Josh Linkner Profile

A professional jazz guitarist at the start of his career, Josh Linkner has a passionate belief in creativity and innovation, and his career in the business world has been rooted in exploring the power of creative disruption.

Josh has been founder and CEO of four technology companies that he built from nothing to having a combined value of over $200 million. As well as having great success with his own companies he has also been involved in the launch, growth or financing of over a hundred others. He is passionate about rebuilding the fortunes of his beloved hometown of Detroit, Michigan and co-founded Detroit Venture Partners to invest in technology start-ups. He has mentored leaders and entrepreneurs and helped to raise around $150 million in venture capital.

The digital promotions agency which Josh founded and of which he is CEO, ePrize, is now the largest agency of its type in the world, working with seventy-four of the top hundred brands. He has won dozens of awards for his groundbreaking innovations in digital marketing.

In high demand for his keynote speeches, Josh not only inspires his audience but shares with them actionable strategies for success in innovation, creativity, reinvention and hyper-growth leadership. In his keynotes, he draws on material from his two New York Times bestsellers, Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity and The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation.

Josh has twice been named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young and has also been given the President Obama Champion of Change Award. He appears weekly in Inc. Magazine, Forbes andthe Detroit Free Press.

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio

    To Josh Linkner, creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of all human progress. As such, he’s spent his career harnessing the power of creative disruption.

    His journey has been non-traditional at every step. As the founder and CEO of four tech companies, Josh built his businesses from a blank page into a combined value of over $200 million. As a hyper-growth CEO of over 20 years, he’s used innovative approaches to topple competitors, fight through adversity, and achieve at the highest levels.

    In addition to his own startups, Josh has been involved with the launch, growth, or financing of over 100 other companies. He’s helped raise over $150 million of venture capital, and has mentored leaders and entrepreneurs through the struggles of explosive growth. He is the founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners, investing in tech startups as a platform to help rebuild his beloved hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

    As the founder and CEO of ePrize, Josh built the largest digital promotions agency in the world, serving 74 of the top 100 brands. Working with many of the most progressive CMO’s in the world, he is a pioneer in digital marketing, winning dozens of awards for groundbreaking innovation at the intersection of technology and advertising.

    Josh is an internationally-recognized thought leader and top-rated keynote speaker on innovation, creativity, reinvention, and hyper-growth leadership. His keynotes are focused on not only inspiring audiences, but also sharing actionable strategies to drive meaningful outcomes. Josh has written two New York Times bestselling books – Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity and The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation.

    Beginning his career as a professional jazz guitarist, Josh brings the same love for improvisation and creative expression to everything he does. He is a weekly contributor to Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and the Detroit Free Press. He has twice been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and is a President Obama Champion of Change Award recipient.

    Josh is on a mission to help people and organizations unleash creativity to maximize full potential. And yes, he still plays a mean jazz guitar.

Josh Linkner Speaking Videos

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Josh Linkner's Speech Descriptions

Josh Linkner brings his vast experience of applying creativity and innovation to the marketplace to his keynote speeches. He demonstrates how, in a world where previous business models are falling before the advance of creatives with nothing more than a broadband connection, existing businesses need to access their creativity.

With a mixture of inspiration and concrete strategies, Josh explains how you can create a culture of creativity within your firm and reap the benefits. A former professional jazz musician, Josh shows how successful creative teams must improvise and harmonize together for the most effective creative outcomes.

Josh is a dynamic and energizing speaker who uses insight, humor, stories, and a lot of caffeine to inspire audiences. He focuses on creative strategies to take your business (and your life) to the next level. On a limited basis, Josh is available for keynote speeches, consulting, workshops, and coaching. He helps businesses and leaders ignite their creativity while directing that energy toward tangible results. Specific business applications include:

  • New Product Innovation
  • Building and Leading Creative Cultures
  • Creative Approaches to Sales and Marketing
  • Crafting Differentiated Competitive Strategy
  • Expanding Into New Markets
  • Unorthodox Problem Solving
  • Applying Creativity to Startups and High-Growth Companies

    Disciplined Dreaming:
    A Five Step System for Business Creativity

    Competitive advantage in the marketplace used to be defended with complex supply chains, high cost of entry, and technological advances. Now, your business can be supplanted overnight by someone with a broadband connection and an idea. How are you re-tooling your organization for creativity? In this interactive talk, Josh shows participants how to jump-start their creativity for business advantage. Attendees will learn specific techniques to protect themselves from the competition, create new products, and expand marketshare.

    Building a Creative Culture
    Building a culture that fosters creativity and innovation is mission critical in today’s ultra-competitive environment. In this high-energy and interactive keynote, you will learn how to tap your people’s hidden brainpower. Help your team get unstuck by breaking free from myths and barriers to unleash their true creative potential. Learn to establish an ongoing system to nurture and harvest your team’s best ideas.

