Making a difference. One app at a time.

Take away the Apple propaganda. Take away the fact that Apple’s products are prohibitively expensive in a lot of these settings. Look at it purely from a vendor-unrelated perspective.

This is it. This is precisely the reason why I am in tech. And this is one of our greatest opportunity to change lives and make this world a better place. Through technology. Combine this with the notion of creating economic opportunity and (our) technology has the potential to become one of the most powerful change agents around.

Making a difference. One app at a time.

P.S. For those of you who read this in their RSS readers or can’t see the embedded video for other reasons – here’s the video on YouTube.


Creating Economic Opportunity through Firefox OS

I believe one of the most exciting aspects of Firefox OS is its potential to create economic opportunity (and doing so in new and innovative ways). It also brings up some of the more interesting questions. Let me explain:

Apple announced today that they paid out 10 billion USD to their iOS developers both through direct app sales as well as in-app purchases. 5 billion USD of those were paid out just last year (which points to accelerated growth of the iOS ecosystem). According to Apple this represents 74% of the total market for mobile phone app purchases (with Android accounting for 20% and others for the remaining 6%).

Further take into account that mobile phones are not only creating direct economic opportunity through their app stores but also enable numerous other forms of generated revenue and you get an interesting picture (e.g. e-commerce which originates from a mobile phone; eBay reported 13 billion USD in gross merchandise sales going through their mobile app in 2012 alone).

Consider that Firefox OS plays a different game – both from a technical as well as a target market perspective (using the Web as the platform, thus being much more open and targeting emerging markets respectively) and the really fascinating question becomes: Outside of the obvious economic opportunities “direct on-device commerce through app stores” and mobile/e-commerce as well as content consumption (music, videos, books) – which other forms of economic opportunity can we enable and drive through the device? And in this context: What can we (Mozilla) do to foster and/or enable this?

We are already seeing interesting opportunities especially in emerging markets – from mobile banking for the previously unbanked (e.g. Safaricom’s and Vodafone’s M-Pesa) to market information systems for farmers (using SMS messaging - e.g. Intuit’s Fasal) and much more.

I strongly believe that “we (mostly) don’t know what we don’t know”. That this is likely one of the biggest opportunities we have with Firefox OS. And that it will mostly be the communities/entrepreneurs on the ground who will create and capture these opportunities.

The question remains: What can we, as Mozilla, do to inspire, enable, foster and grow these ventures? What is missing? What do we need to create to make this happen?

EDIT June 11th: Eric Tyler pointed out the following projects in addition to the ones I listed - The World Bank’s M2Work Competition, Wikipedia Zero, Souktel as well as the World Bank’s Maximizing Mobile report.


The Web Manifesto

“We have come to build the most important thing in the world today, perhaps the most important thing ever. It connects us. It widens us. It deepens who we are. We don’t know what it is or what it will be in the future, but we do know it has made us better so far. Our dream is to enlarge it so that all people can join us and share the good in it while ameliorating the bad. This thing we are working on has no borders and – as far as we can see – no end. If everyone can join it, with equal access and no undue ownership, the world will be a much better place. That is why we are working here today.”

~ Kevin Kelly / WIRED 21.05


Increasing Mozilla's Impact

Mozilla is unique. Unique in it’s structure, in the way we organize ourselves, in the way we work, in the way we interact with others and in the work we’re doing.

Mozilla’s stated mission is “to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web”. That’s it. Simple. And so incredibly important. Pretty much every other organization which is working “on the Web” is beholden to shareholders and their legitimate desire to increase their return on investment. Not Mozilla.

Mozilla impacts the world through our products, the communities we build around these products and the influence we gain through the combination of users and products. And we increasingly build communities around our values – communities which take our values and embed them into their own work.

In both areas we have the unique opportunity to significantly increase scale and scope and thus multiplying our impact on the world – in turn creating a better Web and thus a better world.

I find myself in the amazing position to poke around the organization and help us think “magnitudes bigger/better”. The one question which keeps me up at night (and incredibly excited) is: How can we increase our impact on the world by factor 10? Factor 50? Factor 100?

I’ve got a bunch of ideas – and know that I have huge blind spots. Opportunities I don’t see. Things I haven’t thought about. Ideas which are bubbling beneath the surface.

I would love to hear from you: What would you do to increase Mozilla’s impact in the world?

Leave a comment on this post or send me an email at p @ mozilla.com. And let’s invent the future together.


A Lesson in the Power of our Brand

True story: I recently wanted to return an order from Zappos and found myself using their web-based online chat to sort out some details. Upon verifying my shipping address (which is ℅ Mozilla) the Zappos employee mentioned to me that she loves Mozilla, that she’s using Firefox essentially forever and that we just rule!

