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From its very inception, Soho House has supported, championed and provided a hub for people excelling in their respective fields. Pioneers are the lifeblood of our community, and that’s why, in collaboration with RIMOWA – which recognises that no one builds a legacy by standing still – we’re highlighting 13 exceptional talents from around the world.
We received thousands of applications and nominations across a range of fields, and the quality of candidates was outstanding. Narrowing down the list to 13 was a challenge, but the result – we hope you’ll agree – is an impressive snapshot of the game-changing individuals who make up Soho House.
Despite helping to make file-sharing platform WeTransfer one of the world’s most trusted digital brands, Bradfield isn’t ready to rest yet
Damian Bradfield has had every kind of job you could think of. As a kid...
He says he feels ‘inefficient or empty’ if he’s not directly involved in the making of something, which makes sense when you dive back into his professional roots: he’s always been a polymath. At the turn of the millennium, he dropped out of university and moved to Cape Town to be with his family, before returning to the British capital to work alongside Stella McCartney at her then-fledgling, young namesake label. He did everything there, from accounts to assisting on runway shows, to hitting the streets of the city to do flyposting. From there, he worked at a number of creative agencies in the city before mainland Europe came calling.
Fast forward two decades from his Stella McCartney gig and you’re far more likely to run into him in the offices of WeTransfer than knee-deep in poster glue on the streets of London. Bradfield was the original cofounder of the Amsterdam-based file transfer service’s creative content arm, Present Plus, but for the past nine years, he’s acted as president and CMO, helping the site reach over 45-50 million unique monthly users. What they do has revolutionised the way data is transmitted over the internet. It’s no longer a process reserved for so-called tech geeks; anyone can use WeTransfer. It’s inherently simple and efficient and, since it’s launched, has become a lifeline for artists looking to share their work with the world (its editorial platform, WePresent, champions the best of those, too). In a time where internet cynicism is rife, Bradfield and his team have successfully managed to become one of the most trusted digital entities on the web right now. He’s even written a book, titled The Trust Manifesto: What You Need To Do To Create A Better Internet, which unpacks data protection and net neutrality in a manner that makes sense to anyone who owns an iPhone.
Ever ambitious, he sees complete satisfaction as a sign of defeat, and so it’s no surprise the concept of giving up his job is slightly alien to him. His dad, an architect in his seventies, shows no sign of slowing down, either. ‘I don’t aspire to be sitting in an apartment on the Costa Brava reading the paper and doing the crossword every day,’ Bradfield tells us. ‘I’m a bit of a weirdo. On the one hand, I can sit on my own for a few hours, but when I come up for air I need to be around people who are making something. It’s people – I need to get a hit of inspiration from what others are creating. It’s an adrenaline boost seeing other people challenge themselves. I hope I’m still active and working when I’m 80.’
‘It's an adrenaline boost to see other people challenge themselves'
A passion for innovation drives everything Reid does, from education for female entrepreneurs to, most recently, the system of beauty booking
When I ask Sharmadean Reid what it means to be a pioneer, her answer is instantaneous....
The first gap she decided to fill was the lack of media targeted towards female hip-hop fans. ‘I wanted to read and be inspired by women in hip-hop. There was no blog culture then, I was creating the thing I wanted to consume.’
In 2005, she launched WAH. What began as a zine that would cover and connect like-minded music fans soon evolved into a digital space in the form of a tumblr and online magazine. Her next step was less expected, but made total sense; in 2009, WAH became a nail bar. ‘Part of hip-hop culture is getting your nails done, and I wanted to get mine done for free,’ she laughs.
