Letter from David Hoffman, by Craig Hatkoff

By Craig Hatkoff

Honoree David Hoffman sent me the following letter today and I asked him if I could share here on our website:

Dear Craig,

Today I sent a group of select colleagues the letter (via e-mail) that you see below. I thought you might enjoy reading it.

On April 25 in NYC I am receiving a most unusual and spectacular award, the 2014 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award. The award celebrate individuals those whose ideas have broken the mold to create significant impact in the fields of healthcare, education, international development, politics and advocacy, media, the arts and entertainment.
This makes me proud and excited. This is something special to me, and it has got me thinking.
Looking at myself, I am certainly innovative and have been all my professional life. I created all kinds of different artistic ventures, 3 unique businesses, the first women’s greeting card company, dozens of books, CDs, LPs, hundreds of television shows and theatrical movies, and I aided other successful innovators by creating “guerrilla media” approaches to communicating with their audiences.
But the 2nd part of this award is “disruptive” and that something very different. As Tribeca perceives it, disruptive means shaking up society with something that is radically important and beneficial. I see myself as more challenged here.
I have missed appreciating major disruptive opportunities that were presented to me — like cable television. I was the 1st filmmaker documentary filmmaker hired by Discovery Channel and I told that I didn’t believe cable would work–“how could they put cable lines across the United States.” Impossible. And I thought that Blockbuster was a sure to fail business idea. How could they make money from renting VHS videotapes for $2?
But my wife Heidi points out one way in which I certainly am deserving of this award. Every where that I have worked with success – with Tony Schwartz on Guerrilla Media – with Herb Schmertz at Mobil, with Harry Gray at United Technologies – with Tony Quinn (actor) – with Bob Kavner at AT&T – with Pat Mitchell at Turner – with Jennifer Lawson at PBS – with Jeff Bezos at Amazon, and with John Johnson at Verizon among others, I have been given the opportunity to speak express my gut instincts. And time and again, that dialogue has provoked others toward greater disruptive innovations. Many of you that are receiving this are colleagues who have allowed me to be me and made use of the results. So I will be accepting this award in part to give thanks to you all.
My new venture is Executive Producer for LabTV – using video to provoke young people to become medical scientists, especially women and minorities. My partner in this effort will make meaningful disruption real for me. He is LabTV’s founder and chairman, the truly disruptive innovator, Jay Walker.  Jay has created 3 businesses that affect tens of millions of people and done so much more. Jay and I setting up LabTV so that it’s videos will reach and motivate tens of millions of young people. His guidance is allowing me to give the best of what I’ve got with a great disruptor by my side.
I want you to know that time and age have not slowed me down. I remain open to your ideas and if you need an attentive ear, I’d love to hear about any disruptive innovations you are considering.
If you would like to get tickets to the awards the event kicks off at 11 AM on Friday, April 25, at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
And here is a link to my award page. Please comment on the page if you are so inclined.
Best Regards,
David Hoffman

Community Response to Female Circumcision in Eritrea, by Dr. Marni Sommer

By Dr. Marni Sommer, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

Tackling female circumcision (otherwise known as FGM or FGC) is challenging in countries around the world.  In 2009, on the international day symbolizing the global effort to stop the practice, I attended a remarkable event in Segeneiti, Eritrea.  The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) had gathered the community from the nearby provinces to an event under the Daaro, a massive Sycamore tree long recognized as a symbolic gathering place for the community to gather for discussion and debates.

Dance against FGM 2009

Dance against FGM – 2009

The head of the NUEW, Luul Ghebreab, opened the day’s event, speaking on a raised platform decorated with colorful cloths and fresh grasses, to a crowd of local villagers who had traveled from near and far to attend the event.  Tigrinya women wrapped in their white and color striped dresses, scarves drawn over their heads, sat side by side with farmers in their traditional white cloths, alongside of ambassadors from various governments who had driven down from the capital, Asmara, to celebrate this anti-circumcision day.

A banner strung across the back of the stage in front of the massive tree trunk read “Zero tolerance for FGM.”  Ms. Ghebreab’s opening remarks were followed by  drama and dance performed by local youths and speeches by local leaders.  All the while, the scent of coffee being ceremoniously prepared, wafted across the crowd sitting comfortably in the shade of the large Daaro.  After hearing the local Imam speak out against the practice, followed by the local Catholic Priest, and the local Orthodox Priest, a group of colorfully clad women stood up en masse.  They were from the Saho ethnic group, who had traveled up from the southern region for this important event, and were all former “cutters” forevermore renouncing their trade.  One of them explained that they had decided to renounce their trade of cutters, and then all the women solemnly raised their hands and swore an oath not to cut any more, ending their role in perpetuating the traditional practice of female circumcision.

