I must stay that for somebody who used to work at icq back in the day, this mobile messaging crazy is really fascinating. It is like IM is back again but much better and mobile. And it totally makes sense. Its like back to basics again. People are fed up with facebook which has become bloated with Ads, social recommendations and a sense of lack of privacy control. Google+ (which I actually like but few people use) is not really going anywhere. Twitter is great but getting spammy and does not fit for private or group communication.
Its all back to basics. Communication. That is why mobile communication apps are growing so fast. And that is why I like Whatsapp. It is simple, mobile, instant and free from social recommendation spam (SRS) Ads, and other annoying stuff. I can definitely see why some of the big companies would like to get their hands on it. Whatsapp & Co is going to eat their lunch. It is the next big thing in communication (social or not).
But what I as an entrepreneur really like about WhatsApp is their business model. You have to pay for it. $0.99 a year (but then its free). And it is not a growth stopper. People pay for what they love. Strange isn’t it? And I love that they stay away from the Ad driven model:
Or like the founders them selves say:
Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.
I recorded Get up, get up! in 1990 in Rub-A-Dub Studios in Stockholm, Sweden under the artist name Malach-I. I sang, played guitar, percussions and arranged the music. That was a long time ago. Hope you like it. I co-produced it with my good friend, the late Tom “Internal Dread” Hofwander. Drums: Peter Martin. Base: Babatunde Tony Ellis. Lead guitar: Margaret Björklund (now a very talented steel guitarist & singer) Horns: Don’t remember but Internal Dread set it up. The picture above is taken up in the mountains outside Montego Bay. And yes. I did have dreads then.. I recorded two other songs as well that you can find here (will set them up on Soundcloud at some point). .
My friend Om Malik just nailed what I have been thinking for a long time but not been able to put in words.
Building things that are different, inventing the future and creating a real business is a long and often very lonely slog. But you don’t hear about that. Instead what you get is a lot of babble about startups from so-called mentors, advisors and startup gurus. Peel away their sharkskin and you find they have never started a company, and they continue to live in the reflective glory of the company that once employed them. Others are the creation of social media, having struck a pose. And some are born consultants. They find willing listeners among a growing army of entrepreneurs who like entrepreneurship as a lifestyle. Sorry guys, entrepreneurship isn’t a lifestyle, it is life.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. .
When I first joined Facebook in the Fall of 2007, as responsible for international business development, I was also tasked with leading mobile business. What I didnt know at that time, was that mobile did not really have any specific home at Facebook, neither was it a priority. Rather, we had half an engineer working (sometimes dragged in more when needed) on the development side and a PM/BD guy trying to figure it all out. That was all.
As a European with a mobile background (Ericsson Mobile Communications later SonyEricsson) I though that was really strange. When I tried to push for more resources for mobile, I was told (more than once) not to bring it up with Zuck (as he thought, according to them, that Facebook was just a Website and had little to do with mobile. According to them he thought facebook would be misrepresented on mobile devices and a distraction. This attitude was not uniqe for facebook at the time though. Europe and Asia was way ahead of the US on the mobile side and most US based companies had mobile solutions but they were more as add ons/support to their current web services but never a priority.
Until the birth of the iPhone. Then everything chaged. Why do I bring this up now? Because I think this explains a lot of why facebook was so slow to adapt mobile and make mobile a priority fast enough. It simply wasnt Facebooks DNA from the outset. To change a company’s DNA overnight is not an easy task. However, I am pretty sure that the company will be doing really well on the mobile side. After all, what will be left if one does not focus on mobile?
