The Innovators [Lecture]

Entrepreneur Donald Ian McCaw tells the Ideas West audience how he set out to reinvent the way fine art is made in the 21st century

On the morning of January 24th, 1848, James W. Marshall was walking along the South Bank of the American River in Coloma, California. As the morning sun shone on the water a distinctive glimmer caught his eye. Bending down to investigate he felt a deep pulse of excitement. Marshall knew just enough about geology to realize immediately that he had found gold - two nuggets of 23 karat gold, as it turned out – lying loose among the pebbles on the river bed. Within a year, 100,000 men from all over North America had poured into the region to do the same. The great California Gold Rush was on.

I remember reading the story of James W. Marshall as a teenager, but I didn’t appreciate its full significance at the time. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the story had sunk deep into my subconscious, leaving me with a permanently divided attention. Like James W. Marshall, I had come to believe it was possible to look at what everyone else was looking at and see what no one else could see. Now, just because you believe something is possible doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen, but eight years ago I had my own personal California Gold Rush moment. I’d like to say that it was as dramatic as Marshall’s, but it wasn’t. It was more like a random observation, and at first I had no idea what to do with it. In time, however, it became my obsession, my life’s work, and the reason I am speaking to you here today.

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