An Interview With Adam Black, Founder of KeyWifi

Adam Black is the founder of KeyWifi.com, which allows anyone to rent their internet bandwidth by renting their Wifi passwords, “Keys” so enabling vast amounts of internet bandwidth to be made available at low cost. Wouldn’t it be good if wifi access was everywhere ? It is, KeyWifi makes it happen by getting everyone involved in for mutual benefit. He will be presenting at the upcoming NY Tech Mixer Demo & Drinks event on August 19th.

What were you doing before?
I have spent most of my career as a film and TV producer, working with smart creatives and creative project development and management isn’t anything new, nor is the challenge of assembling talent to focus on a team goal and inspiring folks with passion comes as second nature to us because we have a unique, world winning idea.

What started the idea?
In rural areas, ISP costs are horrendous and 30% more relative to income, so naturally people want to save money. I used to share the internet with the garage down the street when I lived up state, and bought my mechanic a case of beer a month.

I’m not the only person in the world who has thought of this but by creating KeyWifi which uses no hardware or contracts and allows a pay-as-you-go system we realized we could create millions of viable hotspots purely from giving folks the opportunity to try.

There is no cost to be a KeyWifi supplier, just an opportunity for making some money every month by allowing your neighbors to pay you for your access. It made sense to us and has done so for most of the folk who hear about it.

Tell me how it all started, where did your vision/inspiration come from?
Like most people I know, I have used open hot spots. I realized that there is so much available internet access out there we don’t need more systems or WiMax or anything else; all we need to do is create is a human-based exchange system with incentives to open up this internet access that’s already there but is often locked.

It would be great if Wi-Fi was always open, so I asked why is it all locked up? The answer, there is no incentive and maybe some fear. By approaching the problem of universal access as a systemic approach, we solved many challenges at the same time and created something that allows millions of people to get access cheaply and in many more locations.

Since the internet is everywhere and collectively controlled by millions of individuals allowing or not allowing access, why not create a key exchange mechanism which will give security and incentives to individuals to open up their hotspots? And so, we solved the macro problem by creating millions of microsolutions that can be tailored by and for the individuals.

If we get it right, the benefits of social networking and crowdsourcing will act on behalf of the system and people to develop the ecosystem that solves the macro problem whilst facilitating control and creating incentives for the individuals.

Why does the world need your product? Why now?
There has never been any shortage of poor people or folks who want to save money on this planet and the recession continues to bite globally. As a planet, we don’t need new engineering or vast new systems with massive infrastructure development costs and the inevitable higher prices when we can save millions and create simple collective business models like Wi-Fi co-ops that can get the whole world online at a fraction of the current costs.

Why now? That is an interesting question. Maybe the answer is because when times are lean, people are more open to new ways of thinking and as I said there is no shortage of folks who want to save money, now more than ever.

A few years ago there were less tan 50,000 hotspots in USA. Nowadays, there are more than that in New Delhi or La Paz alone. KeyWifi is not just a web site; it’s part of a growing idea of collectivization in technology. Think Craigslist, Ebay, Zipcar or what Wired Magazine referred to as ‘dot socialism’ which has given us the benefits of monetized microsharing.

Ironically, we now translate micropayments and systems that work in the developing world back to the first world. We are closer than we think to creating a true open source, continually connected and sustainable global internet that connects the world, and that will include even those who cant afford $40 a month.

John Lennon said, “War is over … If you want it.” He was right but many folks didn’t buy into the idea. Cheap, globally available internet access is also here if we want it. The question is: are we willing to go for it ?

What would you consider to be a successful result for your company?
If the 7% of people in the US who say they would get online if access cost was cheaper used KeyWifi and the number dropped to 5%, it would more than prove our model. We’re working with organizations that want to support this process. However, we also need to find enough people who want to make some money supplying access to them and everyone else, anyone out there want to join our mission? Sign up at KeyWifi.com

What has been the most challenging aspect about building your startup so far?
Being absolutely bootstrapped hasn’t been easy, but it has constantly proven we are onto something big or we wouldn’t have come so far or found so much enthusiasm and energy from so many diverse people. That old poor little rich girl, who isn’t sure if people love her or just love her for her money translates well. In our case, we have a lot of friends and few resources. Is it because we and our friends believe in something bigger than ourselves created by collective effort? We believe so.

What has been the most rewarding?
Every single time I pitch the project to anyone, anywhere – India, Paris, The Bronx or a tech meetup – I get a great response and people see a vision, not just a website idea. I have never told one person about what we are doing who hasn’t seen the potential and the simplicity and wanted more information.

The challenge in this economy is finding people who buy into the social entrepreneurial values of the project more than just looking at maximizing the profits alone.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Make sure you have enough money to live on whilst you develop your project and give yourself a break. None of us are supermen. Be willing to accept push-back. A lion takes three steps forward and then 1 step backward before he pounces. Lions are courageous sure, but not stupid.

This upcoming gathering, being a Demos and Drinks event, we have to ask: what’s your favorite drink?
I’m partial to a Manhattan or Mojito depending in the weather.

Adam Black will be providing a demo at NY Tech Mixer’s August 19th event at Crimson. Visit NYTechMixer.com to RSVP.

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