Newark Tech Week: TEDxNJIT: Digital Connections (Part 1)

BY Melissa Bee

Newark Tech Week: TEDxNJIT: Digital Connections (Part 1)

This event is a part of Newark Tech Week, a 5-day event celebrating and promoting technology and techies in Brick City. This is part one of our two-part TEDxNJIT review. Come back next week for part two.

New Jersey Institute of Technology held the third TEDxNJIT on Thursday, April 4 in the Jim Wise Theater. About 1,100 people viewed the event (including live audience and livestream viewers), organized by an NJIT student, Kevin Ly. It was a four-hour conference filled with eloquent and interesting speakers, profound videos, and innovative concepts. It was sponsored by the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC).

Judith Sheft at TEDxNJIT

Host Judith Sheft opened the ceremonies with an introduction to TEDx, independently organized conferences that are lent the TED name and some content. We were shown a video about the TEDx phenomenon, sweeping the world with people holding their very own TEDx conferences for their university or city. NJIT has been holding TEDxNJIT since 2011. Sheft is Associate Vice President of Technology Development at NJIT and develops programs and policies focusing on patent creation, intellectual property valuation, and strategic use and protection of IP assets. She also gracefully introduced each speaker and delivered closing remarks.

Donald Sebastian at TEDxNJIT

Donald Sebastian, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at NJIT, was the first speaker of the night. Sebastian is responsible for the academic research enterprise, developing partnerships with industry, and managing governmental affairs, intellectual property management, commercialization, and contract projects throughout the technology field. He spoke of communication from the birth of computing in the 1950s to the constant use of smartphones, noting, “Once you have that device, what you really have is access to all the information in the world.” Many people in the audience laughed at the efficiency of the hypothetical doctor in his presentation, but the truth is that it was an impressive demonstration of the possible benefits of better connectivity in the healthcare industry, between patient, doctor, and hospital, utilizing current technologies. He even showcased an invention by Kevin Ly, a blood glucose detector that doesn’t penetrate the skin and could send results elsewhere. Sebastian joked that, “Perhaps one day when your doctor is busy, he’ll say, ‘Take two apps and call me in the morning.’”

The next speaker was Michael Smith, Chief Digital Officer of Forbes Media and President of Smith is an NJIT alumnus who now oversees all Forbes IT departments and is responsible for the Forbes Media Exchanges (FMX) and for audience sales via auctions, working in ad technology. He got everyone’s attention by describing how cookies work, noting that companies bid each time a page is loaded on the right to serve that customer an ad (real-time bidding). He discussed the pioneers of this technology and how it has changed the paradigm of advertising in the last ten years. As for starting your own business, he said, “An entrepreneur is someone who leads change.” He emphasized that dynamism and leadership are the important traits of a good entrepreneur.

The audience was then shown a video of Rachel Botsman discussing Collaborative Consumption and trust between strangers. She says, “virtual trust will transform the way we trust face to face.” You can view this segment on the TED website here.

Lyneir Richardson at TEDxNJIT

Lyneir Richardson was next to speak. Richardson is Chief Executive Officer of BCDC, the City of Newark’s economic development corporation, and has nearly 20 years of experience as an attorney, entrepreneur, and corporate executive. He was a passionate speaker about Newark’s future and how urban development is so important. He mentioned all the new things happening in Newark but pointed out a problem, “How can we connect the community to all the progress?” The missing puzzle piece is the ability to attract and connect to the people. He ended his heartfelt speech by urging those in the audience to make the extra effort to include Newark in their ventures, hire local, and mentor youth. He noted also that the mantra at BCDC has been “from pipeline to finishline” to focus on results rather than working on many projects at once with no end in sight.

Guy Story at TEDxNJIT

Next up was Guy Story, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Scientist at, which is headquartered here in Newark. His job at Audible is to drive technology innovation and he currently is focusing on opportunities in wireless, automotive, in-home entertainment, content discovery, and social media. Story’s presentation was fun and lively; he started off with a song on his acoustic guitar about being at TEDx and ended with one expressing his hope that the audience enjoyed his segment. He discussed the communication of stories since the invention of telephones and 78 rpm records. He went through various formats for story sharing, joking that he isn’t just in this because of his name, Story. He also talked about his discussion with cognitive neuroscientists about the in-brain differences in people who are reading a story versus those who are listening to a story.

Come back next week for the rest of our review of TEDxNJIT.

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