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Q&A with Simon Wheatcroft: the blind ultramarathon runner who adapts technology to achieve the impossible

Simon Wheatcroft speakerSimon Wheatcroft lost his sight at seventeen and began a journey of adapting technology to achieve the impossible. Through the aid of a smartphone and the feeling underfoot, he learnt to run solo outdoors and ran his first race just seven months later – a 100 mile ultramarathon. Ben Horne, Head of Online Content at Chartwell, recently caught up with Simon to talk motivation, tech trends and events to look out for. Check out the Q&A with Simon Wheatcroft below.

1) Why does running ultra-distances appeal to you?

When I first began to run I became fascinated by how far can I go. While there is a saying that everyone has a marathon in them, I felt this may be too limiting. What if everyone has more in them, but simply chooses the norm? As such, I was drawn to greater distances to truly find what my limit was on any given day.

2) What keeps you going during the most difficult parts of a race?

I enjoy the difficult moments, perhaps to the point I seek them out. For it is in those moments, where everything from your body to your mind is telling you to stop, that you can explore your limits. Getting back up when you are physically and mentally drained is a great feeling; you carry that on into other pursuits and begin to believe far more is possible.

3) Which tech products are you most excited about to better aid runners?

There is a huge focus around quantifying activity at the minute and there are so many players; I am particularly interested FitBit as they have an interesting range and are highly accessible. The Apple Watch is also intriguing and it was recently announced to have accessibility built in.

I am also interested in systems such as Athos and Wahoo’s new line of heart rate monitors such as the TICKR X. But I worry how the interesting data these products produce can be analysed and utilised to improve performance. As the market grows that is where the real power will be. How can all this data be utilised to enrich our lives?

4) What has been your favourite event so far?

They are all so special to me in many different ways, from my first ever ultra to my recent 260 mile run from Boston to NYC. However, the Boston to NYC run holds a special place in my heart as my eldest son who is 4 came to run the last few miles alongside, and we crossed the finish line in Central Park together.

 5) What do you hope to achieve in 2015?

Competing in a desert race solo is definitely the highlight on my adventure calendar. I have been working with Google on a wearable that can be used to aid navigation to allow me to compete for the first time without a guide. I am also hoping to break a few world records, from the most marathons back to back and the highest marathon in terms of altitude.


As part of Simon’s Boston to NYC adventure, AirBnB commissioned a film crew to document the day to day journey. It tells the story of the entire 260 miles as well as a few short interviews that took place before he embarked on the adventure. Watch the full clip above!

For more information, or to book Simon Wheatcroft as a keynote speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Innovation speaker and former Clinton Advisor Alec Ross Q&A

Alec Rossone of America’s leading experts on innovation, recently took part in a Q&A conducted by American University’s School of International Service Online, centred around his thoughts on technology, censorship, and the private sector’s role in development.

Here are some highlights:

Increasing security risks facing global citizens:

“A government’s ability to survey its citizens poses a real threat in countries where political dissent is not tolerated and where human rights are not respected. Being connected means having access to the kind of information and functionality it takes to compete and succeed in our technology rich, knowledge-based economy. Unfortunately, this connectedness can also make people more vulnerable to the prying eyes of authoritarian governments.”

The private sector’s role in development:

“I think that development is being increasingly driven by the private sector—not so much by businesses developing socially responsible models of development (it is actually a tiny percentage who have these models in reality), but by government budgets being strained to the max. “

Ineffective Internet censorship efforts:

“It is getting more and more difficult to censor the Internet because of the powerful Internet freedom tools being developed by engineer activists around the world. When I was at the State Department, we probably spent $100 million to support the development of these tools and to train people how to use them effectively and safely. The kind of control freak mentality that censors have is ill suited to today’s world.”

For the full Q&A, click here.

For information on Alec’s speaking availability, please contact Alex Hickman, at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8004

A World without Work: Nigel Cameron at TEDxLacador

Check out this provocative talk by Nigel Cameron, strategist and writer who leads the Washington think tank – Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, who discusses the idea of a world without work at TEDxLacador.

