. If you care to join us, please email email@example.com.
Family Office Insights sits down with Lara Stein and Kaila Colbin to discuss how Boma helps individuals better understand the forces that are shaping the future so they can create and execute actionable solutions through unique learning experiences such as, conferences and custom events, corporate training, immersive learning experiences, and venture incubation. Leveraging the past 10 years of building global communities with TEDx and Singularity University, Boma is currently raising $3 to $5M to build a new disruptive global educational network and community that empowers people to transform ideas into actions and impact.
Family Office Insights is a voluntary, “opt-in” collaborative peer-to-peer community of single family offices, qualified investors and institutional investors. Join the community here www.familyofficeinsights.com
Tell us about your background and your company, Boma.
[Lara Stein, Founding Partner]
I began my career in the For Profit world. I ran MSN’s New York office where I spearheaded broadband programming and business development. I also founded and served as Director of Licensing and Interactive Publishing at Nelvana, founded ran iXL’s (web strategy) flagship office and Marvel Comics. I originally started in documentary film making, then transitioned into entertainment and building global franchises around intellectual property.
I was brought on by TED to raise money for a TED Prize, a cool concept that had never been done before… To get the whole world to watch a series of powerful short films for Pangea Day, at the same time. The Super Bowl of film watching. We successfully launched the Pangea Day TED prize, to a global simultaneous audience of 3,000 communities around the world. After the success of Pangea Day, TED asked me to take the TED global.
At that time TED was a small, high end conference in the USA. My idea was to create this open source movement and an open conference model so that TED wouldn’t have to organize multiple conferences around the world and yet could still scale. In a sense, we discovered “crowd event-ing”. In March 2010, we launched TEDx to bring TED to the world through a program that granted licenses to third parties to organize independent TED-like events.
Here we are, 10 years later. YouTube recently served up its 1 billionth TEDx talk, and on average, there are 8 TEDx events being organized every day, all year, in 133 countries. An army of dedicated change-makers and change-promoters was created. But the under-utilized army with massive potential had nowhere to go.
Although TEDx fosters a community of thought leaders and change makers, the next step for the community and attendees, which they have expressed a longing for, is the ability to take action. And this ability has been missing. The change and impact the community desires impart on the world can only be done by those committed to action. The TEDx model has become unsustainable over time because TED was, and is, becoming a big media company. None of the revenue from TEDx’s or TEDx content is shared with the TEDx community. The question remains, where is TEDx going? A community of unpaid volunteers and quickly becoming commercialized by TED.
After TED I was recruited by Singularity University to plan and execute their global expansion strategy. I was interested in how technology would create abundance and wealth when the crowds from both for-profit and non-profit are leveraged appropriately. I wanted to develop a new systems change framework designed from the ground up, where my decentralized country partners deliver both profit and impact. Although I created a framework and brought on some of the top TEDx organizers from around the world to jumpstart Singularity University into a successful global brand, I found that the company was not the right organization to execute on a truly decentralized vision. I decided that if I was going to build something of scale, again, that I would build it for myself and for humanity.
After years of doing this in someone else’s name, my former TEDx colleagues and I decided to create Boma Global, a for-profit global community and network that empowers people to transform ideas into actions and impact. Boma’s founding partners have each led the TEDx movement in their respective countries. Kailia Colbin led the strongest TEDx event in New Zealand and jump started the SU brand in both New Zeland and Australia; Michel Levy Provencal built the L’Echappee Volee community in Paris to 150,000+ members delivering thought leadership and impact; and Stephan Balzer was the first to launch TEDx in Hamburg, Germany and launched Singularity University in Germany, with three large, profitable events.
Boma provides transformational learning experiences, linked directly to outcomes, to educate future leaders and changemakers at a global scale. Our ultimate goal is to help individuals take their ideas, vision, and passion and turn them into actionable solutions. Boma’s network, the army of thousands of organizers I grew and cultivated while at TEDx and SU, is tantamount to intellectual property on a massive human scale.
The word ‘boma’ comes from ancient African tradition where the elders and leaders of a tribe would come together to have a conversation about their shared future and decisions of their tribe and take action. This was very symbolic to our mission. The “Boma” is where we need to go as both small and large communities. It is where we can align the complicated vectors coming into play and the hard discussions we need to have to carry humanity forward.
My ultimate vision … thousands of Boma’s going on around the world, acting as the core for conversation and the sparks for explosive positive change for humanity.
