Michael Acton Smith

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Michael Acton Smith OBE (born 1974) is the current CEO [1]and founder of kids entertainment company Mind Candy – the creators of global kids phenomenon Moshi Monsters. He has been described by The Daily Telegraph as "a rock star version of Willy Wonka"[2] and by The Independent as "a polite version of Bob Geldof."[3]

Mind Candy created the online world of Moshi Monsters, which has over 90 million users around the world[4] and has expanded offline[5] into best selling toys, the number one selling kids magazine in the UK,[6] a best selling DS video game,[7] top 5 music album which has gone gold in the UK,[8] books, membership cards, trading cards and much more.

In July 2011, Mind Candy was valued at $200 million.[9] By December 2014, the company's valuation had dropped dramatically to less than $24 million. According to one of the company's earliest investors, Spark Ventures, "Mind Candy has continued to disappoint, missing budgeted revenues and reporting sales substantially behind previous years."[10]


In 1998, while in his early twenties, Smith co-founded online gadget and gift retailer Firebox.com with university friend Tom Boardman. The pair started out with a rent-free attic and £800 from undergoing a medical experiment. Their breakthrough moment came in the form of the "Shot Glass Chess Set". Within five years they were listed by The Sunday Times 'Fast Track 100' as the 13th fastest growing, privately owned business in the UK.[11]

Following his success with Firebox, Michael secured $10m backing and launched Mind Candy in 2004.[12] The company launched alternate reality game Perplex City, a global treasure hunt with £100,000 buried somewhere in the world that played out across various media including websites, text messages, magazines, live events, skywriting and multiple helicopters. The game gained positive press coverage[13] with Perplex City being hailed as the future of gaming. The game was also nominated for a BAFTA award in 2006[14] yet only attracted a niche audience. After three years (and $9m spent) Perplex City was placed on indefinite hold.[3]

With just $1m left in the bank in 2007, Smith, having been inspired by the growing success of Facebook and kids brands including Tamagotchi, Mind Candy launched online world Moshi Monsters. The risk proved to be successful for a number of years.[15]

Michael Acton Smith's ultimate vision is to 'build the largest entertainment brand in the world for this new digital generation of kids'.[2]

Michael Acton Smith is also a co-founder of Calm.com[16] and Ping Pong Fight Club[17]

Smith was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to the creative industries.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Smith was born in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where he lived with his parents and sister. The family spent many summers in the USA, as Smith's father is American.

Smith studied Geography at the University of Birmingham, England where he met Tom Boardman at the chess club, who went on to be one of his best friends and co-founder of Firebox.com, Smith's first business.

Smith lives in central London. In his spare time he organises boutique music festivals and networking events including Berwickstock[19] and Silicon Drinkabout.[20] He was recently ranked among the Twitter elite. His official Twitter username is @acton.[21]

His long-term partner is widely-recognized British tech entrepreneur, Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded. In August 2013, rumours surfaced of an affair with Luisa Zissman.[22]

Career Highlights[edit]

On 9 July 2013, Smith was awarded an honorary Doctorate at the University of Birmingham.

In 2013, Smith was listed in The Times Magazine 'Best Dressed Men' list[23]

In 2013, he attended the World Economic Forum where Mind Candy was recognised as a Technology Pioneer.

In 2012, Smith was included in the Evening Standard 's 'London's 1000 most influential people 2012'[24]

In September 2012, Smith was The Guardian 's MediaGuardian 100 guide to the most powerful people in Media and came 44th.[25]

In June 2012, he was voted fifth in Wired magazine's Top 100 of Britain's Digital Power List[26]

In March 2012, Smith won 'Tech Guru 2012' at The Guardian 's Digital Innovation Awards.[27]

In January 2012, he was listed as No.36 in The Times '100 to watch in 2012' list.[28]

In December 2011, Smith was profiled on BBC Radio 4 as the 'Moshi Monsters mogul.'[29]

In November 2010, he was included in London's Evening Standard 's selection of 'London's 1000 most influential people 2010: New Media'.[30]

In May 2011, Smith was voted 12th in Wired magazine's Top 100 of Britain's Digital Power List.[31]

Smith is a member of the Courvoisier Future 500, an exclusive network of pioneers, entrepreneurs and revolutionary spirits from the arts, social enterprise, business, science, gastronomy, fashion and other sectors.

