Micha Benoliel


How HBO’s Silicon Valley Hacked my Startup Pitch

Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley Show Richard Hendrix) with me during Bloomberg technology conference in San Francisco on June 16th 2015

In march 2015 Open Garden was awarded by the Financial Times the Boldness in Business award for Technology of the year, at the same time HBO received the same award for Drivers of Change. The Financial Times titled: “Open Garden may have found the next version of the internet”

This happened just after laying out the story and how we came up with the idea of connecting all smartphones together to build a new internet. This radical departure from the old internet would be free, decentralized, and completely bypass the traditional infrastructure of the internet. Its best use so far has been through the mobile messaging application FireChat. 
FireChat was originally built to enable burners to communicate during Burning Man. The app spread through the underground community, building community networks all over the world. It ended up being used by protesters and festivals goers at major events. People gathered with hundred of thousands of users simultaneously, and a new internet was born.

On the Season 4 premiere of Silicon Valley show, it is fun and exciting to see the parallels between Open Garden and Pied Piper. 
Richard Hendrix left the Pied Piper team to start a new company. He wants to use his Pied Piper protocol to build a new internet made using people’s smartphones: “Well we put a man on the moon using the intel power of a calculator, and then I thought, okay… there is literally millions of time more computing power seating in my phone doing nothing,… so then I thought, what… there is what… billions of phone all around the word with the same computing power seating in people’s pocket, what if we use all those phones to build a massive network, we use my compression algorithm to make everything smaller and easy to move things around…. and if we could do it, we could build a completely decentralized version of our current internet: no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulations, no spy. Information would be totally free in every sense of the world.” Richard Hendrix

My cofounders and I were inspired by the same vision in 2011 when we started Open Garden. Eventually we launched the FireChat app; we wanted to enable communities of people, crowds, every smartphone user to create their own communication network using a tool that is independent of any infrastructure and power. The only thing you need is a smartphone and free software.

This is what we call the Internet of us.

In these times of worldwide political uncertainties and instabilities I feel this kind of networks are much needed. They can help to fight censorship, to advocate freedom of speech and to bring connectivity in places where no internet is available. Every smartphone is meant to become an active internet node.

I love the Silicon Valley Show as it is a true caricature of the reality of the valley. It was 6 months after winning the Financial Times award next to HBO I ended up being fired from the company I created by my investors. And a few months later so were my cofounders. It was a hard time for all of us but I believe in this say: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

These wild turn of events have not discouraged me from starting over again. Most probably it even reinforced my will to build more startups to solve problems while trying to make everyone’s life better.

I feel lucky that HBO decided to recall Open Garden original vision and mission ;-) I can’t wait to watch the next episodes and to hack again communication networks.

More by Micha Benoliel

Topics of interest

More Related Stories