Adam Garone
750,012 views • 16:41

I think the beautiful Malin [Akerman] put it perfectly. Every man deserves the opportunity to grow a little bit of luxury.

Ladies and gentlemen, and more importantly, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas — (Laughter) — for the next 17 minutes, I'm going to share with you my Movember journey, and how, through that journey, we've redefined charity, we're redefining the way prostate cancer researchers are working together throughout the world, and I hope, through that process, that I inspire you to create something significant in your life, something significant that will go on and make this world a better place.

So the most common question I get asked, and I'm going to answer it now so I don't have to do it over drinks tonight, is how did this come about? How did Movember start? Well, normally, a charity starts with the cause, and someone that is directly affected by a cause. They then go on to create an event, and beyond that, a foundation to support that. Pretty much in every case, that's how a charity starts. Not so with Movember. Movember started in a very traditional Australian way. It was on a Sunday afternoon. I was with my brother and a mate having a few beers, and I was watching the world go by, had a few more beers, and the conversation turned to '70s fashion — (Laughter) — and how everything manages to come back into style. And a few more beers, I said, "There has to be some stuff that hasn't come back." (Laughter) Then one more beer and it was, whatever happened to the mustache? Why hasn't that made a comeback? (Laughter) So then there was a lot more beers, and then the day ended with a challenge to bring the mustache back. (Laughter)

So in Australia, "mo" is slang for mustache, so we renamed the month of November "Movember" and created some pretty basic rules, which still stand today. And they are: start the month clean-shaven, rock a mustache — not a beard, not a goatee, a mustache — for the 30 days of November, and then we agreed that we would come together at the end of the month, have a mustache-themed party, and award a prize for the best, and of course, the worst mustache. (Laughter)

Now trust me, when you're growing a mustache back in 2003, and there were 30 of us back then, and this was before the ironic hipster mustache movement — (Laughter) — it created a lot of controversy. (Laughter) So my boss wouldn't let me go and see clients. My girlfriend at the time, who's no longer my girlfriend — (Laughter) — hated it. Parents would shuffle kids away from us. (Laughter) But we came together at the end of the month and we celebrated our journey, and it was a real journey. And we had a lot of fun, and in 2004, I said to the guys, "That was so much fun. We need to legitimize this so we can get away with it year on year." (Laughter)

So we started thinking about that, and we were inspired by the women around us and all they were doing for breast cancer. And we thought, you know what, there's nothing for men's health. Why is that? Why can't we combine growing a mustache and doing something for men's health? And I started to research that topic, and discovered prostate cancer is the male equivalent of breast cancer in terms of the number of men that die from it and are diagnosed with it.

But there was nothing for this cause, so we married growing a mustache with prostate cancer, and then we created our tagline, which is, "Changing the face of men's health." And that eloquently describes the challenge, changing your appearance for the 30 days, and also the outcome that we're trying to achieve: getting men engaged in their health, having them have a better understanding about the health risks that they face.

So with that model, I then cold-called the CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I said to him, "I've got the most amazing idea that's going to transform your organization." (Laughter) And I didn't want to share with him the idea over the phone, so I convinced him to meet with me for coffee in Melbourne in 2004. And we sat down, and I shared with him my vision of getting men growing mustaches across Australia, raising awareness for this cause, and funds for his organization. And I needed a partnership to legitimately do that. And I said, "We're going to come together at the end, we're going to have a mustache-themed party, we're going to have DJs, we're going to celebrate life, and we're going to change the face of men's health." And he just looked at me and laughed, and he said, he said, "Adam, that's a really novel idea, but we're an ultraconservative organization. We can't have anything to do with you." (Laughter) So I paid for coffee that day — (Laughter) — and his parting comment as we shook hands was, "Listen, if you happen to raise any money out of this, we'll gladly take it." (Laughter)

So my lesson that year was persistence. And we persisted, and we got 450 guys growing mustaches, and together we raised 54,000 dollars, and we donated every cent of that to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and that represented at the time the single biggest donation they'd ever received.

