The Speakers

Discover the true stories behind the make or break moments of the world’s most successful individuals and companies.

  • Danielle Morrill

    Danielle Morrill

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  • Leo Widrich

    Leo Widrich

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  • Cal Henderson

    Cal Henderson

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  • Luis von Ahn

    Luis von Ahn

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  • Piera Gelardi

    Piera Gelardi

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  • Dave McClure

    Dave McClure

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  • Cindy Gallop

    Cindy Gallop

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  • Dennis Crowley

    Dennis Crowley

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  • Steve Huffman & Alexis Ohanian

    Steve Huffman & Alexis Ohanian

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  • Robin Chase

    Robin Chase

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  • Katia Beauchamp

    Katia Beauchamp

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  • Yancey Strickler

    Yancey Strickler

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  • The database so good, Marc Andreessen wanted it.

    In 2012, Danielle quit her job as Head of Marketing at Twilio to pursue her own product. Within a year of joining the Y Combinator summer class of 2012, she would realise that her company was not going to experience the sort of success she had first thought. 

    It was this failure that led Danielle to start blogging about the factors that often contribute to a young company’s quick demise. The data she had gathered and analysed for this purpose ended up catching the attention of investors – including Marc Andreessen and Dave McClure – and when they wanted access, she told them they could have it by backing her seed round. 3 years later and she runs the go-to platform for VC firms to use when quantifying signals of growing and potentially lucrative startups.

    Danielle is a first-rate storyteller and living proof that you really can build something out of nothing.  Her talk at Momentum will cover everything from marketing at Twilio, to failing with Referly, to making it with Mattermark.


    Millions and millions of social media users don't use Buffer

    ...then there's the 3 million people who do, along with 2,500 companies including VICE, Business Insider and

    But whether you’re a Buffer user or not, what we all share in common is that we’ve heard of Buffer – we know exactly what they do. And we trust them.

    Leo Widrich is the company’s COO and Co-founder, but by his own admission, it’s not the product itself that he’s most famous for. In Buffer’s 5 year history, Leo has become renowned for his ability to craft content and build a brand. And that means that even if you’ve never had cause to use Buffer, you almost definitely recognise them as a source of information and insight that you can swear by.

    Leo will share how his approach to content and marketing helped them get each piece of their content shared thousands and thousands of times, triggered exponential growth in their SEO visibility, and completely transformed the way that Buffer built momentum.


    The CTO busy killing email

    If you’ve ever wondered what sort of technical wizardry would be behind the downfall of the world’s most pervasive medium, Cal Henderson is the right man to ask. Cal is the Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer over at Slack – a team collaboration tool that has been dubbed by almost every major publication as 'the email killer.’

    While email is still putting up a fight, Slack has completely transformed the way entire companies work (including TNW), earning it a $3.8 billion valuation in the process. The software originally built momentum with startups, and is now being used by everyone from Airbnb and Buzzfeed to Harvard University and Samsung.

    But Cal’s story runs deeper than his most recent runaway success: he was the Chief Software Architect behind photo-sharing application Flickr, he helped lay the framework for scaling websites with his 2006 best-selling book Building Scaleable Web Sites, and he built Slack while working on a Massively Multiplayer Online Game – perhaps an indication of why he thinks communicating with colleagues shouldn't be all work and no play.


    Countless hours of mindless activity powering a revolution

    When he was 12 years old, Luis von Ahn came up with a plan to make gyms free. People exercising on machines can generate electricity, he figured, and that energy is valuable. So why not eliminate gym fees, hook all the machines to a power grid, and sell the wattage produced to a major electric company? While that idea didn’t pan out, his two companies Captcha and reCaptcha (sold to Google for an undisclosed amount) did.

    The transition from Captcha to reCaptcha was a game-changer. The 10-second task of identifying a distorted word to prove you aren't a robot was wasting 2 billion seconds of human time everyday – ReCaptcha took that time, and used it to crowdsource the digitization of books. The impact that this simple idea had cannot be overstated: in 2008, when the New York Times told Luis that they were currently digitizing their massive archive at a rate of 27-years' worth of articles every 10 years, he must have been close to laughing. When reCaptcha took over, it digitized 129-years' worth of articles in less than 24 months.