Just like everyone else I never though it would happen to me. But it did. Last Friday, I discovered that somebody had hacked my Twitter account (@Net) and changed my image to the flag of The Arab Emirates and added the name “Rashid”. I almost fell off my chair. I quickly proceeded to check my Google account. Shit. Somebody had changed my password. My pulse started to beat faster, but since I had recently changed my security settings to Google’s “2 step verification process” I felt a certain calm that was soon going to be proven false. I’m going to fix this fast, I thought. However, when I went through the process, I found out that somebody had changed my backup mobile number as well! My heart skipped a beat. I quickly proceeded to use the back up security codes I had saved as the final solution to unlock my account should everything else fail but to no avail. Somebody had invalidated the security codes as well. WTF, I though in more than three letters. This is serious. All I could do was to file a ticket and wait. According to Google it was going to take 3-5 days for a potential resolve. That was more than I could wait. I had reached the boiling point. How could this have happened? All kinds of crazy ideas was flowing through my mind. What kind of damage could these bastards have caused me? Fast as the speed of light I changed passwords and usernames at the most important sites I was using hoping that no damage had been caused.
I then started to alert my network via Facebook and Linkedin to escalate to the highest level hoping for a fast resolve. A lot of good friends, former facebook collegues and other helpful souls quickly chimed in and helped to move things forward. 24 hours later I got a message from Google that my account had been DELETED. What? Are you kidding me? By whom? and Why? How is that even possible? I was freaking out. In disbelief I directed the browser to my facebook profile. No way. I was logged out. I tried to login again but the password had been changed!
Without any hesitation I quickly went through the facebooks recover system. In less than 10 minutes I had my account back. Phew! At least one of these companies had their shit together.
After another endless 24 hours friendly people at Google gave me heads up that I they had filed internal reports and that they were soon going to reach out to me. They did. I got an email with instruction on how to restore my ownership of the acccount. I filled out the form and in minutes my account was back! Jippie! My excitement and relief quickly turned into disbelief. My inbox was empty. Say what? I had zero emails in my account (yes I know that is a wet dream for many of you) Can somebody please wake me up? By now I had been posting frequent updates on facebook about the whole situation. A friend and Googler send me a link to request restoration of my email. It was apparently a separate process. I quickly did, and shortly after I started to see my inbox being re-populated again. Phew!
Very stressful my friends. Even for a cool cat like me.
And finally, just now, I’m back on Twitter! (minus all the people I used to follow). Starting out with a blank slate.
So after all this, what have I learned?
- Never use the same passwords accross several sites.
- You cannot rely on Google’s 2 step verification to protect your account. It gives you a false sense of security.
- Don’t use Gmail (or any other cloud hosted mails) for all your communication and don’t integrate your other email accounts into Gmail in particular.
- For very sensitve information, use your own email domain.
- Don’t store important docs in the cloud.
- Don’t click on links in emails if you don’t know the sender.
- Be very careful of installing 3-rd party applications in Gmail, Twitter and Facebook. Don’t assume you can trust them. You can’t.
- Have good friends in high places. It helps.
- Facebook wins hands down in account recover process and speed. No need to pull any strings.
- Google’s process is too slow and not “frustrated-user-friendly”. I got by with a little help from my friends.
- Don’t save your back up security files other cloudservices.
- Twitter leaves a lot to ask for. Thankfully, I have former Facebook collegues at Twitter that have been very helpful. Unfortunatley, the process is still too complicated and cumbersome. Twitter – you need to up your game.
- Use a private VPN client like Witopia for added protection
- Frequently run malware softwares like ClamXav on your computer (I’m a Mac) with
- This can happen to you anytime, even if you think that you are on top of security.
- Did I miss anything?
Finally, I want to thanks all my helpful ex-facebook collegues, friends and connections in high places. I don’t think this would have been resolved so quickly if it wasn’t for you. It makes me think about how frustrating this must be for good folks that are not lucky enough to have these type of connections. I do hope that Google and Twitter improve their account recover proceedures as this is so frustrating and the consequenses can be devastating.
Special thanks to all you great people that helped me out at Twitter and Google. I don’t want to expose your names here. You know who you are. Its good to have friends. Ex-facebook mob rocks!
Update: I ran ClamXav and found the following on my Mac yesterday: Trojan.Chepvil-3, 3 instances of Email.Trojan-256 and a few instances of “Heuristics.Phising.Email.SpoofedDomain …Looks like the closest source I can see to the hack.
