Business Heroes

I have been very fortunate to have met many people, sometimes only once and only fleetingly and others who have continued to play a very important role, not only in my life but those of others around me. This is my  business heroes gallery, a living collection of those individuals who have helped to shape my life through their work and their friendship, and have helped make me the person I am. I apologise for any omissions and I hope that their stories will touch the lives of others through this web page in the same way that they have touched my life and left a lasting legacy in who I am.

My first recollection of meeting Jude was at my very first official duty as the newly appointed Director of the SGI during the Washington Serious Games Conference. Her charming soft Scottish accent has provided her with a persuasive backdrop to her knowledge of and passion for the use of games technologies in serious social, educational and business applications. Jude is an outstanding entrepreneur whose company initiatives include the WeForest social networking game which not only raises awareness of important environmental issues for our planet but could also help to finance re-forestation projects through micro-financing.

David Burden (aka Second Life’s Corro Moseley) is one of the world’s most respected developers of virtual world applications, particularly in Second Life. His fantastic knowledge and understanding of the potential of virtual world technologies is perfectly matched with his modesty and generosity of spirit in supporting the activities of the Serious Games Institute. David’s company, Daden Ltd has pioneered and developed many important applications for virtual worlds, including the ability to visualise real world data in three dimensions through the Datascape virtual control room application within second Life. David is a deserved winner of a number of international awards for his work and his evangelising for virtual worlds has played an important role in developing the West Midlands global presence in this sector.

Lucia Pannese is the most professional, knowledgeable, passionate and trustworthy project partner I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. Her company, Imaginary, based in Milan have played a very important role in developing the potential for and awareness of video games and immersive technologies for learning applications. Her work ethic and reliability are outstanding and her personality, generosity of spirit shines like a beacon in a world where such virtues seem to be fast-disappearing. Lucia has played a vital role in developing serious games in Europe and I am proud to support her activities and work alongside her.

There is not enough space on this web page to do justice to the incredible stories around the legendary Geordie who is Steve Thompson, one of the most amazing, innovative and talented social entrepreneurs The son of a steel worker in the North East of England, Steve has been a successful rock musician and song writer (inc a recording of one of his songs by Celine Dionne), a radio broadcaster and community technology developer capable of understanding and harnessing the skills and passions of local people through technology. Amongst my most vivid memories of Steve are his impromptu piano playing at a conference in Barcelona, a fantastic virtual pub quiz in Teeside and, most recently the work he has done with Second Life to support the Skinningrove community.

Lala Meredith Vula is an incredibly talented photographic artist blessed with huge creativity and openness to share her experiences and talents with other people. Her web site shows some examples of her work. My outstanding experience of working with Lala was working with her on promoting a conference at the old Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when we both worked for De Montfort University. Around 150 people watched a range of digital media specialists using their skills in images, sound and video to articulate what it is like to be a refugee or a displaced person in a foreign land. Lala’s presentation about her own life and the search for her father in Eastern Europe was one of the most moving and emotional presentations I have ever seen.

Claus Nehmzow is one of the world’s leading pioneers of immersive 3D environments within the corporate sector. His work and innovative use of platforms such as Second Life to build a corporate presence within virtual worlds has influenced many people across the world. Now based in Hong Kong, he continues to be a trail-blazer for the virtual community.

John Hibbs of San Diego founded the Benjamin Franklin University. He is literally a giant in the world of accessible learning technologies. John is the father of the amazing Global Learn Day phenomenon which has brought experience of learning technology to millions of people across the globe and has attracted keynote speakers of the calibre of Sir John Daniel and Vint Cerf. John, through his passion, knowledge and genuine commitment to bringing low cost educational technology to the world was able to produce this annual global event at minimal financial cost to its millions of participants.

Richard DeLorenzo place in the Heroes gallery was secured during a five minute bus ride from the Qatar Hotel we both stayed at to the WISE 2010 (World Innovation Summit for Education) conference in Doha. Even during this very short period, Richard’s description of his Re-inventing Schools (RISC) initiative was sufficient to make realise that his passion and knowledge will do much to shape the future of education.

Dr Tim Foresman is a hugely modest, highly talented social entrepreneur whom I am very proud to call a good friend. His passion is the use of technology to address some of the most critical environmental issues facing our planet today. He achieves this in the most disarming and humorous fashion. He was responsible for organising the ISDE Digital Earth Symposium in Berkeley University where he was able to bring to the conference such fantastic personalities as the inventor of the computer mouse, an Apollo 14 astronaut and Planet Walker.