Once the idea was in her head, Reid read an e-book about how to open a salon, and did exactly that, with WAH becoming both a fun space for women to socialise and a breeding ground for cutting-edge nail art. ‘If you don’t come from an industry and you look at it as an outsider, you’re not held by the same conventions as anyone else. That’s what I’ve learnt. I wanted a space that looked like my bedroom, so that’s what I made,’ she says of the cult nail bar, which recently closed its doors, allowing Reid to move back into a digital realm with the launch of her beauty bookings app, Beautystack. The idea came to her after WAH followers kept using Instagram to request nail designs. ‘People were always asking, “How much is this? How long did it take?” We didn’t have an appropriate solution for those questions, so I thought, I’m going to build it myself. Most of the developments in social media are geared towards product-based businesses, not service based. Are the people who do service-based businesses going to be left behind? That was the impetus for it.’
And what made Reid a natural pioneer? ‘I like knowing that I can do things no one else can. I am inspired by my own potential. When I consider the possibilities of what I can achieve, I think, if I can imagine it, it would be even cooler to actually do it. What keeps me going on the road ahead is knowing how glorious that road will be for me.’
‘I like knowing that I can do things no one else can. I am inspired by my own potential.'
A two-time survivor of the disease himself, Gudger is on a mission to use tech to combat loneliness among cancer patients
Being diagnosed with leukaemia at 19 turned Brad Gudger’s world upside down. ‘Life-changing is a cliché,’...
As a two-time cancer survivor, Gudger has experienced the enormity of challenges faced by patients during and after treatment, and carried out years of volunteer work for organisations, such as CLIC Sargent and the Teenage Cancer Trust, which offer vital support. This year, in recognition for his services to young people, he also won The Diana Award. When he was in hospital in early 2018 – having a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his brother, Lewis – he identified what was severely lacking in the care of young people with cancer. Seeing that services were tailored to an older demographic, he decided to tackle the gaps existing for younger patients who, thanks to huge advancements in treatment and cures, could now live with and beyond the disease.
From his hospital bed, Alike was founded. A charity working to combat loneliness and isolation for people with cancer, it provides a vital community and forum for 18- to 39-year-olds, with user-created content and access to information. First and foremost an app designed to give ‘peer support in your pocket’, it uses AI-generated ‘matchmaking’ to encourage positive interactions, all on the terms of the individual.
‘What we’re doing with Alike is creating a product that exists for so many other people, but is innovative in that it’s formatted specifically for the cancer community,’ says Gudger. ‘It’s about seeing where there are gaps having been in those shoes. As a cancer survivor, I know that I need what Alike offers.’
Gudger’s recognition and advocation of voices that need a platform goes even further. He has used his position to lobby on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community within healthcare and advised the government on issues surrounding services for young people. His activism has taken him to places such as the House of Lords, where he has spoken about the bullying of young cancer patients and the education needed around the disease’s effects. His is a legacy that will truly impact others, and he’s now also working with fellow survivors to create a support group for members of the LGBTQ+ community affected by a cancer diagnosis.
‘My family and friends keep me going, but so do the communities I build support for. Human contact is very empowering. I’ve never had someone say to me, “I don’t know why you’re doing this”. That’s what keeps me going, that it’s not actually about me. It’s about the purpose it serves, so I have to find ways to get through problems when I’m faced with them.’
And for Gudger, who is an inspiration to many, what inspires him? ‘The cancer community; it’s a very resilient one. I’m proud to be doing something created by young people, for young people. To meet and work with those who don’t get their voices heard, and to give a platform to people to express their stories, which in the past would never have been listened to.’
‘I’m proud to be doing something created by young people, for young people. To work with those who don’t get their voices heard’
During her tenure at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Golbin highlighted the achievements of contemporary talent. Today, she’s looking to the future
Prior to becoming the artistic director of Jacquard by Google Artist Residency in 2019 – an incredibly...
It was here at the museum, from 1993 onwards, that this Franco-Chilean trailblazer overhauled one of the world’s biggest textile and fashion collections, unleashing bold, inventive exhibitions about game-changing designers, including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten. Key to the modernity and success of these was her passion for technology and creative collaboration: ‘Up until then, museums usually had an in-house exhibitions department, dreaming up scenographies that were pretty subdued,’ recalls Golbin. ‘But, from the start, we brought in different and diverse artistic teams for each show – a new scenographer, graphic designer, set designer and lighting designer.’ Teams, Golbin says, are key to innovation. ‘Innovation, for me, is about opening up a conversation so that you can all move forward together. It is crucial to travel. It’s about meeting other cultures through people. Only by experiencing other cultures can we better understand what goes on in other people’s lives. Travel is not at all frivolous; it’s essential for anyone’s development.’
