Begun in 1999 in The Netherlands by Peter and Nelleke Van Lindonk, the annual PINC (People. Ideas. Nature. Creativity.) conference has grown into a yearly celebration for the inquisitive and forward-thinking, the passionate and the bold, bringing speakers from around the world to open their hearts and minds to the audience. The conference has found a new home in Sarasota these past few years, and, under the leadership of Sarasota-based entrepreneur Anand Pallegar and the atLarge team, seems poised to spread even farther, with plans for PINC Detroit in the next year and opportunities beyond. SRQ sat with Lindonk and Pallegar to discuss PINC’s past, present and plans for the future. 

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Why did you want to take the reins?   ANAND PALLEGAR: To bring a new chapter to it. At that point it was 17 years [Nelleke] had been putting on PINC in the Netherlands in Zeist. And we had brought a lot of new ideas to the table and just a different approach. The American audience is very different than the Dutch audience. In 2015, it was a very Dutch-themed PINC, just a lot of Dutch speakers. It was very much a mirror to what the European PINC is like. And some of the feedback we heard was that it wasn’t necessarily addressing the audience needs of our community. So what we did is pivot it a little bit. 

Pivot local?  I’m a big believer that you get the best ideas from the outside. I often find great ideas traveling or visiting other places. PINC becomes this day that you get to bring 16 global perspectives of different origins, backgrounds, theories, whatever it might be, to our stage. The key is how do you connect those ideas to our community? And that was the missing linkage that is very important to Sarasotans and to this community—how are these speakers relevant to what we’re doing, dealing with, looking at, and how does it move our community forward.

How do you build that bridge?  We know organizations; we know issues; we know topical things that are relevant to this community. And so the question is who’s doing something really interesting or forward-thinking in that particular space or arena, and how do we connect the dots for them to see the value in coming and sharing that story here at PINC. At the end of the day, the premise of PINC is to create a day of inspiration and wonder for people.

What does wonder do for a community?    You leave the day different than the person you were when you walked in. And I think if more people in the community experienced that, it moves the community forward in ways that were not envision-able previously. That’s what it’s about. What inspires me may not inspire you. You might have a favorite that’s different than mine, and that’s okay. But it gives this common thread that we’ve shared this experience together. Take last year for example. You heard Stefan Sagmeister talking about buildings and our architects. And if you were in the audience that day, you will never look at another building in the same way.

Then why cap the audience?   In the Netherlands they were capped by the size of the venue, here we’re capped by choice. We made a conscious decision here not to go over a certain amount of attendees. The opera house can hold 1200 people; we will cap it at 450-60ish because the intimacy in the ability for you to connect with a speaker is a critical part of the day of PINC. If there were 1200 people, you’d never meet anyone. And that’s part of the invisible contract that we have with people that we put on that stage—there’s an expectation that they’re going to stick around and actually get to know our community. They might come back. I know Reuben Margolin, the kinetic sculptor, got asked by a number of people to consider doing a sculpture here. 

Can PINC be in any town or does there need to be some sort of fertile ground? What makes Sarasota unique is that you’ve got incredibly bright people who have retired here, who are still working here, who are a piece of this community. You’ve got a desire, a thirst, for knowledge, for constant growth, adaptation, development. In some ways you’ve got a well-traveled audience because everyone’s a transplant. And so you’ve got this kind of ecosystem of an appetite or a desire to learn combined to an openness to ideas from the outside. And an appreciation for passion. That’s really what that stage delivers—a bunch of passionate people who are really in tune with what they do and inspire others to maybe follow them in that path.

What would like to see from the next 20 years of PINC?   What I would personally want to see is PINC start to become a more globally recognized name, because we start to introduce it into communities that will embrace it, foster it and grow with it. Next year we’re aiming to be in Detroit. In 2020, we’re gonna do PINC 20, the 20th PINC, in the Netherlands. It would be an honor to continue this legacy for another 20 years. What that looks like, I don’t know, it’s really up to the communities that embrace and support it.

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Chat With Nelleke

Where did the idea for PINC come from? Nelleke Von Lindonk: My husband went to TED in California. And then he called me immediately after and he said “This is amazing.” Because this is the first horizontal conference. Not only dentists or doctors or whatever. So we went four or five times together. And then we asked Richard Herman, “Can we do a TED in the Netherlands?” And he said, “No way, do it yourself.”  Was that a hard sell? Because of our publishing house, we had very good connections with many companies. So my husband went to sixty companies and he told them about the conference. They were excited. From the sixty, fifty-nine bought the tickets. Then with those names, he went to sponsors. And he says, these people are coming, so you better sponsor. How did you find Sarasota from all the way in the Netherlands?  We have an author working for the publishing house, and he lives in the Netherlands and in Venice. And then one day he said, “Well, I am not in the Netherlands, so if you want to discuss the manuscript for the book, come to my place.” So we went to Venice, and we stayed in Sarasota and we really loved it there. Every holiday, we returned. And then we met Anand—I think Anand was the host at TED Sarasota, and my husband went.  How did it feel to pass the torch?   It’s very strange.  I hope to stay involved in finding speakers and the creative part. I am not a businesswoman, so that part was very hard for me to do on my own. I’m glad Anand can see what we are going to do here. Your favorite memories of PINC?    Meeting so many amazing people. There was a guy who harvested ice in Newfoundland, and made the best water of it. We had once a boy—he was twelve; he’s passed away now—and he was blind because of cancer in his eyes. If he did this like a dolphin, click click click click click, then he could see. And that boy was amazing. His positivity was amazing. And he got a standing ovation at the end. I hope we can keep finding speakers who are speaking from the heart, and not speakers who come in, do their talk, get a bottle of wine and go. You build a real community.