Mondays keynote at the GOTO Aarhus conference this year was held by Rick Falkvinge who is leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, a political party working for free information and a free Internet. Title of the keynote was “Red flags on the internet”, which refers to the “Red Flag Act” of 1865, where a law was introduced in United Kingdom, which required that a person should walk in front of every car waving with a red flag, to warn pedestrians.


It turned out that this law was lobbied by the British Railways in order to secure their interests. But the result was that Germany this way got 20 years advantage for their automobile industry, so it ended by hurting Britain more than it helped. Rick went on to other examples from the history, ending with Kodak, who actually invented the digital camera back in 1976, but because their income depended heavily on their analog film products, they didn’t develop this new digital technology further and eventually went bankrupt in January 2012. So the point here is that it doesn’t help protecting/hiding information and inventions, as it will at at some point emerge anyways.

Even though the Swedish Pirate Party is currently mostly a protest party, he drew lines back to the Green politics 40 years ago, which is now a common part of the official program for all political parties. He didn't give a good answer to how we can actually still get paid if all information is freely available, but I still find it interesting to see how history has shown that information and new technologies cannot be hidden away.

New infrastructure introduces new types of companies

With the shift from e.g. water mills to electricity, it was no longer necessary to build factories close to the energy source, but could rather be built where the actual need was. Unfortunately I didn’t get an image of the actual slide, but I do find it thoughtful this similarity with how we are still constrained today, e.g. of where companies can be built, so I think we need an image of a good old watermill-powered factory from Wikipedia. I’ll get back to this shortly.


RubyMotion - a company of the Internet age

This brings me on to Laurent Sansonetti, founder of RubyMotion which is a platform for developing Ruby-based applications on e.g. iPhone. I was so fortunate to have a talk with Laurent about his company.


Laurent have worked as developer for several large companies, including 7 years at Apple, before he decided to work on his own open-source project RubyMotion. Moving from a secure job at Apple and starting his own, did result in a couple of very insecure months with different challenges, and sometimes fear that the product would never made it. But it went well, and they now have several large customers and are making money. Congratulations, as it’s good to see that there is always room for new innovative products.

The structure of the company is what Laurent calls a “distributed startup”, meaning that the current three employees are spread across the entire world (Belgium, United States and Japan) and don’t have any office yet. They work from where they decide, more or less at the time they decide and communicate using CampFire, which is a group-based chat system, where they can have ongoing discussions, and see what has been talked about while they were gone. Because being spread across the world this way, means that the company is more or less “open” always. Then they meet every third month for a week physically, in order to actually meet and have face-to-face meetings.

Other advantages of being distributed this way, is that you actually get easier access to talent, as they don’t need to relocate in order to work for you, and perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be able to take the job. As Laurent said, it’s hard to find good programmers and even harder to have them relocate.

I think this is a good example of a company that leverages the possibilities of the internet age, to build a startup company that a few years ago would have been difficult to imagine. Especially it’s worth noting that with only 3 people they are able to keep the company running most of the day. Like back when factories had to built close to an energy source, I still think that (IT) companies of today are constrained to some extend of having access to talents or other kind of infrastructure. Although I actually like going to the office (working zone) every day, I think it’s worth paying attention to the possibilities that are available for starting up a new company with very little “deadweight” like physical building, network, servers etc., when all of this can be distributed/hosted on the net.