    Is Innovation the Cure for the Economic Downturn?
    Most innovations fail because they are not truly innovative – they make an existing product slightly smaller, faster, or less expensive. Real innovations turn industries and marketplaces upside down – like the cell phone or the iPod. Can your company innovate it’s way to success even during difficult economic times? In this talk, Josh offers a road map for organizations to get to successful, game-changing innovations. Takeaways include how to trap the competition, how to increase your rate of innovation, and how to invent new products that cannot easily be copied in the marketplace.

    Leadership in the Age of Creativity
    Leaders today need to be able to understand the needs and dreams of a wildly diverse employee population, each with its own particular ways of working, deriving motivation from very different parts of the work experience. On top of that, the marketplace can shift at bewildering speed as a college kid in a dorm room can invent a new business that renders yours irrelevant in a matter of a few months. How do you guide an organization into such an uncertain future with such a varied crew? Josh’s talk explores the new rules of the road and shows leaders how to build a culture that enables maximum creative potential.

    The Music of Business
    Jazz musicians and business leaders are increasingly sharing more common ground. Both require spontaneous creativity and improvisation. Both require careful synchronization in group dynamics, while responding on the fly to changing market conditions. Both are real-time art forms that require high-quality performances under the bright lights of an audience. Adapted from the principles of jazz legends to the business world, you’ll learn how to use a specific framework and set of rules to maximize create output. Using the metaphor of a jazz combo, Josh helps audiences improve their creativity, risk tolerance, and adaptability in this highly engaging and unique presentation.

  • Josh Linkner on Speaking

    I provide a systematic approach, simple framework and a set of tools that can be used immediately to drive meaningful outcomes.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?

    LINKNER: I want people to understand the mission-critical nature of prioritizing innovation. At the same time, I provide a systematic approach, simple framework and a set of tools that can be used immediately to drive meaningful outcomes. I work hard to strike the right balance between being highly energizing and motivating, while at the same time providing real depth and practical strategies so audiences leave both fired up and with a specific new way of approaching their work.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How to you prepare for your speaking engagements?

    LINKNER: I always have at least one kick-off call, sometimes many more. I do in-depth research on the organization, audience, industry, and competition. I’ve never given the same talk twice. Instead, I custom-craft my presentations to leave the biggest possible impact. I include fresh stories from the host’s industry, as well as perspective from both my research and also experience as a tech entrepreneur.

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

    LINKNER: About 15% of the time, I incorporate live jazz in my events as a living metaphor for innovation. I began my career as a jazz guitarist, and whether or not you like listening to jazz, it is an incredible teaching ground for innovation and creativity. To bring this to life, I hire other jazz musicians from the local market where my speech is, and then invite the audience to become “honorary jazz musicians” for the session. Not only do they listen, but for the finale I invite the audience to compose as jazz song and then several audience members come join me on stage to perform it (I supply percussion instruments). The whole event is memorable, engaging, and energizing. I’ve done this in many places – from Las Vegas to Cali, Columbia to DesMoines, Iowa – with tremendous success.

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    LINKNER: The message of creative approaches to challenges of all sizes resonates with many audiences. I’d had wonderful feedback from large organizations such as IBM, Coke, J&J, and Ford as well as associations of all shapes and sizes.

    Since I have extensive experience in working with entrepreneurs and hyper-growth companies, I always love working with emerging companies as well. While my message spans industries, the best fit for me are leaders that are serious about taking their results to the next level and who are not afraid to challenge the status quo. Those that want to coast are not the best fit, since I energize and arm audiences with a fresh, entrepreneurial, innovative approach to drive their companies and careers.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to become a speaker?

    LINKNER: I love making a difference. The real reward for me isn’t the standing ovation (although, that is awesome and makes me feel good that I connected with an audience). The real reward is the emails I get six months later, telling me how I made a meaningful difference in people’s lives. When I hear how an organization has enjoyed 20% growth from a specific perspective I shared, or how a person went on to try something new and is now flourishing with a new product or service… THAT is the real reward.

    I am very passionate about the craft, and study it religiously. The only reason to give a speech is to change the world, so speaking is my vehicle to drive positive change in the world.

    I use PREZI which makes captivating visual transitions, and I use gorgeous professional images, quick video clips, humor, story-telling, and big, memorable ideas to reinforce the message. Audiences are both educated and entertained.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote topics are the most popular?

    LINKNER: While I list several topics on my site, I generally customize each talk for a specific audience. I love speaking about innovation, entrepreneurial fire, and innovation approaches to leadership.

    My presentations are unique in that I never use a single bullet point. I use PREZI which makes captivating visual transitions, and I use gorgeous professional images, quick video clips, humor, story-telling, and big, memorable ideas to reinforce the message. Audiences are both educated and entertained. My talks are fast-moving, fun, interactive, energizing, and at the same time, rich with substance and real-world context.