So from that day forward, my life has become about a mustache. Every day — this morning, I wake up and go, my life is about a mustache. (Laughter) Essentially, I'm a mustache farmer. (Laughter) And my season is November. (Applause) (Applause)

So in 2005, the campaign got more momentum, was more successful in Australia and then New Zealand, and then in 2006 we came to a pivotal point. It was consuming so much of our time after hours on weekends that we thought, we either need to close this down or figure a way to fund Movember so that I could quit my job and go and spend more time in the organization and take it to the next level.

It's really interesting when you try and figure a way to fund a fundraising organization built off growing mustaches. (Laughter) Let me tell you that there's not too many people interested in investing in that, not even the Prostate Cancer Foundation, who we'd raised about 1.2 million dollars for at that stage. So again we persisted, and Foster's Brewing came to the party and gave us our first ever sponsorship, and that was enough for me to quit my job, I did consulting on the side. And leading into Movember 2006, we'd run through all the money from Foster's, we'd run through all the money I had, and essentially we had no money left, and we'd convinced all our suppliers — creative agencies, web development agencies, hosting companies, whatnot — to delay their billing until December. So we'd racked up at this stage about 600,000 dollars worth of debt. So if Movember 2006 didn't happen, the four founders, well, we would've been broke, we would've been homeless, sitting on the street with mustaches. (Laughter) But we thought, you know what, if that's the worst thing that happens, so what? We're going to have a lot of fun doing it, and it taught us the importance of taking risks and really smart risks.

Then in early 2007, a really interesting thing happened. We had Mo Bros from Canada, from the U.S., and from the U.K. emailing us and calling us and saying, hey, there's nothing for prostate cancer. Bring this campaign to these countries. So we thought, why not? Let's do it. So I cold-called the CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, and I said to him, "I have this most amazing concept." (Laughter) "It's going to transform your organization. I don't want to tell you about it now, but will you meet with me if I fly all the way to Toronto?" So I flew here, met down on Front Street East, and we sat in the boardroom, and I said, "Right, here's my vision of getting men growing mustaches all across Canada raising awareness and funds for your organization." And he looked at me and laughed and said, "Adam, sounds like a really novel idea, but we're an ultraconservative organization." (Laughter) I've heard this before. I know how it goes. But he said, "We will partner with you, but we're not going to invest in it. You need to figure a way to bring this campaign across here and make it work."

So what we did was, we took some of the money that we raised in Australia to bring the campaign across to this country, the U.S, and the U.K., and we did that because we knew, if this was successful, we could raise infinitely more money globally than we could just in Australia. And that money fuels research, and that research will get us to a cure. And we're not about finding an Australian cure or a Canadian cure, we're about finding the cure.

So in 2007, we brought the campaign across here, and it was, it set the stage for the campaign. It wasn't as successful as we thought it would be. We were sort of very gung ho with our success in Australia and New Zealand at that stage. So that year really taught us the importance of being patient and really understanding the local market before you become so bold as to set lofty targets.

But what I'm really pleased to say is, in 2010, Movember became a truly global movement. Canada was just pipped to the post in terms of the number one fundraising campaign in the world. Last year we had 450,000 Mo Bros spread across the world and together we raised 77 million dollars. (Applause) And that makes Movember now the biggest funder of prostate cancer research and support programs in the world. And that is an amazing achievement when you think about us growing mustaches. (Laughter)

And for us, we have redefined charity. Our ribbon is a hairy ribbon. (Laughter) Our ambassadors are the Mo Bros and the Mo Sistas, and I think that's been fundamental to our success. We hand across our brand and our campaign to those people. We let them embrace it and interpret it in their own way.

So now I live in Los Angeles, because the Prostate Cancer Foundation of the U.S. is based there, and I always get asked by the media down there, because it's so celebrity-driven, "Who are your celebrity ambassadors?" And I say to them, "Last year we were fortunate enough to have 450,000 celebrity ambassadors." And they go, "What, what do you mean?" And it's like, everything single person, every single Mo Bro and Mo Sista that participates in Movember is our celebrity ambassador, and that is so, so important and fundamental to our success.

