Yesterday we spent 7 hours locked non stop in a conference room at Fon with our partners from Skype and Index Ventures. It was the four of us plus around 15 members of the Fon management team, who would join for specific segments of the meeting. The following is picture of them with Niklas.
FON USA is growing very fast and since we announced that Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures invested in FON, USA became the second largest country in terms of registered foneros. In order to manage and accelerate this growth we have hired Juergen Urbanski as lead US fonero.
Juergen has a B.A. (Hons.) from the European School of Business (ESB) in Germany and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School. He worked in the past with McKinsey & Company and Network Appliance.
Welcome Juergen to the FON team!
Somewhere in my blog I told the story of my unfulfilled promise to do my PhD. In short, I promised my grandmother Ora Alperovich, before she died in 1994, that one day I would have a PhD like my father (who had one in Physics from Harvard University). For her my two Master´s from Columbia University were not enough and she was terribly disappointed when I was accepted to do a PhD in Economics at Oxford, but did not go. During her last days before her lymphoma took her away, she kept going on and on about how important it was for Jewish people to be well educated and she asked me to promise her that I would do my PhD one day.
My grandma had grown up in a very antisemitic Russia and left only to see Nazis coming close to winning WWII (she feared they would win and then Argentina would hand over all the Jews as other countries had done). Basically, her view of the Jewish people is that, unfortunately, we were always going to be on the run and that the more knowledge we carried around with us the better we could do.
While I think that the global environment for Jews has changed for the better since my grandmother´s time, I am sometimes concerned about my unfulfilled promise to my grandmother. Hence, I keep coming up with ideas for my PhD thesis. As I am managing Fon full time and don´t have time for a PhD, I decided that for now I am just going to blog these ideas which is all I have time to do.
When people analyze wealth they tend to look for wealth. I instead, thanks to Argentine entrepreneur and dear friend Maximiliano Fernandez who once educated me on this matter, think differently. I think that the richest countries are those with the richest poor. Why? Because if the poor are not doing that badly then the rest are all doing better.
Flickr is user generated content. Youtube is user generated content. Del.icio.us is user generated content. What is Fon? We are user generated infrastructure! Foneros buy our social routers for 25 dollars or euros or the very techie ones download our firmware and join the largest WiFi community in the world and make it larger.
Youtube is to CBS what Fon is to T Mobile. We are like “Vodafone” built by the people who turn a normally stand alone product, a wifi router into a social product and use it as the building block of a true broadband global wireless network that is free to them wherever they are. Moreover, we work over a frequency, WiFi, which is favored over 3G by makers of games (PSP, DS), laptops, PDAs, digital cameras and now iPod like players with WiFi.
I have an 11 year old son. Tonight we were talking about Bit Torrent with some friends at dinner table and then somebody asked him, I guess as a representative of a new generation, how he felt about downloading files over the internet and whether it was theft of not. This was his answer.
When you steal from somebody you deprive this person of something, you take it, they lose it. You have a hot dog you are about to eat, I run away with it, I eat it, you don´t. But with music and movie files theft does not take place. You have a file, I copy it with your permission, you still have it. No stealing, and we both have it.
Yesterday I spent the morning going over Fon´s billing software and the launch of the Bill model. So far Fon´s 39,000 foneros signed up for the Linus model as that was the only one available. In the Linus model a fonero shares some of its bandwidth to people who pass by his/her home and then gets to roam the world for free. In the Bill model a fonero is an entrepreneur who sells day passes to the Fon community and makes money doing so.
There´s been a lot of debate on how much to charge and share with the Bills at Fon and we are coming close to the conclusion that Fon will charge 2 euros or dollars per 24 hours of usage on any Fon hotspot if the Alien buys 5 days of usage but if they buy only one it will be 3 euros or dollars per day. Of this money half of it will go to the Bills who will sign up with Pay Pal from our partners at eBay in order to get paid by Fon. We are also studying the figure of the Super Bill.
Fon is a download, but it´s a firmware download that works on very few routers currently available in the market. The problem is that around 90% of the people who download our software don´t seem to notice and seem to try to install our software in non compatible routers. We are about to change this and before we allow the download we will ask people if they have the right router. But even though we lose around 25 euros or dollars per router sold at this point we strongly recommend most but the techiest of foneros to avoid the download and just buy the plug and play router for 25 euros/dollars.
Now the good news is that we are up to 39,000 registered foneros now and that as we contact foneros who failed to download properly and explain many opt to get the router and we convert registered to active. There´s a very cool feature coming in 45 days and that is that our 3rd version of the firmware will have two SSIDs, this means that every Fon router will beam two networks, a Fon Private and a Fon Public so the two environments will be completely separate.
I am back in Madrid after spending a week in the Bay Area and Seattle. The companies I met there were Google, our investor in the Bay Area and Microsoft and Starbucks in Seattle. From what I saw corporate America has decided to make food and drink one of the key competitive advantages in recruitment. First an article. Walking around Seattle I was surprised to see this headline in the local paper:
For how long is the pile of lies related to America´s role in Iraq going to continue generating a pile of dead bodies in Iraq? When is this cycle of horror and waste going to end?
America first invaded Iraq because Iraq was making WMD. That was a lie. Then America stayed in Iraq to fight the war on terror and that was a lie as well. There were no terrorists in Iraq before the American invasion. And now we are on to the third big lie, that America stays in Iraq in order to prevent a civil war.