In February 2011, Smith was ranked within the Twitter elite as part of The Independent 's Twitter 100.[21] The following year, he had dropped off the same list entirely.[32]

He is a regular speaker at events and conferences around the world. In 2011 Michael has spoken at Kidscreen (New York City), MIPTV (Cannes, France), The Children's Media Conference (Sheffield, UK) and Develop (Brighton, UK).

Smith also founded Silicon Drinkabout, a weekly Tech/Media meet up in Shoreditch, London designed to bring together those working within the Tech community – supported by David Cameron's Tech City initiative.[20]


  1. ^ "Michael Acton Smith | LinkedIn". uk.linkedin.com. Retrieved 2016-03-06. 
  2. ^ a b "The man who gave birth to Moshi Monsters". Telegraph. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The man who aims to hide a monster under every bed – Business Analysis & Features – Business". The Independent. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Mike Butcher (2 May 2013). "As Moshi Monsters Hits 5 years, Can it pull of Three new games?". TechCrunch. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Jemima Kiss. "Moshi Monsters plans move into online children's TV | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "ABC Figures Reveal Moshi Monsters Magazine is the Best Selling Children's Magazine in the UK". Bloomberg. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Tyler, Lewis (30 April 2012). "Moshi Monsters video game breaks chart record | Latest news from the toy industry | ToyNews". Toynews-online.biz. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Pakinkis, Tom. "Moshi Monsters album goes Gold – with no promotional airplay". Music Week. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Bradshaw, Tim (24 June 2011). "Moshi Monsters maker valued at $200m". FT.com. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Moshi Monsters valuation slashed by VC backer Spark". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-06. 
  11. ^ "BBC Radio 5 live – On the Money, 30/01/2011". Bbc.co.uk. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Hannah Prevett (19 August 2012). "A monster success". Elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Daniel Terdiman (28 March 2013). "Perplex City Faces Reality Check". Wired.com. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Mind Candy: Michael Acton Smith – Startups.co.uk: Starting a business advice and business ideas". Startups.co.uk. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Helen Garston (25 September 2011). "Moshi Monsters: Man behind the website dubbed 'Facebook for kids' says it's worth £200m | Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Sarah Perez (26 February 2013). "Relaxation Calm.com Launches iPhone App that Helps you Chill, Grabs $415K in Angel Funding". TechCrunch. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Kevin Maher (13 February 2014). "Inside London's Silicon Roundabout". Esquire. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 14. 31 December 2013.
  19. ^ https://web.archive.org/20090826053309/http://blog.firebox.com:80/2008/07/berwickstock-08.html. Archived from the original on 26 August 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ a b Josh Halliday. "Mind Candy – the monster that lurks on Silicon Roundabout | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "The full list: The Twitter 100 – News – People". The Independent. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "I had that Apprentice girl in the back of a cab". www.thesun.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  23. ^ "best-dressed men list". The Times. 2 March 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  24. ^ "London's 1000 most influential people 2012: Innovators, Digital – The 1000 – News – London Evening Standard". Standard.co.uk. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "Michael Acton Smith | MediaGuardian 100 2012 | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  26. ^ "Michael Acton Smith" (PDF). Mindcandy.com. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  27. ^ "Guardian News & Media press release: Moshi Monsters founder Michael Acton Smith wins top prize at the Guardian's Digital Innovation Awards | GNM press office". theguardian.com. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  28. ^ "Times Store". Timesplus.co.uk. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  29. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Profile, Michael Acton Smith". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  30. ^ "London's 1000 most influential people 2010: New Media – Home – London Evening Standard". Thisislondon.co.uk. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "The WIRED 100: Britain's digital power list". Telegraph. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  32. ^ "The Twitter 100: The full at-a-glance list". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-03-06. 

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