    What I enjoy most is connecting with audiences at an emotional level and helping them shift their thinking about approaches to drive better outcomes. I love entertaining, but love results far more. Audiences are leaning forward and engaged the entire time, and also walk away with new tools, approaches, and frameworks to enable their success. Fun and energizing meets practical and productive.

    SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients make?

    LINKNER: Big jumps in top-line sales. New product/service launches. Transforming a culture from autocratic to progressive. Helping to streamline processes, improve morale, and even reduce error rates. Innovation is a powerful weapon that can be aimed at just about any business problem and, when focused, drive meaningful results.

    SPEAKING.COM: What other projects are you currently working on?

    LINKNER: I’m in the process of writing my third book. Also, I invest in tech startups in Detroit. I do this not only to make money, but more importantly to make a difference. By backing passionate entrepreneurs, we’re driving real social change in our troubled city.

    I’ve been involved in the launch and/or financing of over 100 startups over the last 20 years, and I love helping people create something out of nothing. I also just launched a new concept to disrupt the stale world of leadership development ( I continue to write weekly for Forbes, the Detroit Free Press, and Inc. Magazine. Also, I truly love the craft of speaking and look forward to continuing to deliver 65-70 keynotes each year. Exclusive Interview with Josh Linkner
    Fostering a Culture of Creativity with Josh Linkner
    In this compelling interview, Josh discusses:

    • Opportunities for building creative cultures.
    • Creativity trends.
    • Tips for fostering a culture of creativity. Read the Full Interview

    "The single biggest blocker of creativity isn't natural talent, it's fear."
    - Josh Linkner

    What People are Saying about Seeing Josh Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Josh Linkner, CEO of ePrize, is a tremendous business leader who has established a successful and sustainable company, as well as a culture that nurtures employees to help them maximize their potential.”

    -Hon. Jennifer M. Granholm Governor, State of Michigan

    “Thank you for today. It was inspirational, unrestricting, and energetic. It was one of the best days I’ve had out of the office. Your energy is contagious and my creative thinking was uninhibited.”

    -David Riemer, Sr. Marketing Manager, Kmart

    “Josh Linkner’s keynote presentation was truly inspiring and one of the main highlights of our conference.”

    -Tel K. Ganesan, President, TiE Con

    “Josh’s energy, enthusiasm and love for what he does really shines through. He also puts the right balance of simple, concise messages with humor. Yet at the same time you know he is serious by the examples of what he does with his own business. The presentation and content were both a ‘10’.”

    -Lisa K Miller, VP Events, MEDC

    “Josh’s presentation, was defiantly a 10: interesting, informative and deeply inspirational. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many participants said that they left energized and motivated to make fun changes to improve creativity in their own lives and in their work place”

    -Rob Pasick, Ph.D, Founder & CEO, LeadersConnect

    “Josh’s presentation provided inspiration and a powerful reminder to our team that problems can be solved and good ideas made great through the use of creative thinking. We are incorporating his ideas into our daily activities and thoroughly enjoyed his use of humor to engage our team. Josh is an excellent presenter.”

    -Karen Davis, Executive Director, Make-A-Wish Foundation

    “Josh Linkner’s message – that creativity is the most important organizational competency in the 21st century – compels and informs at the same time. With an engaging mix of data, anecdotes, and field-tested techniques, Josh outlines the innovation landscape and then reveals proven techniques for building and sustaining a creative culture.”

    -Samuel Gerace, Chief Executive Officer, Veritix

    “I’ve attended so many speeches throughout the years, and found Josh’s presentation to be one of the best – if not the best – I’ve ever seen! Josh conveyed a serious message in a lighthearted and entertaining manner, with plenty of practical, useful information. His polished delivery and use of visuals, including laugh-out-loud video clips, gave the audience so much more than just “a talking head.” Great stuff!”

    -Jonathan Liebman, Chairman/CEO, Specs Howard School of Media Arts, Inc.

    “Josh’s presentation was one that made you watch, listen and learn and is a clear example of when you connect with people – they can gain insight and knowledge that will help open doors to new opportunities.”

    -Nathan Forbes, Managing Partner, The Forbes Company

    “When Josh Linkner was presenting to our group you can just feel his talent and passion. The energy of the diverse audience was completely engaged as Josh clearly and thoughtfully delivered his message about creativity and innovation. Josh’s presentation was easily one of the best I have ever heard.”

    -Danny Ferry, General Manager, Cleveland Cavaliers

    “The message about creativity and innovation was excellent. It was clear, well researched, engaging and kept the attention of the audience. Your use of stories, facts and humor made the time fly by. I had several people come up to me afterword and thank me for having you come in and speak to the group. They were energized and excited to put the principles in play.”

    -Bill Emerson, CEO, Quicken Loans

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