Monday, April 24, 2006

WiFi at last

Right now at Gare du Nord in Paris. In a public location. Wirelessly connected to the Internet; more or less easily I must say. France Telecom seems to have trouble supporting Firefox, so I had to use good old IE to buy my credits... Anyway. WiFi is almost pervasive. At last.

Reminds me of a trip to Seattle back in 2001 (before the infamous terrorist attack): sitting in a Starbucks I was able to surf the web and read my emails. Back then I was working on a projet for a WiFi venture launched by a Swedish VC called BrainHeart. These guys were absolutely right about the take-up of WiFi, of which I never doubted. They got it all wrong  on the business model though desipte words of caution and clear messages a colleague of mine and myself issued at the time (the reason why we ended-up stopping the project with said VC firm and the CEO of the WiFi clearing company they wanted to set-up "to be at the center of the industry" - how much more vague can an objective be? -, a former colleague of mine called Lodewijk Cornelis who is a fantastic salesperson and a great traveller). A pitty we were not able to turn an important disruptive technology identified in 2001 into a business success. I think what we experienced there was a clash between analytical minds and the enthusiasm of sales profiles who did not believe in analysis and plans... Which speaks volumes about the human dimension of new ventures.

Business models are important. Vital. Period. Now, WiFi is a great piece of technology and an enabler for much more than most people see today. A pervasive access to the Web at an affordable price is going to transform the way we deal with our activities; it is going to transform the relationships of power between citizens and government, customers and suppliers, companies and employees... WiFi is just a piece of the puzzle as shown in a great book written by Joël de Rosnay, which I will comment separately.

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