Behind The Scenes With Micha Benoliel, A Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Connecting People Without Internet

Posted on May 26, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Interviews, Sci-Tech

By Mayank Jain: 

When you travel from one place to another, look around you: there will be walking heads all over, with their eyes fixed on the screen in their palms and their fingers doing the tango on top of it. They walk, travel, run, eat and live in front of that screen, practically. The device is their window to the world, and not just their own surroundings which they appear to be missing from. Such is the power of the Internet today. It has made the human dream of being connected 24*7 to everyone, a virtual reality.

With the advent of Internet, the world developed faster, information spreads like wildfire and there is no dearth of avenues to connect with the ones you love and share an extra moment or two with them, which would have been otherwise lost. The Internet is closely comparable to nuclear energy in its potential and danger.

It has the latency to change the world for better and reduce dependence on every other means of communication and revolutionize the way we live, think and function; while in the wrong hands, it turns into a disaster amplification vehicle. Internet is the source of all the information and subsequently most vulnerable to attacks to one’s privacy and at a much larger level, international security.

An open world that we all dream of, where the Wi-Fi is free and communication is safe, a tightrope walk is needed to balance the two sides. The innovation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and resilience of the rest of the world comes into play here as they design cutting edge technologies, better equipped to serve and defend.

Micha Benoliel

Open Garden in Silicon Valley
It was the year 2011, when the Internet age was still on its way to the world and Facebook and Twitter IPO were in the future when an internet architect, a software developer, a businessman and a systems architect came together to form a company that would change the way the world uses Wireless Technologies.

The company, Open Garden was hence born out of the vision to improve communication systems and enable faster data transmissions. Open Garden is a multi-platform app that simply switches available networks to the strongest ones and lets you concentrate on your work and play rather than switching networks.

The businessman among them is, Micha Benoliel. He is the co-founder and CEO of Open Garden, the company which has relentlessly worked for promoting an open and more connected world with less fear of snooping and spying that looms large these days.

Conversation with Micha
Reaching out to Micha, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has so much to do in his day was only as difficult as texting a friend to come over. The down to earth personality that everyone raves about on internet, from Quora to Wikipedia was within my reach to talk and discover his secret. A freewheeling conversation over email with him resulted in many epiphanies as he recounted his successes, failures and dreams over all these years.

His love for breaking things and fascination to invent new ones led him where he is today,

Early on I was fascinated by computers. I stopped learning piano and started to learn how to code in Basic at the age of 8 on a Zenith that my father had bought for doing accounting. A few years later I got a TI 99 4A and started to code programs to design, play music and games. I quickly became a fan of the Atari 520ST and the Amiga 500 that could already display amazing graphics, animations and enabled ray tracing. I stopped coding when I was 14 but that logic and passion always helped me in the process of creating web and mobile applications.”

The fire in an entrepreneur that takes him to the pinnacle of success is his desire to contribute to the world instead of taking away from it. A similar drive propelled Micha from an early age to make the world a better place and he decided to do it through Open Garden when he arrived in USA.

When I arrived in the US at the end of 2010, I thought it was timely to create a network made of people and devices because of the density of smartphones and the ecosystem of the mobile apps. I saw there was an opportunity to improve the access to the Internet for everyone and to make Internet access faster.”


Birth of Fire Chat: Eliminating Mobile Networks
Fire Chat is a revolutionary new app brought out by Micha that relies on mesh networking technology to provide an anonymous chat platform for group conversations. What this implies for you, is that you can connect with a lot of people in your vicinity without the need of an internet connection and have quick conversations or simply switch groups from one to another, as you would do in a party.

Here’s what makes it special: “After having launched Open Garden that enabled the sharing of mobile Internet with your tablet or laptop seamlessly we reached several million of installs. The peer-to-peer technology that we developed in the latest version provides even more benefits: you can access the Internet through a chain of devices by multi-hopping and you can make your connection faster by bundling several accesses together simultaneously. We thought it was perfect to start on this new platform. That’s how we decided to launch FireChat which we brought to Android 15 days after our launch on iOS.”

“Learn to code, it takes you far.”
Micha might not be the coder for his company anymore but he does recommend everyone to learn a bit of programming while they still can. “I think that everyone should at least learn coding at some point the same way you learn another discipline. For me, it really forged my thinking and even if I don’t code anymore it helps me every day to be more creative and to understand what could be done using software.”

Beyond Technology: Metaphysics and more
Micha is not all about technology. His interests are as broad and all-encompassing as metaphysics and his view on non-duality is something you should not miss: “Our reality is conditioned by the relation between the subject and the object. The perceiver and what is perceived. Non-Duality implies to turn off that mental process. By asking yourself metaphysical questions you can switch off that process. I have a mentor who wrote a book I recommend which explains it well: “How to get out of this world Alive” by Alain Forget”.

Final word: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective on India
The Silicon Valley entrepreneur is all praises for the Indian entrepreneurs who are breaking new grounds every day and congratulates the culture for their good business and ethical sense: “I think Indian entrepreneurs are among the most successful in Silicon Valley. They usually have very good technical skills and their culture, I am sure helps them a lot to be good entrepreneurs. One quality I noticed is that they don’t take anything personally.”

The best things usually come in the last and his advice to people transcends philosophy and business in a single stroke and comes out as one of the best things you’d have someone tell you:

“I would have to say that they have to keep on exploring the unknown and that the victory lies in the unknown.”