    Now he’s powering a new revolution through Duolingo, a language learning app that has given literally billions of lessons to more than 120 million users worldwide. And this time, Luis is going a step further. Duolingo is helping to bring free education to the world, translating the entire web, and getting progressively smarter in its teaching techniques through machine learning – all at the same time. How’s that for leveraging online collaboration?


    The digital media company driving $100 million in revenue

    We'll paint you a picture: it's 2016. The publishing industry is in disarray. The homepage has been declared dead, while ad blockers and Facebook's aggressive push with Instant Articles are eating into what little advertising revenue is left. Even natively digital media companies are struggling to make ends meet.

    Oh, and Refinery29 just did a billion pageviews and $100 million in revenue.

    Against all odds, Piera Gelardi and her team have built a media company that millennials actually love. With a focus on fashion and lifestyle, Refinery29 have been able to leverage the trend of native advertising without alienating its readers. In fact, their readers are some of the most loyal out there, averaging 7 pageviews and 3.5 minutes on site during each visit. If that wasn't enough, 50% of all Refinery29 visitors also return to the site 6 times a month. And if THAT wasn't enough, 30% of all Refinery29 visitors return a ridiculous 50+ times a month.

    And did we mention that Turner has lead a $45 million funding round to bring Refinery29 to TV?

    In other words, dedication is not dead. You just need to know how to nurture it.


    The Super Angel

    Dave is one of the most renowned angel investors in Sillicon Valley. His name is often placed on an elite list that includes the likes of Chris Sacca, Keith Rabois and Peter Thiel. People call them the Super Angels: a hybrid between VCs and angels who invest big, and invest early.

    In the 15 years before founding 500 Startups, he built and sold an early technology consultancy company, worked as Director of Marketing for PayPal, Acting Investment Director for Facebooks fbFund and on the investment team Founders Fund. 

    Now, he travels the world looking for startup and providing advice for making it into the next 500 cohort. Advice like, “show me evidence that you’re not completely fucking stupid and that you’ve been able to execute on something.” And while this pearl of wisdom, recently dropped on stage, sounds like he hasn't set the bar very high – his no bullshit approach has meant he's worked with some pretty awesome companies.

    500 Startups has invested in more than 1,500 companies across 60+ countries including: Credit Karma, Grab, Twilio (NYSE:TWLO), SendGrid, Udemy, Ipsy, TalkDesk, Intercom, MakerBot (acq SSYS for $400M), Wildfire Interactive (acq GOOG for $350M), and Viki (acq Rakuten for $200M).


    Cindy Gallop

    Cindy Gallop is an English advertising consultant, founder and former chair of the US branch of advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and founder of the IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn companies. 

    With free internet porn widely available and easily accessed, but parents still too embarrassed to teach kids about sex, porn has become by default today's sex education. Good in some ways, not so good in others. is a non-judgemental open forum - inspired by direct personal experience - that encourages everyone to decide for themselves what they like doing because there is no 'norm'. The response has been so extraordinary, that in August 2012 my team and I launched in private invitation-only beta and took it into public beta in January 2013. Our tagline: Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.

    MLNP now has over 400,000 members globally (our 2nd highest source of traffic after the US is China, and our 5th, India) who write to us every day thanking us for what we are doing. We plan to expand MLNP both as videosharing and sex education platform:


    Foursquare's second wind: from check-ins to location intelligence

    Check-in. These days, with over 10 billion check-ins to date and billions of additional data points, Foursquare is gaining new momentum with enterprise solutions based on its proprietary location data.

    With clients like Apple, Uber, Twitter and 100,000 other developers using its location data, Foursquare has built the location layer of the web. Its foot traffic insights inform hedge fund trading strategies and real estate development decisions. And its advertising targeting and measurement provide unparalleled insight for the top brands in the US into how their consumers shop and respond to advertising.

    It's been a winding road, but one that is leading to profitability and a bright future. Dennis Crowley can share what that journey has looked like from the inside - and how things aren't always as they seem from the outside.


    Could you manage your business in the face of tragedy?

    Starting a business is hard at the best of times. But in 2005, when he was just launching Reddit, Alexis experienced a series of traumatic events that would shape his approach to work and life forever. His girlfriend at the time had fallen out of a fifth-floor window in a foreign country. After months of coma, surgeries and rehab, she eventually recovered, and Alexis was due for another shock. 

