BIL Heads to Vancouver as Unique Alternative to TED

The story of the stone soup has crossed nations and centuries to remind people that you don’t need wealth to have a feast; you just need a lot of people with something to throw in the pot to make the soup fantastic.

It’s a tale that the BIL team embodies, from head to toe. Not that they would ever say that they do have a head, or a toe; for six years, BIL has been organizing unconferences in San Francisco, on Long Beach, even in Tunis as they create a viable alternative to TED, one whose impudence and inclusivity set it apart from its older counterpart.  Now, as TED comes to Vancouver, so does BIL.

Michael Cummings and Cody Bailey have spearheaded this initiative, and if its welcome has been small, it has at least been warm. While Cummings and Marx Bailey supervise and organize from afar, Bradley Shende, the third of the organizers, works here on the ground to make sure that BIL has a strong answer for TED—one that highlights the mass of talent and innovation that Vancouver is always host to.

“I think the spirit of innovation is alive and well in Vancouver, and sometimes, I think it’s missing a global stage because of typical Canadian deprecation,” says Shende. “I think it’s nice to have some disruptive American bravado transplanted here in the form of an accessible unconference. It’s funny, it’s irreverent, it’s easy to take yourself too seriously (at other events).”


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“I was very attracted to the fact it had a healthy dollop of tomfoolery mixed with thought leadership,” he continued. “My TEDx experience last summer was amazing, but it left me wanting more… collaboration, connectivity, and practical ‘things to do’ for everyone—and I know BIL brings that to the table.”

BIL differs from TED in a few key ways. For one, it’s free. Donations are accepted online or onsite; you can even donate with BitCoin, if that’s your fancy.

Attendees are all encouraged to be willing to speak; whatever you can bring to the table is more than welcome. BIL is known for its diverse range of topics; previous BILs have featured speeches such as “How to Be a Successful Heretic,” “Digital Graffiti: Art, Advertizing, and Anarchy,” and a breakdown on how to make perfect ramen; this weekend, San Franciscans can look forward to hearing speakers share their thoughts on digital privacy, brain preservation, and finding love in a digital age.

With three weeks to go, BIL Vancouver’s attracted some rather large local names. Alex Chuang will be speaking, as will Jonathan Tippett, Tzeporah Berman, Ben Watson and Mark Brand. It’s a diverse line-up so far, and one that’s only going to become more so as the date grows closer. Michael Cummings is proud of that.

“Our goal is not to have an event that is focused on a specific topic,” he sas. “We really want the diversity so that people who attend and engage in the event come away having actually been mentally stimulated by topics they may not have had experience with before.”

In the spirit of that other BIL and TED? Excellent. To claim a ticket, join the wiki at their website.