The crowd clapped enthusiastically, and then the music began, and everyone got up to dance, bobbing and weaving in a circle together, rippling and shaking their shoulders in the way that only someone growing up in that culture can do well.  It was a remarkable day of national, regional and local social mobilization and collective action to end a practice dangerous to Eritrean girls and women.

Priest speaking up - 2009

Priest speaking up – 2009

Swearing Oath - Eritrea 2009

Swearing Oath – Eritrea 2009

Former soldier speaking out - 2009

Former soldier speaking out – 2009

Read more about Dr. Sommer, Disruptor Foundation Fellow here

What Religions Can Learn from Microsoft, by Irwin Kula

By Irwin Kula, Disruptor Foundation co-founder


Big news from Microsoft – it has finally decided to make its Office software, specifically its suite of applications including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, work on all computing devices including those made by its competitors, Apple’s Ipads and Google’s Android operating system. I think there’s something that religions can take from this, especially if they want to compete in the marketplace of wisdom and practices that help people flourish.

This news is a break with Microsoft policies of keeping its software services locked to Windows devices. If the world wanted Office, they had to buy Microsoft’s tablet device and mobile platform, which did not work out all that well for Microsoft. Now Microsoft is no longer trying to defend the Windows ecosystem against the world but instead, wants to “empower people to be productive and do more across all devices”.

I have no idea whether making Microsoft products available on just about all platforms will succeed in boosting Microsoft’s revenues, but clearly Microsoft has come to realize that a closed system – trying to control people and force them to use your product cannot succeed these days – as people will simply stop using your product.

This tension between closed systems and open systems is something that applies beyond the tribe of Microsoft to religious and spiritual institutions and products. In a world with increasingly permeable boundaries in which people are mixing, blending, bending and switching identities and are using resources wherever they come from to help them flourish, religions will need to make their applications and services (their wisdom, traditions, and practices) available across any creedal, theological, or communal boundaries and their product must be platform agnostic. To the extent they believe in their product, religions will increasingly, just like big and powerful Microsoft, be loosening control of their traditions.

We are in for some serious changes in how religion functions, which will surely make religious authorities tense. But most interesting is that people will have permission and more access to use religious “technologies” wherever, however, and with whomever they want. Religion to be successful in this age will need to become “agnostic”. This should stimulate much needed disruptive spiritual innovation.

As seen originally on The Wisdom Daily

The Disruptor Foundation Fellows


The Disruptor Foundation Fellows are a self-defining, self-organizing community of accomplished and promising innovators, applying transdisciplinary approaches in their work and daily lives to further the study and application of disruptive innovation. There are no requirements and no obligations other than to be part of an interesting community of creative “solutionaries” across domains. Mission is to go forth and multiply.

The Inaugural Class of DF Fellows Includes:

ALEC ROSS – Disruptor Foundation Senior Fellow, Former Senior Advisor for Innovation, U.S. State Dept.
ARYEH B. BOURKOFF – Founder and CEO, LionTree LLC
ADAM BRAUN – Founder, Pencils of Promise
SCOOTER BRAUN – Music Manager and Entrepreneur
DAVID BURSTEIN – Founder, Generation 18
GARRETT CAMP – Founder, Uber and StumbleUpon
IDIT HAREL CAPERTON – Founder and President, World Wide Workshop
ROBIN CHAN – Serial Entrepreneur
EUGENE CHUNG – Investor and Filmmaker
VIN CIPPOLA – President, Municipal Art Society of New York
CLARA DEL VILLAR - Founder and CEO, Hispanic Post
KENZO DIGITAL – Director/Artist
ANITA ELBERSE - Professor, Harvard Business School
HUGH EVANS – Founder and CEO, Global Poverty Project
TIFFANY GABBAY - Consultant, Quidlibet Research Inc.
DR. KEN GABRIEL – Motorola Mobility and Former Deputy Director, DARPA
DAVE GILBOA – Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker
KEN GOLDBERG – Artist and Professor of Robotics, UC Berkeley
SOL GUY – Explorer and Social Entrepreneur
MATTHEW HILTZIK- Founder, H Strategies
DAVID HOFFMAN – Filmmaker, Photographer, Story Teller
NORMA KAMALI – Designer and Wellness Advocate
JONATHAN KEIDAN – Co-Founder, InsideHook
DAVID KEYES – Executive Director, Advancing Human Rights
TOM KUHN – Managing Member, Doorbrook LLC
STEPHANIE LACAVA – Author and Journalist
LINDON LEADER – Graphic Designer
MICHAEL LEVINE – Executive Director, Joan Ganz Cooney Center
ZACHARY LIBERMAN – Founder, College-100
MAX LUGAVERE – Filmmaker, Web Personality
PETER McGUINNESS – Chief Marketing & Brand Officer, Chobani
JESSICA MALKIN – Executive Director, Chicago Ideas Week
LUIS MEJIA – Stanford Office of Technology Licensing
CRAIG MINASSIAN – Director of Communications, Clinton Global Initiative
ALEX MOAZED – President and CEO, ApplicoMobile
BLAKE MYCOSKIE – Founder and Chief Shoe Giver, Toms Shoes
JOHN OSBORN – President and CEO, BBDO New York
ALAN PATRICOF – Founder, Greycroft Partners
BEN PARR – Co-Founder, Dominate Fund
PAMELA QUANRUD – Regional Energy Counselor for Africa, U.S. Department of State
TOM ROGERS – President & CEO, TiVo
LISA ROBINSON – Author of her memoir, “There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll” and Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair
RICK RUBIN – Legendary Record Producer
RESHMA SAUJANI – Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
MARC SCHILLER – Founder, Bond Strategy and Influence
NAVEEN SELVADURAI – Co-Founder, Foursquare
MIA SHAW – Health Commissioner, City of Berkeley
KEVIN SHEEKEY – Chairman, Bloomberg Government
TIFFANY SHLAIN – Filmmaker and Founder of The Webby Awards
ANDREW SIEGEL – Advance Publications
JASON SILVA – Media Artist
BRIAN SIRGUTZ – The Huffington Post, Social Impact
MARNI SOMMER, DrPH – Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
EVAN SPIEGEL – Co-Founder and CEO, Snapchat
MATTHEW STEPKA – VP Social Impact,
RACHEL STERNE HAOT – Chief Digital Officer, New York City
JAMES STEYER – Common Sense Media
THOMAS SUAREZ – App Creator and Founder of CarrotCorp, Inc.
A. ALFRED TAUBMAN – Founder, Taubman Centers, Inc.
SAUMITRA THAKUR – President, College-100
ANTOINE F. THEYSSET – SVP for Corporate Development, Amplify
ONDI TIMONER – Filmmaker
GARY VAYNERCHUCK – Entrepreneur and CEO, VaynerMedia
RACHEL WEISS – VP, Digital Innovation, Content and New Ventures, L’Oréal
DR. WAYNE WINNICK – Sports Injury and Post Operative Specialist of the knee and hip
SUE WOODWARD – City of Manchester and The Sharp Project
RUS YUSUPOV – Co-Founder, Vine

Water Wisdom, by Disruptor Foundation co-founder Irwin Kula

By Irwin Kula, co-founder of the Disruptor Foundation


Here is innovation at its best – a billboard that generates water from nothing but thin air in a place where water shortage is one of the biggest problems. Innovation arises when passion and purpose come together, when people collaborate across different domains and expertise,  when different technologies are combined and when imagination meets a genuine problem that needs to be solved.

Here, advertising, engineering, and science come together – with perhaps the most distinguishing quality in innovations that matter: empathy.

As seen originally on The Wisdom Daily 

Jay Walker — Lifetime Achievement Award

Jay Walker is the founder and chairman of LabTV, an innovative new video platform designed to encourage millions of America’s best and brightest students to consider becoming medical scientists. A serial entrepreneur and business leader, Jay has founded three companies that serve more than 50 million customers each. Best known as the creator of Priceline, he is the world’s 11th most patented living inventor, named on more than 700 U.S. patents that describe business solutions across a dozen industries.

Jay is also curator and chairman of TEDMED, the health and medicine edition of the famous TED conference. In addition, he chairs Patent Properties, Inc., a public company that is creating a simple and affordable new way to diffuse innovation through America’s economy.

A noted expert on imagination, Mr. Walker created and curates one of the world’s great private libraries:  The Library of The History of Human Imagination.  Filled with books, manuscripts, historical artifacts and treasures of all kinds, especially in the field of medicine, the facility was described by Wired magazine as “the most amazing library in the world.”