I posted a question on Quora and those who are interested in learning how this could have happened, please follow the link. I am not going to write more about this.
Cerego , a company I’m advising, has just launched an open beta of their adaptive learning platform (think of it as Dropbox for the brain) aiming to enable everyone to learn faster, remember longer and manage their memory for a lifetime. Learning and education has always been very close to my heart and I am very excited about the big wave of learing companies mushrooming from the left to the right. What sets Cerego aside from many of these other companies is their focus on learning and memory management, the “last mile” – optimizing the transformation of information into lasting knowledge. Try it out for yourself by signing up the the open beta and let me know what you think
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. – Steve Jobs.
Words of wisdom. After nine months as the CEO of Ginger Software, the time has come for me to move on. As I look back I feel pretty good about we’ve accomplished in this short period. We’ve raised $5MM from top investor Horizons Ventures (Li ka-Shing) and Harbor Pacific Capital. We’ve put Ginger on the international map, got started in Japan and launched Ginger for Chrome , Safari and Firefox. Not bad. But it’s time to move on.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Horizons Ventures for their understanding and support. You guys are the best. I also would like to wish the Ginger team the best of success. Remember the only platform that will really matter is mobile.
Time to figure out what’s next.
Those who know me well knows that I am very passionate about learning, especially the intersection of technology and learning. On my endless trips throughout Asia on behalf of Ginger, I ran into Andrew Smith Lewis and Eric Young in Tokyo, the founders of Cerego, two of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met. Cerego’s mission is to transform information into lasting knowledge. Its approach combines proven learning science with cloud technology to bring breakthrough learning solutions to a rapidly expanding global market for learning languages and other core domains of knowledge.
One thing that I have learned in my career is that people and relationships are everything. If you then are lucky to find great people that you can share a bottle of Sake’ or two over endless sushi servings while passionately discussing learning/cognitive sciences and technology while cracking a joke or two, without feeling awkward, that is priceless.
Andrew and Eric are two such persons, and when they asked me if I was willing to consider becoming an advisor to Cerego, my first feeling was “I’m not worthy“. However, I quickly accepted. I don’t know if it was the Sake, the Sushi or the company. Perhaps it was the combination . Anyway, I feel very honored to join them & Cerego as an advisor as they take the world by a storm
I really believe that Cerego is one of the most innovative companies in the learning/tech space. In Japan , they run the amazing language learning platform iknow, helping people to learn and master new languages.If you haven’t tried iknow yet, go ahead and check them out. It has definitely improved my Chinese/Japanese vocabulary. However, Cerego is not limited to just language learning, their adaptive learning engine and platform really can turn any content into learning material. Check out Uncharted.fm for a taste of how you can fast can learn Geography (among other things). Keep an eye on this company. It is going to be big.
Take a look at Andrew demoing the iKnow platform at AllthingsD.
I’m very excited to announce that Horizons Ventures, the venture capital fund fully owned by Mr. Li Ka-shing , together with Harbor Pacific Capital has invested $5 million dollars in Ginger! Ever since I first started to work with Horizon Ventures while still at Facebook back in 2007, I knew that I wanted to work together with them again. Horizon’s unique passion for education and artificial intelligence coupled with a unique global network (especially in Asia) and a very strong “can do” approach, was my main reason for choosing them as an investor.
I am also very excited that Frank Meehan will be joining Ginger’s board. Frank and I worked together on the partnership between Facebook and INQ Mobile which resulted in the award-winning INQ1 at the Mobile World Congress in February 2009. Beside being a VC with Horizons Ventures, Frank is also active as the CEO & founder of the exciting London-based Kuato Studios leveraging AI and gaming technology to teach children computer programming.
I am also very happy that Harbor Pacific Capital, a small venture capital firm with close connections to Li Ka-shing has invested in Ginger as well. Harbor Pacific Capital has invested in companies great companies like Evernote and Palantir just to mention a few and are very active in Asia.
With these great new partners on board and with some more fuel in the tank, it’s time to get things done!
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