Golbin also broke new ground by including in the exhibits a mix of newly commissioned and archive film footage; radical three decades ago, now a museum norm. She whirled in Christopher Wheeldon, a choreographer from the New York City Ballet, to reconfigure the boring, old display mannequins. Her decision to include designs by Balenciaga’s then-creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, within a retrospective of the fashion house’s founder, Cristóbal, felt similarly fresh.
That was then, this is now. Having curated the past, the ‘what happens next’ of fashion is Golbin’s focus. Hence her involvement since early 2019 with the Jacquard by Google project, which sees the tech giant bringing smart fabrics out of the nerd void and into the wider cultural landscape, enabling clothes to do all sorts of clever things. Invented by Dr Ivan Poupyrev in 2014, the Jacquard yarn was subsequently developed in Google’s California-based research lab. ‘Jacquard is a technology physically found in a cotton thread that looks like any other thread,’ explains Golbin. ‘This technology is limitless. It allows us to weave it into any fabric and make that fabric connectable, which literally means you can activate any command by touching it. For example, you can programme a tap on the fabric that will activate the lights in a room. You can tap it twice and make a phone call.’
Golbin has, meanwhile, ‘tapped’ into her customary collaborative spirit, curating a residency programme with Google in which three international artists have been mentored by her throughout the year. Their mission? To harness and highlight the creative potential of Jacquard by Google via new installation works. ‘We’re using textiles to create the future,’ concludes Golbin, with infectious enthusiasm. ‘And the future is now.’
‘Jacquard by Google looks like any other thread, but this technology is limitless’
He’s the first to hold the title at Netflix, but it’s only the latest in Tirado’s mission to ‘queer our content’
If queer media didn’t exist, Fran Tirado would have found it necessary to invent it....
Tirado seems to live by one rule: as long as stories can be told, they can be queered. His dedication to his cause is impossible to doubt. When he got home from work at his nine-to-five publishing job, countless holidays and out-of-work hours were poured into his craft and editorial work. Leaving behind an unsatisfactory stint in advertising, he leaned into the projects that held his passion until, through perseverance and force of will, they became his full-time career. In a world in which queer stories, histories and people are erased in favour of an enduring, oppressive and monolithic heteronorm, Tirado’s missions and ambition have led him to the avant-garde of LGBTQ+ media.
With previous positions as deputy editor of Out magazine, executive editor of queer literary publication, Hello Mr., and now the first-ever brand and editorial lead for LGBTQ+ content for Netflix – where he’ll have the modern task of connecting queer audiences to queer content in the age of paralysingly infinite choice – Tirado is showing no signs of slowing down.
Be it podcasting, social media, film, TV or editorial, the platform may vary, but the goal remains the same: ‘to elevate, uplift, edit, curate and figure out how [best] the story takes its form for queer and trans people.’ According to Tirado, Netflix is the best place to do this. ‘I think TV and film are some of the most exciting and inspiring forms of representation for queer and marginalised people right now. I’ve been in love with TV and film my whole life, and to work for Netflix is like a dream come true,’ he says.
‘Netflix is one of the branches at the forefront of really diverse storytelling: queer black stories, young queer stories, trans people’s and queer women’s stories, stories from queer people with disabilities,’ continues Tirado. ‘Straight people have been the dominant voice in TV and film forever. I feel like we’re in a unique cultural moment where queer storytelling is just breaking into its daring, aggressive and horny teenage years. It’s here to make mistakes, to tell stories that are imperfect. I think that’s the most exciting thing we can do with queerness now.’
