My Digital Hero: Matt Desmier, founder Silicon Beach

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Matt Desmier, alongside his consultancy Wise Old Uncle, is the founder of Silicon Beach, a hugely successful two-day festival of ideas in Bournemouth, which has now spun off into events happening around the world.

True to his maverick nature, he’s the latest who’s refused to follow the My Digital Hero rules of choosing a singular hero.

Who is your digital hero?

Ah man, naming one digital hero is a tough ask. Really tough. Too tough in fact, so I’m gonna offer up three. 

All three of my nominations changed the way I think about “young people’ and in doing so, forever changed the lens I view the world through. I’ve no idea if any of these three know the impact they have had on me and the way I think.

I also doubt they know that I continually reference them as often as I can. These three are real, genuine heroes of mine.

I’d like to nominate San Conniff-Allende, ex-CEO of Livity; Emma Mulqueeny, founder of Rewired State and Fern Miller, the Acting Chief Strategy Officer for the community.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

The things they did mattered to them. And a positive by-product was that those things mattered to a whole bunch of other people too. I don’t suppose they thought about the long-term implications of what they were doing at the time, not least how it might impact a shouty bloke from Bournemouth, whom none of them had met when they did their things.

Sam co-founded Livity, the youth-led creative network and in doing so, gave a voice to thousands of young people and opened the eyes of brands all over the world.

Alongside founding Rewired State and a bunch of other stuff, back in 2014, Emma wrote a hugely influential blog-post about The 97ers, young people born in 1997 and the influence they would soon have on the world.

And Fern led a study into the effects social media was having on young people that drew mine and many others’ attentions to the fact that it might possibly be a little detrimental to their development.  It was Fern and this work that made me realise just how quickly digital is changing the world.

How has their heroism helped drive digital? 

Either directly through their actions, or indirectly through the people like me they’ve inspired, all three of my nominations have changed the way a wider audience think about young people.

I’ve been in conference halls with 200+ other people hearing these three talk about young people. The simple network effect of that means they’ve potentially changed the perceptions of tens of thousands of people and in doing so have created opportunities for literally thousands of young people.

That’s how their heroism is driving digital. It’s unseen but shouldn’t go unrecognised.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

Education. How we teach people. What we teach people. We’re stuck in scary vortex whereby older people — who’ve perhaps not yet been influenced by my three nominations — are dictating the future of generations of young people and you know what, those young people just might know better!

I was Chair of the Board of Governors at my kids’ school and I’ve witnessed first hand how broken the system is.

Education needs a hero. Indeed, education has an unsung hero and his name is Ian Fordham, Chief Learning and Skills Officer at Microsoft UK.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I don’t think I’ve done anything especially heroic. But if I had to think of something, and in keeping with the theme of this piece, it would be the final Silicon Beach conference I produced.

The programme featured only speakers under the age of 25 and each and every young person who took to the stage that day was heroic in my eyes.

That event was as a direct result of the influence my three nominations had on me and those young people challenged my perspective and I know they challenged the perspectives of many people in the audience too.

It was a massive personal achievement for me and one I am immensely proud of.

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