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The day he told me he had cancer he was out on the pavement below our Cape Town offices. His hair may have thinned from the chemotherapy, but he was beaming. He was going to beat this thing. It was his new challenge.
After all, what was there that Burn Media Group founder Matthew Buckland could not succeed at?
From being a kid making robots to his career in digital media, to starting, selling and exiting Creative Spark within eight years — to convincing sceptical me to take the helm of his prized Ventureburn publication.
He could, it seemed overcome anything, even stage-four oesophageal cancer. But it wasn’t to be.
It’s difficult to accept that he’s gone. When the news came in of his passing, from a colleague’s Whatsapp message last Tuesday (23 April), I was out in the middle of nowhere — on a big farm, near Dewetsdorp in the Free State. I was suddenly filled with a massive emptiness — like those endless mealie fields you see while driving the N1.
How could he leave us so soon?
Matthew Buckland was one of those rare media owners that understood both sides — the need for quality independent reporting and the importance of advertising
Matthew — or Matt as he was affectionately known — was a phenomenal person. And I was fortunate to know him for these last two years. He was highly focused and intelligent yet fun at the same time.
He was one of those rare media owners that understood both sides — the need for critical independent reporting and the import role that advertising plays. He knew where the line was and hardly ever overstepped it.
During my time as editor of Ventureburn — since April 2017 — I would often seek out his advice. Even when I didn’t agree with some of his views, he always made me think more, challenged me as he would others.
Though we had many healthy disagreements — that exist in any newsroom between the publisher and editor — he would never dictate to me how to run the publication.
He had many close relationships with those in South Africa’s tech startup sector. Many of his contacts would try to leverage this to get favourable coverage in Ventureburn.
However, Matt’s understanding for media independence meant he was always clear to friends and contacts that as publisher he had no say in what the editorial stance was that we at Ventureburn took. Despite this, he was always available to offer his advice.
He’d often call me in to his office or phone me up after work with one or other startup founder or someone in the sector complaining about the critical or unfavourable coverage that Ventureburn had given them.
He loved to push and challenge you — but his chief concern was to understand whether the facts were correct and whether a complainant had indeed been granted fair comment. When the facts were correct — as they nearly always were — he stood by us, defending our editorial independence.
What one quickly realised too when working with him, is that he was always very positive. He had a keen understanding for South Africa and Africa’s problems, but he looked beyond these.
He understood that it is inevitable that technology and startups will play a key and determining factor in the future of Africa.
But above all, my lasting impression of Matt is that he was an incredibly down to earth kind of guy. He never used fancy words or terms or fancy anything.
Importantly, he believed that work could be fun. It was work, he told me that day on the pavement, that was keeping him going. He wanted to make a difference and indeed he has.
We at Ventureburn will always have him in our thoughts — as we continue his legacy. Matt we salute you.
Stephen Timm is the editor of Ventureburn.
A memorial will be held for Matt tomorrow at 10am at the Cape Point Vineyards in Noordhooek, Cape Town. All are welcome to attend.
Read more: Matthew Buckland’s memorial to take place on Tuesday 30 April
Read more: Buckland helped bring together, inspire tech startup community – Silicon Cape
Read more: African tech startup community pays tribute to Matthew Buckland
Read more: Matthew Buckland, an SA media industry giant and our dear founder, has died
Featured image: Burn Media Group founder Matthew Buckland (via Facebook)