Berners-Lee, Branson and Wales bring X factor to digital event

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Digital X

Marion Marincat, founder and CEO of Mumbli, was impressed by three giants of tech who spoke at the Digital X event in October

You generally know what to expect at conferences. Typically, they feature long talks from speakers no one has heard of; noisy networking sessions; and barely distinguishable exhibitors giving out bags stuffed with random marketing materials.

I was delighted to experience something completely different at the Digital X event in October.

As a start-up founder and a seasoned entrepreneur with an interest in staying ahead of the game, I’ve had the chance to attend hundreds of events worldwide. It’s always a challenging trade-off between stepping away from my business and having an experience that focuses on human values and enables me to learn from leading thinkers.

I’d like to share a few of my highlights from two intense days in Cologne, the ancient cultural hub of western Germany, where Digital X 2019 took place.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web

The first part of his impressive talk, which focused on data protection, explained how far we have come from the utopian mindset of an open internet hoping to make the world a better place. Today, for example, it’s being used to persuade people to vote for things that aren’t necessarily in their best interests.

Noting that more than half of the world’s population is now online using nearly 27 billion connected devices, Berners-Lee recommended that people should actively protect their data by using cloud servers with strong security measures, for instance, and by choosing carefully which entities they interact with.

He advised sharing as little as possible with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter. The tech giants are collecting huge amounts of personal data for commercial purposes. We know very little about their inner workings, he noted, but they know a lot about us.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

It was an uplifting experience to see Branson speak in person – and not just because he announced that Virgin Galactic would be the first space venture to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

He stressed the need to constantly reinvent your business to survive in a dynamic competitive environment. Yet, while most presenters spoke of improving work by implementing AI-related tech, he focused on the importance of treating your company as a family and the power of seeing the best in people. I took this away as his most important lesson when it comes to building a well-loved brand.

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia

I was surprised by the humility of the man who had made several unsuccessful attempts to give the world free knowledge before achieving it with Wikipedia – the second-most visited website in 2019. His speech was truly inspiring.

Wales’s lifelong ambition is to maintain ad-free access to the online encyclopaedia by asking users to pay a modest amount to support this not-for-profit enterprise. His latest venture is the launch of WikiTribune, a social platform that follows the values of Wikipedia: ensuring the privacy of users and avoiding the use of adverts.

A sound experience

At Mumbli we’re obsessed with making the world sound better and, as a member of the leadership team representing the UK in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, I am very particular about the networking experience. At Digital X the acoustics were well thought through, enabling conversations to take place anywhere. I especially enjoyed talking to the team at Lightyear, manufacturer of the first long-range solar-powered car.

The whole event had a warm and friendly feel – accommodating my very limited German – and definitely changed some of my preconceptions about conferences. I was lucky to have had access to all areas, heard so many fantastic speakers and learnt from three history-making figures of the 21st century.

Marion Marincat is a member of the IoD. He thanks Alex Mitchell, head of the IoD’s community of new business founders, for the opportunity to attend the event and Ben Knoefler, president of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs, for VIP tickets to it.

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Marion Marincat

Marion Marincat

Marion Marincat is the founder and CEO of Mumbli

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