Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bringing next 1 billion online: BRCK thinks start with Hardware


This week, i clicked on an angel.co (angel list) email alert that i usually ignore. To my surprise the start up being pushed to me by angel.co was really interesting to me:

Brck.com  - the backup generator for the internet

This company immediately jumped out at me as a startup trying to push the envelope for connecting more people to the internet. It was not preaching internet.org but actually doing something about it. 

The company is based in Nairobi, Kenya and brings a unique "Born in Africa" perspective to tackling the vision of connecting everyone on the planet. 
The starting point for Brck's vision is that before you can do smart things in software , or in price innovation to connect the developing world you need to innovate hardware that runs in remote and rugged places. 

In a nutshell BRCK is a rugged router, with a built in battery, connection ports, and cellular modem that accepts sims from 402 Mobile network operators.
I think it is really smart to start expanding the fringe of our internet networks with "floating" access points. By "floating" i mean access points that are temporarily set up in villages or markets in far corners of the world where there is no wi-fi . They then piggy back on existing carriers data and turn it into wi-fi so that many users can take advantage of one single up link. Then the BRCK router can be taken down and moved somewhere else where this is repeated. 

This type of functionality will expose more people to the web in more places in the world, and slowly start on boarding the part of the population that doesn't use the web today into web users. 

Of course there are many more use cases beyond that as well . Non profits, Aid workers, corporations of all kinds that have a presence in Africa , India, South America can use BRCK's out on the field to set up field offices, aid camps , and other operations. 

BRCK has features that are helpful out in the field beyond a simple router. One such feature is providing power. It has an internal battery that can provide power to other devices. It can also be easily recharged from anything : solar, car batteries, whatever. 

Overall, as a product manager i buy the thesis that products made for San Francisco, London, New York, Moscow, Paris do not focus on the use cases , cost factors, and requirements that are required for similar products in sub saharan africa , the jungles of south america, or other developing markets .

As someone who has a keen interest, and focus on internet.org like products i applaud BRCK as a "thinking out of the box" initiative that is practical and set up to make a real impact. I hope they raise their funding round, and bring BRCK's to market soon.

Go check out their website and angel.co page . Spread the word.