Wren Lanier, 34 

Web Designer

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

If being a disruptor is in vogue these days, Wren Lanier could be the Anna Wintour of Twitter.

Yet the Web designer doesn’t give off a basement blogger vibe. And she’s been moving from behind the keyboard to “IRL” conversations about Richmond’s future.

“I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years doing what I call making trouble on Twitter,” she says. “As much as I think that public conversation is valuable, talk is cheap and making things is hard. This last year or so has been a challenge to myself to put up or shut up.”

Since starting her own Web design company after honing her skills across Richmond, Lanier says her situation gives her the flexibility to ask questions others aren’t — at least, not out loud. And perhaps not as introspectively. Lanier says too much of Richmond’s energy goes toward talk about how to become more like Austin, Texas.

She wanted to see people come together to talk about difficult topics such as poverty and segregation, so she teamed up with colleague Sam Davies to form the first Bill Conference, a counterpoint to the popular TED conference brand. They saw it as an unconference, an easier way to prompt conversation than starting a ’zine or a website.

The one-day event was a success. By September, she was helping put together a TEDx conference featuring 12 speakers discussing provocative local topics.

Leadership consultant John Sarvay, who organized TEDxGraceStreet with Lanier, says he sought her involvement after seeing her ability to get things done.

“I think Richmond needs more voices like hers, people who have strong points of view and are willing to share them, but also listen to other perspectives,” he says. “She’s not an iconoclast beating a lonely drum, she’s building community.”

Another Bill Conference is set for Nov. 9.

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