‘We’re in a unique cultural moment where queer storytelling is just breaking into its daring, aggressive and horny teenage years’
With The Farewell, Wang has rewritten the script on what kinds of stories – and casts – can make a Hollywood hit
Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is one of the most acclaimed and adored films of the year —...
‘There’s still this idea of “what does an American film look like?”,’ explains Wang. ‘It hasn’t got an all-Asian cast, they are not speaking Chinese, and it is not subtitled. But the reality is, a large majority of Americans are from other cultures and speak multiple languages.’ As she pitched the film’s premise, deemed ‘out there’ in comparison to the usual box-office fodder, Wang was constantly told, ‘I’m too Chinese to be American, but too American to be Chinese’, and it was very frustrating. ‘As a filmmaker, everyone tells you to find your voice and make something personal,’ she says. ‘But when I try, people tell me that nobody wants to hear my voice, there’s no market for it, or it’s too niche… What do I do?’
Wang wasn’t about to give up, though, as she knew that cultural split was one of her most important inspirations. Nowadays she travels the world, but can still discover traces of the old. China in unlikely places. ‘I shot my first film in Berlin, but now when I go back, I feel both strangely at home and foreign. A lot of the communist architecture feels very familiar to me; the parks, and the city’s socialist design reminds me of my childhood in Beijing. It’s also fairly safe there, so I feel free. That’s the biggest thing.’
Eventually, Wang did get The Farewell made her way and the results have fully vindicated her. She stands as an example of a successful new breed of storyteller (and, by default, a pioneer) in an industry where very few Hollywood filmmakers are Asian, or even female. ‘The lens through which things are seen is often male, and white,’ she admits. ‘I’m very aware of standing out. But, at the end of the day, I’m also just like everybody else, where I want to tell personal stories that connect to as many people as possible.’
Wang has definitely achieved this. One lovely thing she’s experienced is when people who aren’t even Asian tell her that they connected with the film, that they ‘feel like this is their family, too’. On the other hand, yes, there is also the deep satisfaction of showing Asians, especially Asian women, in a way that Hollywood hasn’t really witnessed before. ‘So many have come up to me and said they’ve never seen themselves on screen in this way. And they didn’t even realise it until they saw it. It’s like, if you’ve never had water your whole life, then you drink it and suddenly you think, “Oh god, that’s what I’ve been craving. But I didn’t know I was craving it, because I didn’t know what it was”.’
‘I’m very aware of standing out, but I want to tell personal stories that connect to people’
The potential of a cannabis lifestyle brand enticed Winston to come out of retirement and propel dosist to the top of the CBD industry
‘What excites me?’ asks dosist CEO, Gunner Winston, mid packing his suitcase (navy-blue Rimowa) in...
‘Sometimes, you have a visceral feeling with things. My background was investing and partnering with world-class consumer companies who each transcended categories and pioneered in their own lanes,’ he says. ‘When I thought about dosist’s narrative and mission of empowering people to naturally manage their health and happiness, I was struck by how impactful that was. Almost every adult is dealing with some form of anxiety or sleep issue.’
Winston was retired when he got offered the role at dosist, having decided at 38 that if he couldn’t find anything he was passionate about, he would do nothing at all. ‘Work, for me, is completely connected to passion,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want to do anything for three years, because I couldn’t find anything that consumed me. And now I’m on an incredible journey, which is the most fulfilling career time of my life – dosist is part of me now. You have to be willing to say no to find the right opportunity.’
What Winston has done for dosist – propelling it to be listed in Time and Fast Company’s top brands, and LinkedIn’s second best startup to work for in the US, within three years – is not only remarkable, but brave. ‘My most audacious objective was to compress our expansion,’ he says. Focusing on key cities within California, he actively slowed growth, allowing the brand space to learn and build. He hired the best team possible and, rather than focusing on quick gains, put all his effort into long-term strategies.
Winston’s absolute focus on his customer has been behind every part of his decision-making. ‘I’ve been late on major products because they just weren’t good enough for the consumer,’ he says. ‘I mean this sincerely; we owe it to them and to all the people at our company to only put out our best. That has been fundamental to what we do – focusing on getting the best product to our consumer, not how much money we can make in the short term.’
