It’s been a fun day, and a whirlwind for many months. You might like to know where we have been; and what is the story of Sgrouples being born? There are many ways to start the story – and the story really starts in 1998, and a conversation with my then 11-year old nephew while on a family vacation in Idaho, which turned into one of the world’s premier social network companies of its day (SuperGroups). But that was a different time, and the web was a simpler place with the promise of making life better and easier.
Fast forward and the 2012 story of Sgrouples.com is a Web 3.0 story, one that starts in early 2011, when Dr. Jonathan Wolfe (Sgrouples’ Chief Scientist) and I had dinner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ll write about Jonathan in another blog, because he is one of the most amazing, coolest guys on the planet, with a huge heart and the brilliance of a neuroscientist. Jonathan and I were appalled at the notion that “privacy was dead”, a popular theme touted by the leaders of the major social network and search companies. And we were exhausted by the countless sites that needed our attention on a daily basis. We determined to create a new company, one that people would love and trust, where we would solve two immense issues at the same time – that of privacy, and that of utter overwhelm. And we started to say “Imagine the Internet with Sgrouples.”
Many of us can remember the promise of the Internet 10-12 years ago; it was going to simplify our lives, make our lives more organized, and we’d somehow have more leisure time. (Ok, that didn’t happen:) Instead, our personal privacy has been gradually eroded to the point where Eric Schmidt (and other prominent Internet executives) declared that people had gladly given up their privacy; and at the same time the venture capitalists decided that the best way to make money was to invest in “single solution” endeavors. The result for people in the world has been that we’ve been conditioned to race around the web from site to site to site to get all of our needs met, while those very companies are gathering every last bit of data on us in what feels for many of us to be a bit slimy; it is as though every room in our homes has a camera spying on us – and that feels weird.
Jonathan and I endeavored to build the world’s first personal platform, one that for many months we secretly called a “personal cloud manager”, bringing together the most useful services and features into one place, founded on the core value of privacy as a right, not a privilege. Privacy by design – a neat catchphrase, and it is what great democracies are built on – our freedom to be respected, and to live our lawful lives with respect, dignity, and privacy (ok, unless you are a publicity hound or otherwise seek the limelight).
So, the answer to where we have been is: we have been privately building an amazing international Sgrouples team of truly wonderful people dedicated to creating the best online experience for all of us. And we have been secretly building Sgrouples since the summer of 2011, so that all of us can have one place on the web (and mobile) that we can share with the real communities in our lives, and know that we are private, just as we would be in our own living rooms, or conference rooms at work, or out playing with friends. We don’t want our lives or the lives of our children to be inadvertent public records, we want to control who sees and who knows what about us.
And for the past 18 months, and even last week, I’ve endured the sharp-tongued criticism of many in Silicon Valley who still think that privacy is dead.
I’m here to report that privacy is very much alive! Today we have announced our “soft launch”, and now you have the respect you deserve and the privacy you trust, while enjoying all the convenient features at Sgrouples to simplify your online life. Thanks for being patient while we worked to get it right. Enjoy Sgrouples!