Zappos Chat Screenshot

I thought it was a wonderful example of how Mozilla, through our technology and who we are, what we stand for and how we show up for your users, are truly unique in the world of technology.



Most amazing business card ever

On the Unreasonable at Sea voyage I had the great pleasure of working alongside a fellow mentor who happen to work for Microsoft Studios – heading up their skunk works projects.

He had the best business card ever – I just wish I would have thought about this when I ran Mozilla Labs:

Best Business Card Ever



I have a hard time putting this into words…

As many of you know I am an avid runner. I’ve raced in many places all around the world. I have the privilege of calling some of the most accomplished long distance runners in the country my friends. Some of my fondest memories are connected to running. The most vivid ones are always the ones where you cross the finish line, after an all-out effort, and you see your loved ones cheering you on. The race crew handing you a bottle of water and congratulating you on your effort. A volunteer hanging a medal around your neck.

My heart goes out to everyone who ran Boston yesterday. Everyone who helps make Boston the premier running event in the world. And everyone who cheers us runners on.

All I want to do today is go for a run.


Get yourself a mentor (or two)

Why Give a Damn: We all know (or should know) that having a support network around you makes a world of difference. So get yourself a mentor and make the relationship work.

Intuitively we all know that having a good support network of smart people around us will make us stronger, helps us make the right decisions, see things from a different perspective and pulls us through those inevitable dark moments of being an entrepreneur. Leaders often don’t tend to talk about their respective mentors - but you can almost guarantee that any well-known (and less well-known) successful leader has a roster of other people they trust and rely on. When they do talk about their mentors, it’s often with a voice filled with admiration, passion and love.

A good mentor will become your mirror. The person you can be vulnerable with, who holds you up, cheers you on, tells you off when you do something stupid and generally makes you a better person. And often they are friends for life.

Interestingly a lot of young leaders don’t have a mentor. It is not due to lack of mentors, or a mentor’s unwillingness to work with people who haven’t cut their teeth in the world of business and entrepreneurship yet. It is because young entrepreneurs don’t ask. Often they think they either know the answer (they generally don’t), don’t want to be perceived as weak and vunerable (a misconception of leadership) or don’t have the guts to ask. Don’t be that kind of leader. You owe it to your idea, your employees, your customers.

How do you get the right mentor? First - make a list. Actually - make multiple lists. Make a list with all the areas you feel you need to develop to be a better leader, business person or simply a better human being. Make another list with people you admire and who you would love to have as a mentor - they can be highly aspirational (think Richard Branson) or the guy who runs the local bike shop. Lastly make a list with an initial set of questions you would want to discuss with your mentor.

Put your lists together and figure out who in your extended network might either be a fit or might know someone who could be a fit. Then ask. Send an email. Call. You will be surprised how many people are delighted to help. Put yourself in their shoes - someone in their network asks them to be a mentor, it doesn’t get any more flattering!

Once you have your mentor(s) identified and have scheduled your first meeting make sure you are prepared. Figure out what you want to get out of the relationship, what you are prepared to give back (e.g. you can offer a fresh perspective for a seasoned executive from the trenches of a startup) and how you would like to structure your relationship (e.g. a meeting every month over coffee where you come prepared with a list of topics you want to tackle). Create an alliance with your mentor - be clear about the structure and agree on it.

Now the most important piece of advice - it is up to YOU to make this work. Time and time again I see mentorship relationships go nowhere as the mentee simply didn’t follow up, provide feedback and schedule meetings.

Here’s your challenge: Find a mentor. Get your relationship off the ground and put effort and energy into making it work. You won’t regret it.


Onward and Upward - The NEW Heretic is here!

The Heretic came to life as an experiment: I wanted to have a way to share thoughts and ideas which felt less polished than a blog post and more meaningful than a tweet.

So I set up a newsletter. Originally I planned on sending an email every once in a while, talking about whatever comes to mind. Turns out – I obsess about entrepreneurship, startups, makers, creators, rebels and misfits. People and ideas which change the world. And so I ended up sending out my little newsletter to a small and growing community of like-minded people on a daily basis.

Four months and 118 posts later we are a tribe.

This weekend I took the wraps off the new Heretic: Over the last couple of weeks I’ve rebuilt the complete website – some highlights:

  • All pages are mobile-friendly
  • You can leave public comments for each post
  • Revamped Archive with category-filters for endless hours of reading fun
  • Completely new About page featuring The Heretic Manifesto

I am incredibly proud of this; and this is only the beginning. I hope you enjoy the new design – and send me an email if you see something which is broken or doesn’t behave the way you expect it to.

Onward & Upward.

P.S. You think my writing smacks you on the nose from time to time? Go and check out the visuals on TheHeretic.me! ;)


The Art of the Start

Getting started is often the hardest part of any new endeavor. Here are two time-proven techniques which will help you get started.

