In this podcast episode, I am joined by Monty Munford, a renowned tech journalist and the co-founder of the Sienna Network, a community that focuses on privacy and Decentralised finance. He also runs the crypto podcast BlockSpeak.
Monty has been a keynote speaker, MC, moderator and interviewer at prestigious events around the world until Covid put his conference career to an end (until 2023). He has spoken at more than 200 global events.
He was previously a weekly tech columnist for Forbes in the US and The Telegraph in the UK and continues to write regularly for the BBC, the Economist and the Financial Times.
What You’ll Hear
- [1:50] About Monty and his background
- [5:24] Why Monty became an entrepreneur
- [9:00] Monty’s favourite celebrity interview
- [10:45] Monty’s podcast, Block Speak
- [12:00] Should you invest in crypto?
- [16:57] The Sienna Network
- [20:40] How Monty became a Bollywood actor
- [25:22] The most interesting place Monty has visited
- [26:34] Final comments
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About Monty Munford and his Background
Monty says he was a mischief-maker in his younger days, but after he went on a kibbutz in his early 20s it changed his life. He travelled the world for 15 years, and wrote his (unpublished) book at the same time.
He retrained as a journalist in the 1990s and worked for IT Weekly in Soho, London. From there, he spent a year and a half in sub-editing before getting the job of communications director for the first Big Brother series.
Then, he set up a mobile games testing company, testing Vodafone Live games, before running a mobile games publisher. He also lived in India for two years, working as a consultant for Nokia and Paramount films, as well as starring in two Bollywood films.
In 2010 he set up his own consultancy and revisited his tech writing career. Monty says he’s always been curious about what’s next in the world and on the lookout for new things. He values experiences over money and possessions.
Why Monty Munford Became an Entrepreneur
Monty says he never wanted to be a journalist or an entrepreneur, but he wanted to be a writer. He liked the idea of the Jack Kerouac, on-the-road lifestyle and having adventures. But as you get older, you have to get real, and do something with your life.
Whenever he came back from a travelling spell, he’d go back to London and work as a motorbike courier, trying to earn as much money as possible so he could go away again as quickly as he could.
Sometimes coming back, he felt like he’d missed out, when all his peers had gone to university. But travelling, Monty says, teaches you other things, like courage and resilience, especially if you get yourself into a bad situation. What you do to get out of those help you to learn.
When he started as a journalist, he was far behind many others, so he was keen to move up the ladder quickly. His entrepreneurial journey is a culmination of all his other experiences.
Monty Munford’s Favourite Celebrity Interview
In his journalism career, Monty has interviewed celebrities and famous people from all walks of life. He interviewed Kim Kardashian in Armenia (she’s half-Armenian) and found it interesting. “She’s not the kind of person you’d go for a drink with, but she’s so diplomatic. I can see her running for president one day.”
He also had the opportunity to speak in front of 10,000 people in Beirut, which changed his life – it gave him the confidence to see that public speaking could be an option for him.
Monty also interviewed John McAfee, computer programmer and the inventor of antivirus software (McAfee died in June 2021). “He’s insane. He’s in prison in Madrid but he’s done a lot in crypto. He’s out there, but extraordinarily intelligent. He has some amazing stories.”
Monty Munford’s Podcast, Block Speak
Monty explains that he and a couple of friends set up the podcast during lockdown, and had done 32 interviews within a few weeks. It was designed to let them pool together their knowledge and resources.
Guests are all involved in blockchain or crypto in some way, whether they’ve started a new currency themselves or are the head of a big company. It’s an informal conversation, but Monty is keen to make it valuable, rather than a casual pub-style chat.
Should You Invest in Crypto?
Monty says he’s not the best person to advise on crypto investing. “I understand the culture and philosophy of decentralised money, but that’s all. People ask me this all the time, and I always give the same answer:
“99% of people who’ve invested in Bitcoin have made a profit over the last 11 years. You see waves of Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies succeeding and failing. But the traditional finance companies want to fail, because it’s a threat to them. They cheer when it fails.
“There’s a lot of volatility, which would be terrifying if it was your pension you’ve invested, but for younger people it’s not such a risk. Things are going to keep changing, especially after the pandemic, and people look for alternative ways to live and work. If you want to invest, try it.”
According to Monty, it’s not difficult to pick up the fundamentals of crypto. Spend a couple of days doing research, he says, and be careful about where you get your information. Avoid anything that looks like a scam or too good to be true, and you can learn the basics.
The Sienna Network
Monty says that he was the victim of a crypto theft three or four years ago, having £25,000 worth of Ethereum stolen from him. There’s a huge community of people interested in decentralised finance (or DeFi) but they’re also concerned about privacy.
“In DeFi, there’s a thing called front-running. Your public actions can be hijacked by someone at the last minute, and we want to help protect people. It’s not about keeping things anonymous or illegal, but keeping them safe.
“We want people to be interested in DeFi and privacy, so the Sienna Network is designed to give them information about it. We’re preparing for the second wave of crypto and blockchain, and what we’re doing might change the world.”
How Monty Munford Became a Bollywood Actor
In 2005, Monty went to Goa for a couple of years to avoid the coming recession. He was part of a community of expats and other travellers, including a boutique hotel owner. Bollywood casting agents would stay in the hotel, and the owner suggested he attend a screen test to be a villain.
He did an audition and went down well, but waited two months before his part was confirmed. Monty says he starred alongside some of the biggest names in the business, and it went a bit crazy.
In the second film, he was a Russian drug-dealer. “I was going to raves in Goa in the 80s, and then in 2010 I’m a dancing Russian selling drugs to tourists at raves. It was surreal. I had to speak Russian, too. In the end I was thrown into an incinerator and killed.”
The Most Interesting Place Monty has Visited
Monty says his favourite place is a little Bedouin village called Dahab in the Sinai Desert. He’s been there several times over the years and is looking forward to going back. He also loves Africa, particularly Ethiopia. It’s the birth of mankind, the music is amazing, the people are lovely and the scenery is stunning.
We’ve all been going through a difficult time since the pandemic, but we have to just keep going, says Monty. Keep working, and you’ll be ok. “Look at crypto and how the world is changing. And watch out for AI. Live your life as if every day is your first, not your last.”
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