    When his family dog died that same year, it was tough for him but devastating for his mother. Little did he know that 6 hours of grief later she would be hospitalized – diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She died in 2008.

    When Alexis emailed our CEO Boris asking if he could tell this story on stage for the first time ever, we of course obliged. Alexis had copied and pasted the tagline at the top of this page into his email: “Discover the true stories behind the make or break moments of the world’s most successful individuals and companies.” TNW NYC was the perfect fit for him to tell his story.

    He and Steve will both be appearing on stage separately, speaking about very different times in one of the internet's most famous companies.


    The woman that built and lost a car-sharing empire.

    Zipcar founders Robin Chase and Antje Danielson, both 42, met when their children attended the same kindergarten class in 1999. 17 years later Zipcar has offices in more than 26 cities and 860,000 members across the US, Austria, Canada, Spain, and the UK. The company’s profile only grew when car-rental giant Avis bought Zipcar for $491 million in January 2013. 

    You'd say that sounds like a pretty great success story. But the thing is, both founders left the company more than 10 years ago. Power struggles and disputes prevented either of them from seeing their shared vision through. 

    Since leaving Zipcar, Robin has been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people (in 2009) and co-founded two new companies; peer-to-peer car rental company Buzzcar and Veniam Works, a vehicle-communications company.


    The monthly subscription pioneer who isn't afraid to shift momentum to survive

    Beauty ecommerce company Birchbox is the darling of the online subscription world. Its business model – of sending monthly beauty samples in beautiful cardboard boxes, in order to help trigger sales in its ecommerce store – has been copied across every vertical imaginable, and provides Birchbox with more than a million monthly recurring customers.

    But when the markets changed – and VCs began valuing profitability over growth at any cost – Birchbox needed to up their game and make strategic operational changes to become profitable faster. That's working.

    Katia also oversaw a rollout into the brick-and-mortar store space – something that may have surprised some of the earliest pundits trying to assess the company's direction. The reason was simple: a physical retail store provides Birchbox another touch-point with its customers. Reverse-engineering the process meant they could easily establish the perfect location (Soho) to set up shop based on sales data.

    What both of these moves also say is that Beauchamp is willing to do whatever it takes to build Birchbox out into a success. The subscription ecommerce industry has been hit hard in recent years, so rather than hold out and hope to be the only winner, Birchbox have diversified.


    Yancey Strickler

    Yancey Strickler is co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter. Yancey served as Kickstarter's Head of Community and Head of Communications before becoming CEO.

    Prior to Kickstarter, Yancey was a music journalist whose writing appeared in The Village Voice, New York magazine, Pitchfork, and other publications.


    Curious about who's next?

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Get updates about TNW NYC

The conference doesn't end with the closing keynote: once our 12 speakers have finished, 30 leading influencers from the NY tech scene will host their own tables in our After Hours beer garden.

See Table Captains

A step-by-step guide to building the momentum you need

We’ve invited 12 of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs to talk about the turning points in the past that shaped the trajectory of their future. You’ll walk away with new insights about how the fastest growing startups deal with success as well as adversity, and how to start building and maintaining your own momentum.

Our keynote stage will be moderated by IBM's Global Entrepreneurship Program Evangelist, Justin Halsall.

Past Speakers

  • Joanna Stern

    Joanna Stern

  • Ryan Holiday

    Ryan Holiday

  • Casey Neistat

    Casey Neistat

  • Alicia Glen

    Alicia Glen

  • Danae Ringelmann

    Danae Ringelmann

  • Julie Zhuo

    Julie Zhuo

  • Jason Fried

    Jason Fried

  • Jessica Walsh

    Jessica Walsh

  • Ryan Leslie

    Ryan Leslie

  • Kevin Rose

    Kevin Rose

  • Joe Gebbia

    Joe Gebbia

  • Steve Huffman

    Steve Huffman

  • Werner Vogels

    Werner Vogels

  • Julia Hartz

    Julia Hartz

  • Travis Kalanick

    Travis Kalanick

  • Gary Vaynerchuk

    Gary Vaynerchuk

  • Tim Ferriss

    Tim Ferriss

  • David Allen

    David Allen