Robert Belgrave is Founder and CEO of Wirehive, a hosting company for digital agencies. He also runs the Wirehive 100 Awards focussing on digital talent outside of London. He is Head of the BIMA Blockchain Think Tank and co-presents Alexa Stop! a podcast about how technology is changing our lives.
Breaking the My Digital Hero ban on digital celebrities, he chooses one of the biggest but with a good personal reason why.
Who is your digital hero?
Jack Dorsey (bear with me!).
What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?
Twitter is a remarkable thing. A format which nobody thought would work has become a global phenomenon and arguably the primary news source for journalists and the public alike.
I remember visiting their office in the early days, before starting Wirehive, and being struck by the culture they had created.
I attended a ‘Twitter t-party’ which they held every Friday for the whole company in their office in San Francisco, back when they were only ~200 people. Jack, Biz and Ev were among the team as we enjoyed tea, cakes, beer, pick and mix and other Silicon Valley delights.
These were the days before WeWork and seeing all this in action made a lasting impact and ultimately inspired me to create a UK-based tech company that replicated some of their magic, the sort of place I had always wanted to work.
How has his heroism helped drive digital?
Jack is a progressive thinker when it comes to technology and Twitter is a fantastic example of that. He’s also responsible for Square which has shaken up the payments industry and is in the process of exploring how crypto currencies and payments might do the same thing. I would argue he’s responsible for two digital ‘Unicorn’ scale success stories and that’s a pretty rare feat.
I strongly believe digital needs risk takers, people willing to go against the grain, and while Jack is far from perfect, the products and services he’s created have changed the digital landscape and by proxy the world, forever.
Ultimately though, I’ve chosen Jack because of his recent stand against paid political advertising on social media.
This was a brave and principled step in the right direction at a time when the world is increasingly tearing itself apart politically. I strongly believe this puts significant pressure on others to follow suit, and hopefully Zuck and co are left with little choice but to do the right thing.
What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?
The challenge of disinformation and catalysing hatred in the ‘outrage economy’ is the biggest challenge of this decade in the digital world. Platforms are designed to maximise time on-site / in-app and sadly a combination of fear and anger is proven to be the most successful way to do that from a purely capitalist viewpoint.
We sorely need change. Change in the way technology platforms are held to account, better regulation to protect us from the dangers weaponizing this type of technology creates, but ultimately we need strong leaders who stand up for what’s right – and on this occasion, Jack has done just that.
What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?
Despite countless years working to help businesses do amazing things with cloud technology in my day job as CEO of Wirehive and taking my podcast Alexa Stop! to the big stage at SXSW, my biggest personal achievement in digital is without a doubt, co-founding Offset Earth, a subscription service to enable people to give something back to our planet by planting trees and funding the world’s best climate crisis solutions
Our tiny team has already planted 250,000 trees with little more than probono support from some amazing people and it simply wouldn’t have been possible were we not able to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us in terms of open source software and fantastic digital design.
Please check it out and get involved personally or as a business.