Herb Kim at Northern Power Futures

Herb Kim is the founder of the Thinking Digital Conference, as well as TEDxManchester, TEDxLiverpool, TEDxNewcastle and TEDxSheffield.

A native New Yorker Herb now lives and works in the North of England. We caught up with him at Northern Power Futures Newcastle to find out why the North is where it’s at!

L to R: Amy Lee of EY, Herb Kim, find out name and Professor Alison Shaw.

Stories of Leadership Panel on the Vision Stage at Northern Power Futures Newcastle.

Can you introduce yourself for our NPF readers?
My name is Herb Kim, I’m the founder of Thinking Digital and TedxNewcastle.

You are originally from New York but now live and work in the North. What makes the North stand out for you?
I love the North. For me, one thing interesting is that living living in the North has actually made me appreciate America more so than when I lived in America. Thats not to say that I love America more than the North. I think the thing that stands out for me is Northerners are known for being relatively direct. Thats incredibly valuable because getting honest feedback is actually really difficult to get. In more privileged places, like London or San Francisco, they are wealthy places that can they afford to be less direct. They’re more focused on being polite. Being in this part of the world has been a really valuable part of being here.

You’ve recently had TEDxManchester, and this year is the 12th anniversary of Thinking Digital Conference in Sage Gateshead. Where do you see the future of tech in the North evolving?
I came to the north in 2002, with a specific mission around wanting to champion and promote the tech and digital industries here. Back then it was smaller a lot of people doubted whether the North could compete in technology. For me a lot of my strategies and ideas where inspired by the creation of Apple. The two founders met at a networking event and I just thought that the creation of software and digital media doesn’t actually require massive machineries and expensive robots. It’s typically a couple of people with an idea, who put it done in code or images, and they go ahead and launch it. What you need there is talented people connecting. It’s been great to see both the industry grow so then the kind of events likes Northern Power Futures, helping facilitate and support that growth.

I like that idea that you don’t need big fancy machines, it’s around two good minds, or two good ideas, or one good idea.
A lot of it is around connecting people and getting smart people, whether they be in technology or marketing or entrepreneurs or sales people working together. That in technology is often more important than the actual technology half the time.

One word to describe Northern Power Futures?

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt throughout your career?
I think early on I was really focused on how to I achieve the maximum output or impact with the least amount of risk or effort. It’s a very rational formula but it’s also a very mercenary formula, it’s not very inspiring. What I’ve learnt it that to grow, in a business or a personal context, is you’ve got to seek out the challenges. You see this with successful people, they get successful and they stop challenging themselves because they want to conserve the success they have. Challenging yourself isn’t always risking a million pounds on some crazy new venture, its finding challenges that are appropriate to you at any given stage in your life. That has been the biggest thing I’ve learnt and something thats helped reinvigorate and re-inspire my approach to work and converted me from being merely average to something more than average.

Any advice for someone starting a career in tech?
The positive thing about wanting to start a career in tech is its still very much a growing industry. A big influence in my life was reading a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins and in it they talk about, figure out what you’re passionate about and what are you unusually good at. The problem with capable people is that they’re usually good at marketing, or sales, or management, but you can’t be good at everything, and you can’t be great at everything. Combining your passions with the thing you’re super confident with and then figuring out what your business model is around that made a huge difference in my career.

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Northern Power Futures photographs taken by Thomas Jackson at TyneSight Photography

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