Twitter – @JayWalker1955
Facebook – LabTV   TEDMED
Websites – 


Sputnik & David Hoffman

Dh Photo 1

On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, humankind’s first artificial satellite.  This 184 lb. round ball of metal triggered a response in the United States which is now called The Sputnik Moment — a period of several years that began a scientific, political and cultural transformation in America and was the beginning of a Space Race.

David Hoffman, The Sputnik Moment’s “unofficial historian,” will be accepting for himself and on behalf of the many individuals who worked on Sputnik and all human technological endeavors since.

David Hoffman has been innovative in a number of different professions and disruptive in every one of them. A 50 year veteran documentary filmmaker producing 178 television shows and series mostly for PBS, strategic communications consultant to corporations like AT&T, UTC, Google, Amazon, and GE among others, a startup guy founding 3 businesses, music producer, publisher of 17 books, greeting card creator, Chief Communications Officer (CCO) to several dozen startups, and currently executive producer of Jay Walker’s LabTV. Hoffman lives and works in Santa Cruz California and continues to produce films–“one man band moviemaking” as he calls it, currently using extremely portable equipment as the photograph above indicates.

Sputnik, pictured in Jay Walker's Library of The History of Human Imagination

Sputnik, pictured in Jay Walker’s Library of The History of Human Imagination

Among Hoffman’s 5 documentary feature films, is Sputnik Mania (2009) and its spinoff, the one-hour documentary The Sputnik Moment. In creating this film, Hoffman spent more than a year uncovering the profound changes that took place in America within the 18 months after the Soviets launched Sputnik.

sputnik mania poster 3Sputnik Mania Poster


Related Links:

David Hoffman – Website

David Hoffman Launches Sputnik At TED

How to See The Complete Feature Documentary: Sputnik Mania

How to Get The 1-hour Documentary: The Sputnik Moment

Social Media:

Facebook – David Hoffman
Twitter – @davidhoffmanca

Adam Braun


Adam Braun is a New York Times bestselling author and the Founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has built on more than 200 schools around the world. He began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling abroad he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked him what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, “a pencil.”

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave Bain & Company several years later to start with just $25 on his twenty-fifth birthday. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, he meshed for-profit business acumen with non-profit idealism and in doing so led PoP to be named, “2013 Education Organization of the Year” at a showcase held at the United Nations. His book The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list and explains the guiding steps for any person to discover a life of success and significance.

Twitter – @AdamBraun
Facebook – Pencils of Promise
Websites – &


Yael Cohen

Yael Cohen is the founder, president and CEO of Fuck Cancer, a cancer education organization aiming to activate Gen-Y to engage with their parents about early detection, preventative lifestyles and communication around cancer. Yael launched Fuck Cancer in 2009 after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to marshal strength for her mom, Yael decided to use the “F” word to fight the “C” word.

Yael herself serves as an advocate for a range of health and health care issues and through her work with Fuck Cancer, she is changing the way people talk about cancer by creating a human, authentic movement. Now at four years old, Fuck Cancer creates unique tools and campaigns that people can relate to, using technology, humor, and celebrities to enable their community to engage with cancer on a different level.

Yael is not only versed in health care issues, but has also become a recognized leader in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. As ELLE reports, Yael is “harnessing her generation’s secret weapon – social media – by building an online community for friends and family…’We are the first generation with the technology to change the whole world.’”

In 2011, Yael was named one of the “12 people who are transforming philanthropy” by Canada’s The Globe and Mail. In 2012, Yael was named one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” featured as one of ELLE‘s “2012 Genius Award” recipients, one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women” by the Financial Post, and one of Vancouver’s “Forty Under 40″ by Business in Vancouver Magazine. Yael has also been awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and has been a featured participant in prominent events including the Summit Series (Washington, D.C. and Miami), the Clinton Global Initiative, Big Omaha, TEDWomen, TEDx Vancouver, the United Nations Nexus Conference, and TEDMED.

Twitter @yael & @letsfcancer
Facebook – Fuck Cancer
Website –

Constitute Project

Google Ideas worked with the Comparative Constitutions Project to build Constitute with the goal of making the world’s constitutions searchable so people can easily find and compare specific constitutional material. This ranges from the fairly general, such as “Citizenship” and “Foreign Policy,” to the very specific, such as “Suffrage and turnouts” and “Judicial Autonomy and Power.” The aim is to arm drafters with a better tool for constitution design and writing and help citizens learn more about their own constitutions, and those of countries around the world.
Google Ideas project page – Constitute
Twitter - @GoogleIdeas