Asked what makes a CEO a pioneer, Winston says: ‘Part of it is you have to be amazingly confident and humble. I sit in meetings and I’m like, “Wow, I’m not the smartest person in the room.” Sometimes that hits your ego. I’m very proud of my ability to understand different perspectives culturally, religiously and ethnically, because I’m consistently around people that aren’t like me. That’s what travel has done for me. When you’re the CEO, people expect you to have all the answers. My greatest strength is that I can synthesise different data points and be the decision-maker, but I am clearly not the one who has all the ideas.’
’I’m proud of my ability to understand different perspectives because I’m consistently around people that aren’t like me’
Troubled by the level of her city’s homelessness, Higson utilised pen and paper to connect those in need with long-lost loved ones
‘We’re not solving homelessness, but we’re making a little dent and doing our part,’...
‘At first, it was about the fact that we’ve got all the writing materials, tools and postage, and can mail a letter for you, so you can write to a loved one, family or friends. But then people would say, “I need to apply for a job, can you help me write a letter?” And then it became, “I want to write to an official…”’
Crucially, compared to the one-way dynamic of giving donations of food or clothing to the homeless, The Writing Den offers something less quantifiable, but far more valuable: a sense of humanity. ‘Even if they say they don’t have anyone they want to write to, we’d say, “Well what about yourself?” And so people would mail letters to themselves,’ says Higson. While creative writing plays its part in the project, it is this sense of connecting with others – and oneself – that is truly empowering.
A former digital sales and marketing executive for brands including Thomson Reuters, Viacom and Condé Nast, Higson found that the homeless situation she and Michaels were confronted with, on their doorstep in downtown San Diego, inspired them to ask, ‘What can we do?’. But, unlike many, they didn’t stop there. Inspired by the memory of Michaels’ mother, a prolific letter writer who had recently passed away, they decided to put the wealth of stamps, pens and paper she had left behind to good use.
Having been told there was a six-month waiting list to volunteer for a local soup kitchen, they discussed how writing could impact the lives of homeless people for the better – literally giving them a voice and allowing them to connect with others in a meaningful way. ‘It’s the lost art of writing,’ says Higson. ‘The importance of the words, the connection and the accountability – and that feeling when you open the mailbox to find something besides direct mail. You’re really thinking about this person and their emotions. It’s a much nicer way to reconnect than just getting an email.’
Overwhelmed by offers of help – and materials donated by partners including Bic, Higson says The Writing Den is now at a juncture: the next step is to fully monetise its model through grants, donations or better financial support. And, while she admits what they have achieved so far has been rewarding, the real measurement of success is hearing from their homeless guests about the impact the simple act of writing a letter has had on their lives.
‘Sometimes we have repeat guests – which we don’t want, as that means they’re not out of homelessness – but they do stop by,’ says Higson. ‘We have a few regulars who’ll tell us, “Hey, I got that job.” Or even, “My mother didn’t even know I was alive”, which is absolutely life changing. That makes it all worthwhile.’
‘It’s the lost art of writing. The importance of the words and the connection – and that feeling when you open the mailbox to find something besides direct mail’
A couple of yoga classes taken as a teenager inspired Shashi to reinvigorate the ancient practice’s appeal for India’s youth
Sarvesh Shashi can’t remember the last time he killed a mosquito. He has not had...
It all started ten years ago, when a 17-year-old Shashi stepped in to take a few yoga classes that his father wasn’t able to attend. A semi-professional cricket player at the time, the successful athlete craved humble ground. ‘I was getting into a lot of trouble,’ he says, ‘with opportunities to go wherever and do whatever. I was arrogant.’ He approached yoga from the traditional mindset and found refuge following five vows outlined by his teacher: 1) No alcohol 2) No smoking 3) No lying 4) No mental or physical stealing 5) Celibacy. ‘I haven’t broken any of these promises to date, and it has now become a way of life for me,’ he shares.