Professor Sara de Freitas was the first person I recruited into the Serious Games Institute in 2007. I met her at the London Knowledge Lab where she was presenting at a virtual worlds event. It was immediately obvious that she was a highly intelligent and committed researcher with a perfect portfolio of the experience and capabilities needed to develop the Applied Research side of the SGI. In this role she has very successfully developed the local, national and international profile of the SGI and built a team a very capable researchers to work on the many projects she has played a part in securing funding for. Without Sara, her hard work, intellect and passion the SGI would not be what it is today.

Frank Bingley is undoubtedly my biggest and most unsung hero. I have told Frank’s story all over the world and many people have been inspired by him. I met Frank when I started on the Community Commerce and Knowledge Network (ComKnet) project in 1998. I had just secured funding to develop the use of community portals as a toll for helping rural areas identify and harness local skills and talents. In my research I had discovered the Bigfern web site in Market Harborough already in existence doing many of the things the ComKnet funding was intended for. It was a well-designed site and a potential competitor to my Mass Mitec business. I emailed the Bigfern webmaster to ask him to discuss how we might collaborate. It was When I met him that I learnt that the webmaster was my Milkman, Frank Bingley. The rest is history and I will always be indebted to Frank for his dedication and passion for his local community.

Simon Stevens is a remarkable young man and a shining example of the potential of the latent entrepreneurial spirit of people who have the misfortune to be born with conditions like cerebral palsy. This condition has seen massive discrimination against Simon throughout his whole life and it is a tribute to his courage and determination that he has achieved international recognition for his use of technology such as Second Life as a platform which can empower. Simon is the founder of the “Wheelies” virtual night club in Second Life and a fantastic champion for empowering technologies. He has touched the lives of countless people across the globe.

Melanie St James is the founder of the social enterprise “Empowerment Works”. I met her in San Francisco when we were co-hosts of a workshop at the ISDE Digital Earth Symposium organised by fellow hero Tim Foresman. Melanie is a very rare example of social entrepreneurs who are prepared to sacrifice their own assets for the causes they are so passionate about. She has organised several international conferences on Community Informatics and has been responsible for giving a voice to thousands of disadvantaged individuals and groups across the world. During our time at ISDE I was also able to sample her dubious driving skills in her beloved yellow Beetle car on our daily journey to Berkeley University Conference Centre.

Alla Khaikina is a highly professional conference organiser and wonderful human being. I first met Alla in Moscow at the first Russian E-Learn Expo conference and was impressed by her organisation skills and calm handling of the event. It has been my great pleasure to have worked with Alla at every subsequent Moscow E-Learn Expo conference and exhibition since then. Not only is Alla passionate about learning technologies and a good conference organiser, she has a rare understanding of the strategic importance of immersive technologies, especially for education.

Mervyn Levin alternates his time between the UK and Thailand where he proved to be a very committed and effective ambassador for the Serious Games Institute throughout South East Asia. Mervyn has been a vital agent in the establishment of a strong SGI brand in that region and has been a pleasure to work with. He has a very strong background in consultancy and project management and has a tremendous eye for detail that I can only admire. Mervyn is a tremendous ambassador for UK technology in South East Asia.

Paul Turner is founder and MD of the Walk in Web, a good friend and knowledgeable ambassador for Virtual World applications. I remember the first time I met Paul in the Coventry University Bistro and was immediately impressed by his personal commitment to immersive technologies. He is very strong in the use of second Life for virtual conferences and events and has a rare understanding of the potential of virtual worlds for next generation collaboration. He is very generous with his knowledge and is a valuable partner in the development of the Serious Games Institute Internationally

Greg Hyver is one of the most important evangelists for the use of brain computer interfaces to control not only games and virtual worlds but also consumer devices. My first exposure to these technologies was in 2007 at the GDC (Games Developer Conference) in San Francisco where I saw a device being used by a character dressed as Darth Vader to control a Light Sword with his brain waves. I saw the potential in this device and introduced it to the UK with great success and mutual benefit. Greg is an excellent collaborative partner with a good understanding of market dynamics.

I first met Tim Neill at the Moscow E-Learn Expo conference in 2004. Tim was a keynote speaker and I was impressed not only by the quality and innovative nature of his training simulations, but also by the incredibly relaxed dry humour in his delivery. Since that time, our paths have crossed several times and Tim has always left with richer insights into the potential of immersive technologies for training.

There are a million tales that I could tell about Claire Williams ever since I first saw her on a train back from St Pancras. She is an amazing entrepreneurial South African lady whom I am proud to call a dear friend and delighted to be amongst her honorary girl friends. Claire is the brains behind the “Alfies” concept – a luncheon club for small businesses in which honesty about the difficulties of running a small enterprise is the mantra. It is amongst Alfie friends that you are free to share the regular nightmare problems of an SME. Claire now runs a small marina for narrow boats in Northamptonshire with her husband Steve.

