Editor-In-Chief’s Letter

Accessing the Sky

Looking for a solution to gridlock and air pollution? Look to the sky, said Larry Page, CEO of Google, who showed attendees at the annual TED conference a short video of one of Google’s side projects: aerial bikeways where people can get from point A to point B via connected wires suspended in the air. Frustrated at having to wait in the freezing cold for buses while going to school in Michigan, Page said, he dreamt about a plan where people could travel on their bikes in an area away from cars. “It would be a great way to cost-effectively separate bikes from traffic,” Page said. “Projects like this just get your imagination going.”

Attended by business leaders, entrepreneurs, techies, educators and simply the curious, this year’s Ted talks, held in March in Vancouver, had a wide variety of themes, but as usual, technology topped the list of debated topics. And of course, technology, in addition to creative ideas, sales solutions and campaigns, is a subject folks in the ad specialties industry hold near and dear. The concept that no idea should be seen as too out-of-this-world is one that successful sales reps in this industry know well.

For instance, Page envisions a day in the near future where automated cars will safely transport passengers while they nap or do work. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death of people under 34 in the U.S., he said. Automated cars “would save millions of lives, save space and just make life better. I think we can be there very, very soon.”

Another concern on Page’s plate: Internet privacy. While Page took a few shots at the NSA (“Sadly, Google’s in the position of protecting its users from the government doing secret things that nobody knows about”), he acknowledged that “a tremendous amount of good” could come from people sharing information on the Internet, using medical records as an example. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical records were available anonymously to research doctors?” he said. “Maybe you could learn more about the conditions you have that way, and lives could be saved.”

Page is also looking for ways to connect more people to the Internet. One brainstorm his team is experimenting with: launching a worldwide network of balloons that would offer connectivity to people in remote areas. When people balk at his ideas, he reminds himself that most of the things that have been successful at Google were initially rejected by people.

When it comes to sales success, remember Page’s words: “I’ve looked at lots of companies that haven’t succeeded, and what they’ve fundamentally done wrong is that they’ve missed the future,” he said. “If you’re working on things people may not think about, if you’re willing to take that risk – that’s where the opportunity really is.”