Nazanine Matin

Nazanine Matin. Photos: Nancy Heslin

In the summer of 1978, Nazanine Matin visited Monaco for the first time. At only 18 months old, it would be the beginning of a long relationship with a country she would eventually call home in 2014. “My uncle had moved to Monaco and we spent a lot of time here and with him over the years,” says the founder of TEDxMonteCarlo.

Nazanine has a soft spot for the Monaco of yesteryear, with tales of the Beach Club or early days of Sea Lounge, but not all of these are for print! “I remember one evening after the Red Cross Gala, we went to Jimmy’z and in one corner you had now President Trump and Melania and in the other, Ivana and her then Italian boyfriend. Meanwhile Jean-Claude Van Damme was in a white suit doing splits on the dance floor! It was quite a scene and memories I’ll never forget, especially as I was a huge Jean-Claude Van Damme fan and had seen every one of his movies!”

Born in Tehran, Nazanine moved to the South of France due to the Iranian Revolution and she attended boarding school in Switzerland from the age of five. “I enjoy connecting people, connecting passions and maybe this comes from me going to boarding school, where we were always with other children and we had to give back and help.”

In 1989, her family moved to Toronto, where the 13-year-old went into a French Immersion program. “On my first day of school, we walked into my homeroom – I didn’t know that concept as we didn’t have homerooms in the French system – and the teacher was talking. I turned to my dad and asked him what language she was speaking. I didn’t understand her French Canadian and the students made fun of my accent, too. It was quite interesting,” recalls Nazanine, who describes herself as a “troublemaker” growing up.

Although she is a trained Mechanical Engineer from U.C. Berkeley and worked in Bioengineering, Information Technology, Logistics, and Finance, most people know Nazanine as the inspired woman who brought TEDx, the independently planned and non-profit TED-like talks to Monaco in 2014.

This was no easy feat, amongst a long To-Do List, she had to get licensed by TED to host more than 100 people, find speakers, build a team of volunteers and find a venue, which is not cheap in Monaco. Finding sponsors was also a huge hurdle as the TEDxMonteCarlo budget was “ten times more than my friend’s budget in London for the same number of speakers and attendees.”

A determined and resourceful Nazanine pulled it off. In 2014, she put on TEDxIUM (she obtained an MBA in Luxury Management at the International University of Monaco). She then held TEDxMonteCarlo events at the Grimaldi Forum in 2016 and 2017, with five smaller session Salons the following year.

“After that, I was exhausted,” Nazanine confesses, “mainly from fundraising. As a team, we thought that every two years would be better for the big flagship event. In 2019, we didn’t raise enough funds so we had to postpone to 2020. Then lockdown happened.”

To keep the community engaged and connected during confinement Nazanine and her team organized fiver free TEDxMonteCarlo vitural Salons, with up to 100 attendees. And this coming Saturday is the team’s first Women flagship event, TEDxMonteCarloWomen to showcase the TEDWomen 2020 Fearless pre-recorded TED talks and drive discussions. The event will be virtual and will address global and local topics.

“TEDxMonteCarloWomen will be different as there will be a lot of time for interaction between the attendees and with our local experts on the topics we’ve selected,” she explains, adding there will be breakout sessions running in parallel with smaller groups to discuss the topics at hand and then lots of time for Q&A.

“We really want the audience to share their ideas, speak up and be fearless. Also, even though it’s labeled with “Women”, we encourage everyone and all genders to join in the conversation. All genders need to help with the change that’s required,” Nazanine encourages.

She admits that she would love to host a live event again. “The biggest challenge is raising money and balancing my full-time job with the requirements to put these events together. A one-hour virtual event takes almost 40 hours of prep work from me and the team.”

Reflecting on Covid-19, the Monaco resident says she is “very lucky” with her situation and although it has meant less business travel, she has enjoyed “great home made food and lots of time with the friends I cherish.”

“I know that there are many less fortunate than me, and I try to give back in any way I can to make it easier for them,” says Nazanine Matin. “I leave much bigger tips at restaurants, and each time I get a GoFundMe campaign or a local funding campaign for a business that might go under, I try to contribute.”

Support Nazanine and her team by signing up for the TEDxMonteCarloWomen virtual event themed Fearless on Saturday, November 28. It costs only €5 for a full day pass and you can sign in and out as you wish. This TEDx event begins with yoga or meditation and rounds off with a virtual aperitif and networking with a DJ .