TED’s Upstart Sibling, BIL, Gets Underway In L.A.

Once a offshoot speaker series riding the coattails of TED, BIL is approaching stand-alone status with branches around the globe.

TED’s Upstart Sibling, BIL, Gets Underway In L.A.

Since its 2008 launch as a cheaper, egalitarian speaker series riding the coattails of the more exclusive and expensive TED (and, some assert, the inspiration for TEDx), BIL has evolved into a stand-alone conference with worldwide branches in such diverse countries as Canada, France, India, Afghanistan, and Tunisia.

A session from the 2012 BIL Los Angeles in Long Beach, CABIL Los Angeles

In some cities, like Vancouver, BIL still follows TED, with TED speakers often gracing both stages. However, other regions, like Los Angeles—whose BIL conference takes place March 7-8 at Big Door Studios in nearby El Segundo—are less intertwined. Unlike TED, which is fully curated, BIL is a little more freewheeling. At the Los Angeles event, for example, the main stage is 80% curated, with three additional side stages accommodating sign-ups for roughly 60 impromptu presentations.

BIL Los Angeles co-leader Christy Fair

“There’s no shortage of good ideas and ways to make the world easier to navigate,” says Christy Fair, the BIL Los Angeles co-leader (with Fedje Lang). “What’s always needed are ways to get those ideas out. We’re hoping that BIL’s price and accessibility will help encourage that exchange. In the future, we hope we can bring to light more marginalized voices.”

Presentations focus on thoughts, practices, and technology to make the world a better place—with past speakers including performance artist Amanda Palmer, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallin. This year’s theme, “Bring It,” highlights BIL as a series put on by its participants (dubbed BILders). Its name is actually a nod to the builder community—as opposed to the incorrectly assumed play on the 1989 cult comedy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Altervision 3D Blacklight Experience is sponsoring a Saturday night dance party.
Altervision 3D

The Los Angeles conference will feature its inaugural BIL Youth speaker series, a forum for ages 7 to 17, who will not only share the main stage with adults, but have their own media room and lounge area to conduct, edit, and upload video interviews of conference participants.

BIL Tunisia founder Abdelkarim Benabdallah

Another stand-out is BIL Tunisia’s founder, Abdelkarim Benabdallah, who will speak via a Google+ live stream event Saturday morning about how BIL Tunisia became the largest conference in that transitioning country, which enjoyed its first presidential election last November.

In addition, futurist Alex Lightman will keynote. BIL co-founder Reichart Von Wolfsheild, co-host of the History Channel’s Invention USA, will speak to audiences from Maui via a telerobotics platform called BeamPro, sponsored by motion-capture company, PhaseSpace.


Aspiring speakers can sign up at BIL Los Angeles’ website. Event presentations, recorded by TV Free Media, will live-stream here on Day 1 and here on Day 2, before final archiving on the BIL YouTube channel.

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.