Now what I want to share with you is one of my most touching Movember moments, and it happened here in Toronto last year, at the end of the campaign. I was out with a team. It was the end of Movember. We'd had a great campaign, and to be honest, we'd had our fair share of beer that night, but I said, "You know what, I think we've got one more bar left in us." (Laughter) So we piled into a taxi, and this is our taxi driver, and I was sitting in the back seat, and he turned around and said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "Hang on, that is an amazing mustache." (Laughter) And he said, "I'm doing it for Movember." And I said, "So am I." And I said, "Tell me your Movember story." And he goes, "Listen, I know it's about men's health, I know it's about prostate cancer, but this is for breast cancer." And I said, "Okay, that's interesting." And he goes, "Last year, my mom passed away from breast cancer in Sri Lanka, because we couldn't afford proper treatment for her," and he said, "This mustache is my tribute to my mom." And we sort of all choked up in the back of the taxi, and I didn't tell him who I was, because I didn't think it was appropriate, and I just shook his hand and I said, "Thank you so much. Your mom would be so proud." And from that moment I realized that Movember is so much more than a mustache, having a joke. It's about each person coming to this platform, embracing it in their own way, and being significant in their own life.

For us now at Movember, we really focus on three program areas, and having a true impact: awareness and education, survivor support programs, and research. Now we always focus, naturally, on how much we raise, because it's a very tangible outcome, but for me, awareness and education is more important than the funds we raise, because I know that is changing and saving lives today, and it's probably best exampled by a young guy that I met at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, at the start of the year. He came up to me and said, "Thank you for starting Movember." And I said, "Thank you for doing Movember." And I looked at him, and I was like, "I'm pretty sure you can't grow a mustache." (Laughter) And I said, "What's your Movember story?" And he said, "I grew the worst mustache ever." (Laughter) "But I went home for Thanksgiving dinner, and pretty quickly the conversation around the table turned to what the hell was going on." (Laughter) "And we talked — I talked to them about Movember, and then after that, my dad came up to me, and at the age of 26, for the first time ever, I had a conversation with my dad one on one about men's health. I had a conversation with my dad about prostate cancer, and I learned that my grandfather had prostate cancer and I was able to share with my dad that he was twice as likely to get that disease, and he didn't know that, and he hadn't been getting screened for it." So now, that guy is getting screened for prostate cancer.

So those conversations, getting men engaged in this, at whatever age, is so critically important, and in my view so much more important than the funds we raise.

Now to the funds we raise, and research, and how we're redefining research. We fund prostate cancer foundations now in 13 countries. We literally fund hundreds if not thousands of institutions and researchers around the world, and when we looked at this more recently, we realized there's a real lack of collaboration going on even within institutions, let alone nationally, let alone globally, and this is not unique to prostate cancer. This is cancer research the world over. And so we said, right, we'd redefined charity. We need to redefine the way these guys operate. How do we do that? So what we did was, we created a global action plan, and we're taking 10 percent of what's raised in each country now and putting it into a global fund, and we've got the best prostate cancer scientific minds in the world that look after that fund, and they come together each year and identify the number one priority, and that, last year, was getting a better screening test. So they identified that as a priority, and then they've got and recruited now 300 researchers from around the world that are studying that topic, essentially the same topic. So now we're funding them to the tune of about five or six million dollars to collaborate and bringing them together, and that's a unique thing in the cancer world, and we know, through that collaboration, it will accelerate outcomes. And that's how we're redefining the research world.

So, what I know about my Movember journey is that, with a really creative idea, with passion, with persistence, and a lot of patience, four mates, four mustaches, can inspire a room full of people, and that room full of people can go on and inspire a city, and that city is Melbourne, my home. And that city can go on and inspire a state, and that state can go on and inspire a nation, and beyond that, you can create a global movement that is changing the face of men's health.

My name is Adam Garone, and that's my story. Thank you. (Applause)