Wibiki goes live with free Wi-Fi internet access

Wibiki today launched its Public Beta for testing its free Wi-Fi access service. Wibiki aims to provide free Wi-Fi access to people who share their own internet access using Wi-Fi.

You’ll need to download the Wibiki software and install it onto your laptop and your Linksys WRT54GS router. (Available for $80 at Amazon.com)

The instructions on Wibiki’s website are incredibly clear and it’s obvious that Wibiki have been working hard at making this simple. The laptop software didn’t cause any hassles or crashes, even though it’s only at version 0.1.3.

It definitely looks that as far as the technology goes, Wibiki has got it right.

The big question is whether they have the right business model for encouraging Wi-Fi adoption, and in particular, bridging the digital divide. In South Africa and many other countries, DSL subscribers pay by the gigabyte, and through the nose at that. This means that sharing with freeloaders is simply too risky. I suspect Wibiki might be able to earn advertising revenue from a portal ‘landing’ page, i.e. the first page that Wi-Fi users will see when connecting to a Wibiki hotspot.

Even if Wibiki shared this revenue with hotspot owners, it is unlikely to be enough for the hotspot owner to make any profit.

Wibiki is led by CEO Shant Hovnanian and CTO Marcos Lara who are no strangers to the world of wireless communications. Shant has been promoting the convergence of voice, data and video over wireless since the early nineties. Marcos has been working on altruistic, community owned Wi-Fi since 2001 as a member of NYCwireless and is the Founder of the Public Internet Project and the Bryant Park Free Wireless Network!

From the Skyrove team, we wish you all the best in helping to make Wi-Fi cheap and accessible to everyone!

What’s your Exit Strategy, Sonny?

(from the yeahfi.com archives) This is a question I’ve been asked more and more often as I’m looking for Venture Capital funding. And it’s a question I’ve naively misunderstood.

Google ‘exit strategy’ and see what comes up. George W. Bush didn’t have an exit strategy for invading Iraq. There was no exit strategy for the US involvement in Vietnam. This makes it look as if you might only need an exit strategy if you have a bad idea in the first place.

However, VCs aren’t really that interested in long-term dividends. They wish to invest money, see it grow in the shortest timeframe possible, and then sell, typically within 3 to 7 years. With the money they make on the sale, they invest in more companies and repeat the process.

Obviously, I feel at odds here with potential investors. I’m thinking all day about getting ‘into’ business, new markets etc. The budding entrepreneur has very little time to think about getting out while working his butt off just trying to get in.

Essentially, there are 2 common exit options: Aquisition or IPO.Recently, Skype was sold to eBay for $4.1 billionAlthough I’d gladly accept such an offer, I wouldn’t plan any business from the ground up with a ‘big sale’ in mind.

So that leaves us with the other great option: the IPO. Very exciting, but is it really necessary to go IPO? What are the plans of the guys at 37Signals (one of my favorite ‘model’ companies)? I somehow don’t imagine them in the IPO world with their no-nonsense ‘less is more’ approach.

Rick Segal suggests that a startup should never have ‘build to flip’ as a cornerstone of its business plan. See his excellent post: Build to Flip = Build to Fail

My favourite quote: “I point this simple math out because you can dig into your passion, make it amazingly great, and knock one completely out of the park without worrying about a flip, being crushed or ripped off. Keep it personal, grow the business, and let the big guys come knocking on your door.”

I’ll be waiting for your call, Mr Omidyar!