Last Saturday I started FON. It´s been the craziest 6 days of my business life. And my business life is not short. I started Viatel, Jazztel and Ya.com. But in those three cases the launch itself was not an event. I don´t remember the actual first week of Viatel. I had the idea in 1990, a sort of virus that reverted the calling patterns of international telecom networks and gave foreigners US dial tone. It was a big idea, but it took me maybe a year of hard labor to get to the level of global awareness that I have achieved in 6 days with FON through my blog. And it took 10 years and a great team effort for the company to be worth over $1bn.
Same is true with Jazztel. Jazztel was a Spanish telecom company. A fiber optic network/dsl provider. But even though it was local, it took me at least 2 million euros in advertising to get to the level of awareness that FON has achieved in 6 days… and all through my blog. Jazztel is now Spain´s second largest publicly traded telecom company with a market cap of over $1bn. Same with Ya.com. Spain´s second largest internet company. We launched Ya.com when the internet was so small in Spain that most advertising had to be done on TV and print, and it costed a fortune. True, we invested 38 million euros and we sold it two years later to T Online for 550 million euros, but close to half of the 38 million was spent in regular advertising in 2000/2001.
But now, there´s my blog. From what I know, mine is not a very popular blog. It is read by only about 2000 people per day. But it seems that 2000 people talking to their friends adds up to a LOT of people. Last night I searched “fon varsavsky” in Technorati and I couldn´t believe the amount of blogs that were writing about FON. And we are not even ready with our software! The official launch date is November 15th. Moreover, the concept of FON is not that easy to understand. Yesterday, for example, I met with the former head of Vodafone in Spain, Ignacio Sanchez Galan, and he just did not get it, which surprised me as Vodafone could be one of the companies whose stock value would tank the most if FON becomes the Skype of the mobile world. Not only there is an incredible amount of people reading blogs now, but they are smarter than the former head of Vodafone!
Now, of all the crazy things that happened, the one that stands out is the case of Daniel Isenberg, a Harvard Business School professor who wants to do a Harvard Business case on FON, only 6 days after it appeared on my blog. I know this could be dangerous. If FON in the end fizzles, people do not download our software and we don´t get to build a unified wifi nation, we will look like idiots. But at least we won´t be broke idiots, as it happened to many during the bubble, as we are spending exactly O euros in advertising and very little on all the rest. In FON, so far, there´s a lot of talent among the people who work there, but no money spent on marketing. Blogging has turned the equation of being a big success or a big failure into being a small failure or a big success. I like this new risk profile and will do whatever I can to turn FON into a big success.
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