The 2 best talks from last night's 5x10 Talks - Brooklyn


Feb. 24, 2016 12:36 pm

The 2 best talks from last night’s 5×10 Talks

Let's have a round of applause for Donnel Baird and Alex Blumberg.

Alex Blumberg says podcasts are about to pop off.

(Photo by Tyler Woods)

Ideas flew Tuesday night at the third annual 5×10 Talks, hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. The idea is to bring in five people doing innovative work and give them 10 minutes each to answer the question, “What’s next?”

The presenters spanned sectors, but two in particular spoke to the tech world.

The energy future of Brooklyn is green

The best presenter of the night was Donnel Baird, cofounder of the clean energy company Bloc Power.

Bloc Power’s goal is to make Brooklyn more energy efficient and provide jobs to Brooklynites who need them most. Baird’s personal story provides the impetus for his work. He grew up in a one-bedroom Bedford-Stuyvesant home with very poor heat. He recalled how his mom would have to open the stove and crack open a window to get warmth circulating around the room.

And he remembered looking up at the high-rise public housing projects and seeing the windows all open in the middle of winter because the heat was on too high. And a lot of the people in those projects were soon to be incarcerated or had come out of prison. In one 17-block stretch of Brownsville, Baird said, the government was spending $1 million per block to lock people up. There had to be a better way.

So he started Bloc Power. The company aims to match financing from public-minded investors with energy-inefficient buildings in Brownsville. If a community group or church or charter school could save a lot of money on energy but doesn’t have the capital to get it done, Bloc Power will front the money and the savings in energy costs will go back to the investors until the capital is paid off.


“Our governor suggested that instead of continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure that Brooklyn become entirely green,” Baird said last night. “Not many folks know about this but that’s what’s next. We’re partnering with the Mayor’s office, Governor’s office, and financiers on Wall Street to hire ex-offenders to green their own buildings.”

The dawn of a golden age of audio

The world of digital media is in for a change from an old technology, Gimlet Media’s Alex Blumberg said.

“We are on the dawn of the next golden age of audio,” Blumberg said. “It’s the thing that happened in TV seven or eight years ago where everyone got a DVR and TV changed. It doesn’t have to be a quick thing every week, it can be these long, drawn-out serialized dramas and comedies. The same thing is happening with audio.”

Blumberg started his career with This American Life, where he spent 10 years before starting the popular podcast Planet Money. In 2014 he left and started his own podcast company, Gimlet Media, which publishes the popular Reply All podcast, in addition to numerous others.

Tyler Woods

Tyler Woods is the lead reporter for Brooklyn. His work has previously appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, CT Financial News and the New Canaan News. There's little he loves more than great tweets on


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