Inspired by this mindset shift, Shashi sought to draw in his peers. ‘Yoga is a part of my culture,’ he says. ‘But young people in India think it’s boring. The western world has adapted yoga for flexibility, strength and stamina, while in India it’s largely considered a spiritual practice. Observing the different kinds of wellness rituals across the world has been helpful to my business; to learn how yoga is considered in places like the US, Dubai, London and Bali. Why people do it, how passionate they are – these are things I consider.’
With aspirations to make yoga cool and accessible to everybody, Shashi started running classes in his basement. ‘In India, there are 500 million people under the age of 30, and I was wondering how I could attract them to yoga.’ At 21, he opened his first official studio, and since then he’s expanded to offer 25 different types of yoga, from traditional forms, like ashtanga, to classes underwater. The average age of the 55,000+ registered members across 91 SARVA studios dropped from 46 to 50 years old, to 27 to 34 years old. A spin-off, Diva Yoga, offers a modern space for women to practice, and SARVA has recently launched an international branch with three studios in London. It’s momentum like this, combined with Shashi’s determination, that drew avid yogis Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez to join in the latest seed-funding round as investors. ‘We know we’re not changing the basic foundation of yoga’, says Shashi, ‘but SARVA has opened doors for people to see themselves in yoga.’
Through the elevation and accolades, Shashi maintains a mindful gaze. He frequently embarks on long-term periods of meditative silence and keeps close contact with his original yoga teacher, who he refers to as Guruji. ‘I believe there is a direct connection between wellbeing and performance,’ he says, which might reveal the secret to his success. Or maybe it’s something simpler, like happiness.
‘I believe there is a direct connection between wellbeing and performance’
By introducing Hong Kong to the concept of no-reservations dining, the restaurateur is tackling the city’s social divides
‘When I moved to Hong Kong from New York with my business partner, fine dining ...
Raised ‘practically in the family Chinese restaurant’, Jang changed her major at university several times before finally dropping out and accepting a job at Nobu in New York. ‘I was always working in hospitality for cash to just get by while I studied. But when I got that job in 2004, it was the first time I saw the level of systems, policies and procedures of a perfectly run restaurant, with high standards of food, service and ways to treat people,’ she says, of what inspired her to view the restaurant industry as a career option, rather than a means to an end. Having worked all of the front-of-house roles at Nobu, Jang moved to Hong Kong in 2009 with Abergel and started her business plan for Yardbird, a modern izakaya and yakitori joint in which class divisions between those working and those dining were less polarising, and where Hong Kong customers were given an education in tipping.
‘When we first arrived, I noticed the class system in Hong Kong,’ says Jang. ‘We’ve had people work with us whose parents were so embarrassed that they’d rather them not work at all than work in a restaurant. Being a server was really looked down upon.’
Swapping a service charge for tipping, introducing the concept of no reservations (‘people were furious that they had to wait in a line to eat’) and encouraging servers to engage with customers who had never had experience of this were all part of the inclusive ethos that has made Yardbird the city’s success story. It is here that the world’s best chefs dine upon arriving in Hong Kong and just before they leave. Jang, with an unwavering vision and passion for her team (she never uses the term ‘work for me’, preferring instead ‘work with me’), has truly pioneered the concept of what it truly means to ‘serve’ in Hong Kong.
‘For me, innovation is constant refinement’ says Jang. ‘In the food and beverage industry, where a large portion of my time is spent, it’s hard to reinvent the wheel. My team and I are always looking at the refinement process, while still being positive members of the community. It’s imperative to me that we are always pushing ourselves to do better, leading by example and therefore, hopefully, being innovators in our business. Arriving home from a trip, say, is exciting, because I’ve just brought back information or been inspired by something I saw and want to apply that to my own business. Instead of just being a restaurant with a bricks and mortar address, we are building a brand that extends far beyond the four walls of our space.’