Eliane Alhadeff is THE global guru for serious games. Her blogspot is the bible for games based learning and the place I always look to for examples of best practice in all the various application areas immersive technologies can be applied. Eliane has touched the lives of many thousands of people through her work and is one of those individuals who can genuinely claim to have made the world a better place through their work. Although I have never met Eliane, she is an enormous presence in my work.

Martine Parry is probably the UK’s leading evangelist for immersive technologies and games based learning. When I left the Serious Games Institute to start this new enterprise, she was the first person to call me to wish me luck. She has tirelessly organised many conferences and events with prestigious speakers and has made a major contribution to developing the UK’s brand in immersive technologies. No-one should underestimate Martine’s contribution or the incredible spirit needed to achieve what she has achieved.

Sally Anne Moore (SAM) is a very dear friend with whom I have had the pleasure to work at several of the many international conferences and events she organises around the world. She organised Moscow’s very first ELearn Expo event with Alla Khaikina and it was here that I first met Sam. She is probably the best read person I have ever met with a fantastic intellect and warm humour. Sam’s farmhouse in Groisy near Geneva is my first choice stopoff on the way to Provence and hopefully will become a base for future ski trips !!

Kevin Corti was the founder of PixeLearning and is one the most knowledgeable games based learning experts in the world. He has a fantastic dry sense of humour which belies his influence on serious games in the UK. He has a tremendous understanding of the potential of immersive technologies and is a trail blazer in emerging applications such as social network games. I am proud to call him a friend a fellow guitar hero geek.

Jacqueline Cawston is the Senior Business Development Manager at the Serious Games Institute and as good a friend and work colleague as anyone could have. She joined us from De Montfort University where I knew her as an enterprising and hard working person in whom you could place absolute trust. Jacqueline has been a rock for me during the time we have worked together and her courage was no better demonstrated when she broke arms during a trip to Moscow for the ELearn Expo Exhibition.

Caryll Stephen is a real hero and a very good friend and client. She heads up the Foundation for Water Research in Marlow and is a dedicated and committed user of appropriate technologies that help her to run the business both in the office and at home. I have had the pleasure and privilege of supporting her use of technology in her home office and have seen first hand her great courage and determination to recover from serious illness. Her many dogs now know me well and greet me on every visit.

Ron Edwards is my main “where the eyeball are” man. Together with his sidekick, Dick Davies, he has made Ambient Performance one of the leading experts in commercial virtual world applications and mobile location based learning. Ron has an excellent grasp of emerging technologies and their commercial potential. He is a superb conference speaker with a very easy professional and relaxed style which never fails to engage any audience.

Alex Jevremovic is a very talented young man who has a rare combination of artistic creativity and grasp of programming and science. He was one of the first small businesses to set up at the SGI and he has been incredibly supportive with sharing his expertise on various projects which the SGI has been involved in. He is a big man in every sense of the word.

Simon Bennett is a founding Director of Rolling Sound, the London-based serious games company working with disadvantaged youth. Simon has engaged in a very successful collaboration with the SGI to develop the use of brain computer interfaces like Neurosky.

Professor Milan Konecny, like fellow business hero Dr Tim Foresman, is a former President of the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) and a very valued friend. I first met Milan when we were partners in the Global Society Dialogue project which began with a workshop in a beautiful castle in Reisenbourg. Milan is not only a very respected and knowledgeable academic in the field of Geoinformatics, he is also, like Tim Foresman, a fantastic human being with a great gift of humour.

Dr Temenoujka Bandrova is from Bulgaria and a leading academic within the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE). She organised two ISDE major events in her home country, both of which were outstanding not only for their academic and intellectual content, but also for the cultural and entertainment content. The first event in Borovets included traditional music and folk dancing and a ski area whilst the second was held in the resort of Nessebar - both events were immensely enjoyable and rewarding. Temenoujka is involved in the use of Geoinformatics to tackle disasters and protect children in emergencies.

Franz Nahrada is an entrepreneurial and highly committed social entrepreneur working with sustainable development and “Global villages”. I am also proud to call Franz a good friend. Based in Vienna, Franz and I worked together on a project known as “ERDE” (European Rural Development through Education). This was a Grundtvig European funded mobility project which involved each of the partner countries (UK, Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary) to host a visit by all the other partners to learn about community informatics in best practice community learning centres.

Fellow Hero Steve Thompson hosted the UK visit and Franz looked after Austria where we learnt so much from each other.

Professor David Crookall is at Universite de Nice Sophia Antipolis, France, and previously worked at National University of Singapore. David has published widely and conducted many workshops on simulation/games, has a special interest in debriefing, experiential learning and network gaming, and was director of Project IDEALS (while in the USA). He is Editor of Simulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and is Past President of ISAGA. He likes Asia, mountain walking and classical music.