[Kaila Colbin, Founding Partner]
In 2009 I set a goal to speak at TED. I had no idea what I would speak about but I printed out a single PowerPoint slide with the TED logo in one corner and my name in the other with arrows pointing to each other and the middle blank. I put this on the wall and knew that the 2 things TED speakers had in common were that either they were world class public speakers and or were changing the world for the better. I decided I was going to take any opportunity that came my way that would lead me to be one of those two. My first opportunity came when I trained with Al Gore to present the Inconvenient Truth presentation. The second opportunity that came was to run a TEDx event, which I ended up spearheading for 10 years. We ran these events in New Zealand in 2011 after a massive earthquake that took over 70% footprint of our central city. We held our event under a dramatic backdrop and leveraged this platform to have the hard conversations with our mayor and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
Lara Stein was a mother figure to all of us at TEDx, so when she left TEDx for Singularity University, I knew that I wanted to follow her there if given the chance. She e-mailed me about an opening in the Executive Program in Silicon Valley and I was on the plane the next day. It blew my mind, and thought everyone needs to understand the basic exponential and technical progression of this narrative. Even if you’re not a techie, you need to understand it because it’s critical. I brought Singularity University back to New Zealand and Australia and all of the attendees were having the same enlightened moment that I was having in San Francisco. Everyone realized we were stuck wondering how we can put our learning into change after the initial excitement wore off. As a team, we decided that we needed to develop a platform that would answer all these unanswered questions, and Boma was born.
Who is Boma’s target audience?
We are targeting those who want to be a part of the solution to both local and global problems. This includes corporations, governments, grassroots communities, thought leaders and the general population. Corporations and governments do what they do, however they are not always agile, they don’t think long term and don’t have the difficult conversations about where we are going as humanity. Boma, will bring together the stakeholders that don’t usually get together and help align them toward action.
For instance, Singularity University is branded towards the high-end corporate executive, making it expensive to engage with this community. The base price for our tickets limited who could join us. The last event I did, to launch SU in Australia for 2000 people, we decided to offer non-profits and educators the ability to join for half the price, and offered young students to come for one-tenth of the price. We wanted the right mix of people in the room for a truly transformative experience. The executives sitting next to the entrepreneurs and middle schoolers allowed for a transformative dynamic that shifted their mindsets from how to increase the ROI for shareholders to what the shared vision and values for humanity are. (At Boma we believe we need to bring all stakeholder along to enable real change, not just the C-suite.)
What are some of the challenges you face in your industry?
One challenge is to be artful in our articulation regarding the difference between the other organizations and us.
How are you different from your key competitors?
Boma was born to answer all the hard questions. Imagine what TED would look like if it were led by TEDx volunteers. Singularity University is the opposite of the TEDx model where it is for-profit, which makes it challenging to have a positive impact on our communities. Boma addresses all of this while making it financially sustainable for the participants and offers tangible next steps for the attendees.
Boma represents an enclosure wherein attendees and speaker, executives and community members share wisdom and take meaningful action. We are starting from a place where we are facing dramatic technological, social, geopolitical, and climate change. We need to create change for a more robust platform to have the difficult conversations to create a positive future. One of the ways we think about Boma, compared to others in this space, is that instead of challenging people to change THE world; we are challenging them to change THEIR world.
We ultimately will be a global platform that transforms the system from isolated silos around for profit, government and non-profits, to an integrated system that highlights innovation and drives change.
An example of how we will uncover innovation is for the SU conference at the University of Australia, we collaborated with SU Ventures to identify a list of promising startups in Australia to pitch at our summit for a spot to join SU Ventures. As a result of the way we structured this, SU Ventures was not required to accept any of the 10 applicants. They said they would be happy if they found 1 or 2 startups, but they got 6. They said that this process takes them up to a year, but we found them 6 companies in a week. Imagine 20 country partners contributing to a platform that identifies and highlights innovation and investment opportunities.
How are you changing the landscape of your industry?
We want to wrap the education model with how to create a new framework that drives change. We bring together people and spark new conversations to execute impact. This is a different model of disruption and execution. If we can get it right, we will start to have different conversations of how corporations can implement corporate social responsibility into their business models. Governments tend to not understand innovation and the key drivers to bring together grassroots organizations. We created Boma to move forward in a way that’s more sustainable.
In our supply chain of humanity, we have a team of tens, if not hundreds, who has been on this journey through TEDx and SU, and are ready to move onto what’s next to bring impact through the framework we are building. The world and the market are ready, and the timing is right. There are other traditional conferences and formats but none of them are thinking in a globally holistic way like Boma. If we do this right, we will be identifying innovation in all communities and support these communities to take action.