The first step is always the hardest. Making that leap of faith into the unknown. Humans are hardwired to avoid uncertainty; at one point in our evolution it was crucial for our species’ survival. The little voice in your head will give you hundreds of reasons why you should wait just a little bit longer, gather just a bit more data and evidence, get just a tad bit more certainty, feel just that tiny bit more confident. And so we end up never starting.

Fret not - this is human. We all feel like this when we set out to do something we haven’t done before. Be it embarking on the entrepreneurs journey, taking a new job or starting a project in our community.

Over the years I have come to appreciate two simple principles which, alone and combined, help you tremendously winning that inner battle:

The “Bird in Hand Principle”: Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: what you are, what you know and who you know. There is never an excuse to not start - if the 15 year old Jack Andraka can develop a new method to detect pancreatic cancer, so can you start your endeavor. Start with what you have, the rest will come.

The “Principle of Affordable Loss”: Don’t be guided by thoughts of how wonderful the rewards might be if you were spectacularly successful at any given next step. Instead ask how big the loss would be if you failed. So long as it would be tolerable, that’s all you need to know. Take that next step, and see what happens.

Here’s your challenge: Identify your “bird” and do a thorough analysis of your potential losses. I bet you money that you have everything to get started and nothing which should hold you back.


Quit your Job

This summer I spent a week mentoring entrepreneurs at the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, CO. One of my fellow mentors, Tom Chi (at the time Head of Experience for Google X - essentially the guy who worked on the self-driving car and Google Glasses and god-knows what else they cooked up but haven’t yet released), told the entrepreneurs his acid test for how to know when it’s time to stop and do something different:

When you come home from your job in the evening and pretty much all you want to do is slouch on the sofa, watch a movie and have a beer: Quit your job.

When you come home from your job in the evening and you feel pretty indifferent about what you want to do: Quit your job.

Only when you come home from your job in the evening and you feel more energized than in the evening you know that you have the right job (or are doing the right thing).

Whatever you do - it should add energy to your life, not sift it away.


Change your Language

Human language is at least half a million years old, written communication somewhere in the range of 5,000+ years. And language is powerful: Whole empires were built and fell by the power of words.

And language is not only powerful in an outward facing fashion but probably even more so in your personal use of it.

Let me explain: We are all busy. Too busy. And often we find ourselves saying to our teams, friends, family and partners: “I don’t have time”. Now - turn that sentence around and be honest to yourself: You do have time, you just chose to spent it for something else. So you should really say: “It is not a priority for me”. See what that does?

Now try this: “I don’t exercise because my health is not a priority.” If this phrases don’t sit well, that’s the whole point. Changing your language reminds you that time is a choice. If you don’t like it, you can change it. It’s your choice.


Lucky or Smart?

Over the years I have had (and continue to have) the amazing opportunity to work on some incredible projects, meet and work with awesome individuals and be fortunate enough to change things here and there.

Am I lucky? You bet. But it’s more than just luck.

For starters: Luck is not something random but something you make. Luck stems from opportunities and you create opportunities by putting yourself out there. By meeting and helping people. By being genuine and authentic. Opportunities are serendipity at work.

And then you need to know when you’re lucky. And be smart enough to act upon it.

So - get out there, make rain, be a mensch and let the stream of serendipity lead you. And be smart enough to know when you’re lucky.

P.S. Bo Peabody wrote a wonderful book about this “Lucky or Smart”. Go read it. It’s a wonderful and short read.


Web Apps – A bit of history

Yesterday Mozilla officially announced Firefox OS together with numerous partners at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Central to Firefox OS are web apps - apps built using open web technologies such as HTML, CSS and Javascript. It makes me tremendously proud to see what the fantastic team at Mozilla, under the leadership of our VP Marketplace Rick Fant, has achieved in a incredibly short amount of time.

Mozilla’s work on web apps was started by a small team as part of Mozilla Labs – Mike Hanson, Lloyd Hilaiel, Dan Walkowski and I started working on the initial concepts and prototypes in early 2010. It’s fun to revisit our early thinking - check out the video in the announcement of our prototype on the Mozilla Blog. Or go back in time and check out the archive on this blog to see some of our thinking and work unfold.

To celebrate the occasion and show how far we have come I dug out two neat, little artifacts:

(1) An early scribble from me: Web App Scribble

(2) A schematic for the “Firefox Environment”: Firefox Environment



True Bliss

Let me set the stage first: On day 86 of a 3-month trek to and from the South Pole, adventurer Aleksander Gamme discovered something he’d stashed under the ice at the start of his trip.

He wasn’t expecting such a rush of happiness in that cold, hungry instant, but he hit the bliss jackpot.

It’s a moment of pure bliss. Try to watch this without a massive grin on your face:

These are the moments worth chasing.