Nigel notes that Instagram has a handful of employees, whilst Kodak had 145,000. Situations such as these leads Nigel to believe that technology is fast displacing humans, and we must reckon with the possibility that many jobs will be lost – and many new ones created also done by machines. How far will this go? Will a world without work be heaven – or hell? Now is the time to think it through.

For information on Nigel’s speaking availability, please contact our Managing Partner, Leo von Bülow-Quirk, at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8000

Check out the who’s who of London’s tech start-up scene

London’s Evening Standard has put together a hotlist of top names who are at the helm of the capital’s fast-expanding SMEs.

The line-up included tech stars such as Michael Acton Smith, founder of Mind Candy, father of Moshi Monsters and probably the most well-known face of Tech City, who was awarded an OBE in the New Year honours; Kathryn Parsons, known for teaching the world code through her Decoded course, whose attendees include the heads of Google and Virgin; and Joanna Shields, a tech legend who went from being at the top of Bebo, Google and then Facebook to being CEO of Tech City — the Government’s link to London’s 1,400 tech companies.

Click here to see who else made the list.

For more information on how to book these speakers for your conference or client event, please get in touch with Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call on +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

David Rowan named among Bizzabo’s “100 Most-Wanted Speakers at Tech Conferences”

DavidRowanBizzabo, a world leading networking platform and event guide for conferences, have named David Rowan, Editor of Wired magazine, as one of the most-wanted speakers for tech conferences.

To compile this list, Bizzabo dug into their database of more than 3,000 conferences (including hundreds of tech events), and compared speaker popularity metrics with social media insights and search engine results (number of followers, number of appearances in search results). In addition, they also asked event organisers for their dream team of speakers.

Some names might be surprising! Click here to see who made the top 10 …

Major General Jonathan Shaw on Cybersecurity in a Digital Age

Jonathan ShawOn Tuesday 12th November 2013 Chartwell hosted a breakfast briefing at the Royal Automobile Club with the former Head of the UK’s Defence Cyber Security Programme, Major General Jonathan Shaw CB CBE (Rtd).

The discussion focused on managing the new risks of cyber security to business and citizens and how best to leverage resources to secure business and organisations. Here are a few points we learned from the event.

1. It’s about managing human risk as much as securing technological systems.

Cybersecurity gives the wrong emphasis to today’s challenge. The internet was designed to keep us connected and spread information, not to keep information secure and hidden. The challenge is better seen as a campaign of risk management- balancing the value of sharing data with the risk of a leak.

In these terms cyber security becomes as much about business decisions, staffing, structure and morality as it does about technology.

2. The digital age is a board level issue, don’t delegate to your CTO

Whilst technologists will provide new defensive technologies to counter new threats organisational structure is key to deploy these assets effectively.  In a campaign of risk, decisions from the board on how to structure a business as as vital for information security as technical expertise.

Leaders implementing information security don’t need to be technologists but do need to have a good grasp of the threats and risks they face. Senior figures in corporations are too often protected from the pace of technological change by a layer of admin assistance that insulates them from daily usage of new systems.

Corporations need to be honest about gaps in their understanding and then work to create a system that leverages the expertise from a young generation of ‘digital natives’ to mix with leadership from senior figures. As such this problem is not one for to be delegated away to the CTO ‘to fix’ but rather embraced as a strategic imperative requiring board level leadership. Similarly restraint can be a virtue in not over-engineering security, the technical question “what can we do” should be balanced against the human “what should we do”, a choice that calls on senior leadership.

3. The security regime should be adapted and proportionate to the threat

A security response should prioritise assets, measure threats and deploying resources accordingly. Over securing a system that isn’t threatened might affect the ease of use and reduce it’s utility and impact productivity right across an organisation.

In measuring threats, consideration needs to be given to human risks as well as the technical ones. The more you invest in technical security the more hackers will target the human links in the system. Thus threat mitigation thus broadens into questions of training and the loyalty of those with access.

4. Your CIO should be your best communicator not your best tech expert.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) take on a very important role today. In a digital landscape they often hold responsibility for the key assets of a company but they need not be the best technologist. Rather they should be excellent communicators and leaders of change with a role to communicate new and emerging risks to the board, who can then respond to the leadership questions it begs.

For more information, or to book Jonathan Shaw as a keynote speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

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