How much capital are you looking to raise? Who is your ideal investor?
We are looking for $2-$4M. We are looking for investors who are excited about their legacy contributions to the world as much as they are about financial returns.
Our ideal investors are those people who share our values to make a positive difference in the world and understand we will make profits but create systems to make an impact in the equation. They know that the world needs to change and have been successful enough to understand the systems that need change and why it’s important.
What’s your mission?
Our mission is to bring people together for a transformative experience to create a better world.
What’s next for you?
Boma is next for me. We are launching Boma on July 4th in Paris and we would like to close the first round before then so that we can introduce our founding partners. The raise will build out the platform and bring together the community and country partners.
We have the beginning of our Brain Trust formed, which we call our human capital of thought leaders, coming from various transformative verticals like academia and technology.
Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab
Mo Gawdat: Previously Head of Business for Google x, happiness futurist, and author of Solve For Happy
Lisa Kay Solomon: Author, Moments of Impact
Parag Khanna: Author, Technocracy in America
Divya Chander, Neuroscientist, Unconscious Mind
Salim Ismail: Author, Exponential Organizations
Raymond McCauley: Bio Hacker
John Hardy: Environmentalist, Designer, Green Pioneer
Alexandre Cadain: Future Ethics and AI, Co-Founder & CEO ANIMA
The soon we can raise the funding, the sooner I can get to building Boma into a global force for good, which is what I love to do.
Lara Stein & Kaila Colbin
Recently, Ms. Stein was the Managing Director of Singularity University’s community and global expansion and implementation strategy.
Prior to her time at SU, Stein was the founder and director of the TEDx program at the TED Conferences. In 2007, she lead the effort to bring TED to the world by developing a program that granted licenses to third parties to organize independent TED-like events. In the first five years of TEDx, Ms. Stein grew the program into a global phenomenon with more than 40,000 talks given at more than 8,000 TEDx events in 1,200 cities in 133 countries. By Dec. 2013, eight TEDx events, on average, were being organized every day in one of 133 countries. Recently, YouTube served up its 1 billionth TEDX talk.
Under Lara’s leadership, TED expanded to include TEDxWomen, TED events dedicated to women empowerment, and the inclusion of youth audience with the creation of the TEDYouth and TEDxYouth. Stein also created the TEDx corporate event platform, TEDx in a Box. While leading TEDx, Ms. Stein simultaneously held the position of Director of the TED Prize.
Ms. Stein has consulted to numerous Educational, Media and Technology companies, including, MIT as Executive Director of ReACT, Pangea Day, Worldwide Biggies and JVP.
Prior to her consulting roles, Ms. Stein founded the web development firm iXL’s New York office. Stein also held senior level positions at Microsoft’s MSN division, where she ran MSN’s New York office, and spearheaded all broadband programming and business development. Prior to Microsoft, Stein founded and served as Director of Licensing and Interactive Publishing at Nelvana and Marvel Comics
Stein has produced programming for Lifetime Television, Simon and Schuster, WGBH-PBS. Ms. Stein started her career as a documentary filmmaker. She has also produced and directed numerous documentary films. Ms. Stein’s achievements have earned her recognition in several leading industry trade publications.
Ms. Stein recently sat on the board of The Lung Cancer Research Foundation and is currently on the board of Lalela, We Are Family Foundation and Equality Now.
If you have any questions, please contact Lara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaila Colbin spearheaded the hugely successful SingularityU New Zealand and Australia Summits, introducing more than 2,500 people to exponential technologies and their impact on humanity.
She is also a co-founder and Chair of the non-profit Ministry of Awesome, the starting point to make things happen in Christchurch; the Curator and Licensee for TEDxChristchurch in New Zealand and TEDxScottBase in Antarctica; Chairman of the Board of the New York-based Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts; Deputy Chair of CORE Education Ltd; and a Director of ChristchurchNZ, the Christchurch agency responsible for tourism, major events and economic development.
Kaila is a certified ExO consultant, a Climate Project Ambassador who trained with Al Gore, and a Project Management Professional. She is a renowned national and international public speaker, sought after by corporates, government agencies, industry groups, and more.
A native New Yorker, Kaila is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Italian, holds a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Cornell University and has been a serial entrepreneur since the age of 22. Her purpose in life is to be an uplifting presence.
If you have any questions, please contact Kaila at email@example.com.