Home » Kyle MacDonald: What If You Could Trade a Paperclip For a House? at TEDxVienna (Transcript)

Kyle MacDonald: What If You Could Trade a Paperclip For a House? at TEDxVienna (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of ‘One red paperclip’ creator Kyle MacDonald’s TEDx presentation: What If You Could Trade a Paperclip For a House? at TEDxVienna Conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: What if you could trade a paperclip for a house by Kyle MacDonald at TEDxVienna

Kyle MacDonald – Author of One Red Paperclip

My name is Kyle. I’m the Red Paperclip guy. But before I get started on that story, I want to draw attention to this slide behind me: on the beginning of every TED video out there, what it’s called the screenshot that precedes the video there everyone standing like this, all of them. So we would demand more from TED, post comments online poking fun at this, we need better screenshots for these videos. We can make a better world of TED with better screenshots.

On to the paperclip though, this kind of crazy idea I had when I was about 10 years ago, I was looking down at my desk and I saw a red paperclip sitting there. And I said you know what I remember this game called Bigger and Better where you start with something small and you trade it for something bigger and then you repeat. I wondered what would happen if I took this red paperclip and tried to trade it. So I posted a picture of that red paperclip on a website called craigslist and two girls named Ronnie and Karina responded and said, “Hey, that’s pretty cool! We’d like to trade with you. We got a pen shaped like a fish.” I was really excited. This is a cool pen. This is bigger and better than a red paperclip, how far can I go with this idea.

Anybody want a pen shaped like a fish? “Absolutely. My name is Annie and I’ve got a door knob with a crazy face on it.” Two trades in, I’ve already gone way up from a paperclip and I was thinking like how far can I go with this? Maybe I can keep going until like one day own a house or something from this.

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Shawn says, “Come down to my place I’ll cook your burgers and I’ll trade you my camping stove for that door knob because I need it to fix the knob on my stovetop espresso maker. We’re moving assets — moving liabilities into assets were creating value, were improving each other’s lives, albeit on a small scale. But the Sergeant David J of the US Marine Corps, he said, “I’ve been looking for that exact model of camping stove and I’ve got extra generators; would you like an electric generator?” And to me this was a dream come true: an electric generator finally my teenage dreams of being able to create power were realizing.

Unfortunately, most people on the internet didn’t suffer from a blackout, they didn’t need power. So my trading in for bigger and better things that I thought had value turned into a liability and it took me several weeks to be able to trade this. But I actually found another person just recently out of his teenage years who did want to create power of this generator and his name is Martin and he was in New York City and he says, “Look, I’ve got an empty beer keg, I’ll trade you an IOU to fill the keg of beer and a neon with Budweiser sign, and what do you say?” So I met up with him, we made the trade and here’s us showing all parts of the trade work.

I rebranded the mishmash of IOU beer keg and the Budweiser sign and called it an instant party. Does anybody out there want to party? “My name is Michel Brett, I’m a famous radio and TV personality in the province of Quebec and I want to make a trade with you.”

“Absolutely! Michel, what do you have to trade?”

“I’ll trade you my worst snowmobile.” I was intrigued just by the idea of somebody’s worst snowmobile, and implied that he had not only had more than one snowmobile, but he was kind of cheeky and willing to prove to me that ‘you know I’ve got better ones but I’ll trade you my worst’. I was really happy to trade with him, he was a great guy and it was a pretty nice snowmobile. Seeing how is the middle of winter in Canada and it was very cold and it was the kind of thing where a snowmobile at that time of year had more value than in the summer, a snowmobile magazine called SnoRiders West called me up and said, “Hey, we would like to offer you two trips for two to the Canadian Rockies in exchange for that snowmobile. It will probably give our magazine some publicity” and who doesn’t want to go to the Rockies at this time of the year? I said yes and I said, ‘All right. What’s the catch?” And they said, “The catch is you can come to the Rockies you can’t come to the town of Yak in British Columbia.” And I said, “All right. Well I got to find a loophole around this.”

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We decided to kind of blackmail a national news organization, it’s a really long story but what ended up happening was I got on TV wearing the logo for the shirt I was wearing, it was called Cintas, the uniform company and it was just sort of an inside joke my cousin’s husband had given me this shirt and even longer story to explain the whole thing, however the head honcho of that company saw me on TV with his corporate uniform on, and said, ‘Wait a second. This is a huge liability to me, but it’s also an opportunity’ And we met up one night, he says, ‘I’d like to make you a trade. What do you say?’ And I am like I think that’s the perfect way we can work together without selling our souls to the corporate ownership devil, and he said great, let’s meet up.

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