‘For me, innovation is constant refinement. It’s imperative to me that we are always pushing ourselves’
Self-confessed underachievers during their school years, the charitable duo is using music to help turn disadvantaged kids’ attention from trouble to innovation
The dictionary definition of ‘to pioneer’ fits children’s music education entrepreneurs David Court and Nick Stillwell...
‘You’re known as a pioneer if it works out for the best,’ laughs Court. ‘Otherwise, you’re just someone trying something new.’ He’s right. And by now you’ll have realised that his and business partner Stillwell’s school has worked out for the best. The secret? Fear. ‘Once we decide we’re going to do something, then every single thing, every sinew in our bodies will be focused on achieving that,’ explains Court. ‘The fear of letting ourselves down is the key to our success. We’re not motivated by money.’
SupaJam evolved in 2014 as a philanthropic project by the two media producers, targeting – as Court puts it – ‘the kids nobody else wanted’. Offering business diplomas, alongside creative experience, the school creates a niche environment for those more au fait with crime than grime. It also takes the unprecedented step of mixing the able and disabled, a move that has yielded impressive results. ‘We focus on innovation over education,’ says Court. ‘Because by innovating, you are educating. For us, it’s about improving the lives of others. That motivates us to innovate, and that in turn educates. When you see that you’re improving the quality of someone’s life, it’s a terrible cliché, but it’s the meaning of life. There is nothing better.’
Court and Stillwell’s formative years were dogged by failure. ‘We both spectacularly underachieved at school,’ says Stillwell. ‘But it was that massive sense of underachievement that drove this desire to overachieve in life afterwards.’
‘I was lucky,’ adds Court. ‘I had supportive parents, and they kept me going. They helped me. But what happens to children that don’t have that? We take the kids people have given up on. Those who have suffered awful levels of abuse and extreme poverty. We take kids who are in care, or others who are in normal households, but struggle with extreme mental-health issues. We bring them all together, and that is the uniqueness of the programme.’
SupaJam is special in many ways, not least because there is nothing else like it in the country. Not only is the set-up unusual, so too is its very genesis. ‘We didn’t sit down with a massive business plan,’ says Court. ‘The moment you hit on something where there is a desire, or real need, it grows exponentially. This wasn’t planned whatsoever. All the best ideas in life never are.’
‘For us, it’s about improving the lives of others. That motivates us to innovate, and that in turn educates’
By going up against tech giants to protect our privacy rights, Reventlow is as much an activist as she is a lawyer
Nani Jansen Reventlow’s remarkable career evades neat classification. Her talents are acknowledged by the prestigious...
Reventlow’s work to assert people’s rights against tech giants is political. ‘It is important that we use all the means we have available now, in a time when non-liberal regimes are becoming more and more prominent, and they have increasingly easy access to the technical means to with or without the help of companies – undermine the rule of law,’ she warned the audience in a May 2019 lecture she gave in her home country, The Netherlands. This moral urgency is what has motivated her to devise new ways of working. In 2017, Reventlow founded the Digital Freedom Fund, which looks to advance digital rights for all by funding specific ‘test’ cases to make better law. She says the Digital Freedom Fund is the first of its kind: ‘I think that in this specific area, for digital rights, we are unique.’
Reventlow is aware of how algorithms and artificial intelligence replicate the power dynamics of the society that created them. New technologies do not exist outside of racism, imperialism or sexism, but can help to embed them. For Reventlow, who says she is often the only mixed race woman in a room of white or male faces, her own industry needs to step up. ‘If we are going to be an adequate watchdog for human rights violations in our society, we need to reflect what that society looks like,’ she says. Her insistence on her sector doing better on issues of intersectionality is mirrored by her own ambition to expand her professional horizons. ‘Now, we’re focusing on Europe. Five years from now, I’d like us to be working on other continents too. It’ll be exciting to see how we can start thinking about a global narrative on protecting digital rights.’
‘If we’re going to be a watchdog for human rights violations in our society, we need to reflect what that society looks like’