Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Dan Wilson, CEO, LMX

Dan Wilson is Co-Founder and CEO at London Media Exchange (LMX), a forwards marketplace to buy, sell and re-trade advertising space. Dan is an adtech veteran and previously worked at companies including Blis, Pubmatic and Amobee

Who is your digital hero?

Ah, the easy question. Antti Viitanen (Avi) — without question. Avi ran the product department for a startup division of a Finnish mobile network operator called Sonera and I had the fortune to work for him in my second job back in 2000.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Avi had a remarkable way of explaining his vision of mobile that showed that all the things we do now on our phones were possible — everything from content, to social networking to advertising.

Very few people can ultimately be that right, even if we got the timing wrong by about a decade or more. He also managed to import his 1970s gold Lotus Esprit back into Finland when he returned home, no mean feat.

Honourable mention to Christian Harris too — Christian was a massive advocate that content might be king, but distribution is king kong. I come back to this regularly

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

We’re all now maximum two feet away from a phone, in part from the concepts we worked on 20 years ago that Avi led. Mobile ate digital some time ago and this in turn created a massive number of opportunities for the digital ecosystem — with mobile media consumption driving the mobile adtech innovations in the last decade.

Sonera under Avi was a remarkable incubator of concepts that we now know as discreet separate brands — where we were attempting video compression on mobiles, we now have Youtube; where we were attempting music streaming over the highest mobile bandwidth at the time, we now have Spotify… and so on.

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

Heroes come in many forms and there are the heroes like Avi that I’ve talked about, but there are also the heroes that help others regardless of where they are in their careers — opening doors, knocking down barriers and breaking ceilings.

We need both. Digital needs innovators, mavericks and heroes to solve the real challenges in digital such as 5G and Augmented Reality to create entirely new industries.

I am convinced that the next generation of heroes won’t come from GAFA as they seem obsessed with putting rectangles on rectangles more efficiently or mining identity. These aren’t real challenges, they are business problems.

Digital also needs to help digital — men-only panels set a bad example, lack of women in leadership roles needs to be addressed, mental health support in adtech needs to be increased. Anyone that does anything to positively change something like this is a hero too.

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

I am guessing a shameless plug for developing and launching LMX with my co-founder Elena is probably not what you want, as heroic as it is!

Joking aside, I am really proud of the teams I’ve worked with over the years – from hiring an eccentric 19 year old that went onto do great things, to relocating nearly a dozen people to Asia when I was at Amobee (now a massively senior adtech group of people all over South-East Asia) and I am really proud of the friends I’ve made and supported over the years.