YO! Get Ready to Join the Wave!

It was in March 2015 that we launched our very first version of YO!, a mobile app that stemmed from our own experiences with trying to connect in areas with expensive data plans and slow Internet speeds. It doesn’t seem that long ago, and yet so much has happened in the last 12 months. Now we’re on the edge of launching Wave; addressing the same core issues but with a new look and a more sophisticated feature set.

With YO!, we successfully reached users with connectivity issues in emerging markets. With Wave, we plan to do the same for businesses, content creators, and publishers with similar issues – while still creating great user experiences and new features for our day-to-day users.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why the rebrand to Wave, and why now?

Well before I address that, let’s talk about the last year.  It certainly has been one hell of a year.

Our First Year

The response we have received from our users within the first year with YO! has been fantastic.  Without focusing on ramping up growth, we’ve had close to 700,000 installs with an above average rating of 4.1 on Google Play – mostly from users in countries such as Bangladesh, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Iran to name a few.

Engagement within YO! has been very encouraging.  Our users have been using YO! to communicate and share content with friends nearby – direct, fast and free – with over 500,000 messages and content shares sent over the HyperNet (our offline communication protocol) so far.

We launched our iOS version in November after a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  Building YO! on iOS proved to be a much more difficult exercise than it was for Android, but with perseverance we were able to overcome a lot of hurdles we faced.  And while there are many ‘file sharing’ apps in the market that allow direct sharing between Android and iOS devices, we are the first and only app in the market to offer seamless discovery and communication with multiple Android and iOS users – fast, direct and without the Internet.

Towards the end of the year, we came up with a goal that we thought was near impossible to attain – getting 1000 users in Cuba.  We strongly believed that YO! could add real value for users in Cuba who have little to no connectivity, and so after a lot of research we sought out a totally different way of distributing our app through a system known as ‘paquetes’, which turned out to be successful;  in around 3 months, we have gained more than 12,000 users in Cuba alone!

So it’s been a very good first year for us.  We’re now very excited to release the new version of the app with a revamped design and some very cool features – like discovering exciting content from people nearby – all without the Internet.

Why Wave?

While we’ve been refining the app over the past year, we have also learned a lot.  We’ve been learning more about our target users and the realities that they face.  We have discovered that it is not only users, but businesses too who face similar issues in reaching out to their customers.  In addition, we’ve been closely examining the global disruptors that are taking place in emerging markets – such as rapid urbanization, a growing affluent middle class, and the digitization of everything.  These disruptors undoubtedly open giant opportunities, but warrant a fresh approach to thinking about how people, services and things should connect to each other.

In short, our greatest realization has been that YO! is only the beginning of something much, much bigger.  We started on YO! with a simple idea addressing a fundamental need – the need for people to connect and share with each other without any cost or speed constraints.

We’re therefore going to henceforth be known as Wave.  Our mission undoubtedly remains the same – we want to connect the next billion in a smarter way.  But we are no longer just a communication app. How did we come up with that name you ask?

There is a lot of symbolic significance in the name to what we are building – the hand ‘wave’ that is used as a greeting, the ocean ‘wave’ that starts with a small movement of water and spreads widely, the wireless ‘wave’ that’s used as our core technology, and the Mexican ‘wave’ in stadiums that start with one person before it spreads to the entire crowd.

Wave is the core technology that will allow us to change the way the world connects. We have a variety of new and innovative features coming down the pipeline and we’re excited to share them as they unfold. Get ready to Join the Wave!

Wave isn’t quite ready to be released yet – but we’re so close we can taste it. If you want to be one of the first to know, click here to sign up to get an email as soon as we say ‘go’.


Connecting the Next Billion People

As some of you who know me closely know —I have moved onto new things from Redtree. It was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on — and I love robotics, but we couldn’t raise the money we needed to continue. Maybe someday I’ll write in more detail about that.

Since then, I’ve joined a great new company in Maple Ridge, BC called Left. I was sought out specifically because of my expertise in wireless networking. I have joined as the “Chief Networking Scientist” — a job title which I’ve never actually heard of before until I was offered the job — but it intrigued me.

I was also intrigued by the idea, the vision and team. The project I have joined is called YO! and it was created to solve a problem felt by their in development team. Part of the team is based in Bangladesh and has regular calls with the Maple Ridge office. However, when one person in their office uses Skype, the connection slows to a crawl preventing everyone from doing basic tasks such as messaging and sharing files — severely hindering their ability to be productive. To solve their own problem they created an app that made it simple to create a local Wi-Fi hotspot and send messages and files directly without using the Internet like so many of the current tools require.

The biggest limitation right now is that everyone needs to needs to be physically close to the person who has created the Wi-Fi hotspot. Imagine if people could be spread out across a whole city and still communicate with each other without using the Internet. This is what I have joined YO! to help build. There are many companies trying to connect people — to the Internet, and very few simply trying to connect people together.

 

For those of you who don’t know my background — I have spent years working on this type of technology. My MSc. was in wireless mesh networks, and I spent my time building simulations and implementing protocols that I designed on real equipment. I wrote a book chapter on green communications and co-authored one on autonomous and pervasive networking. I continued on to my PhD in heterogeneous wireless networks where my focus was on measuring and comparing the performance of all of the connectivity options available to us on modern devices — Should I use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 4G? Which Wi-Fi network? Can I use them all at once? I continued working on similar ideas for connected robots and machines with the work I was doing with Redtree. Now the focus is on connecting people.

There are some unique challenges now compared with what I’m used to. I’m used to developing where everything is possible. On computers running Linux, on a robotic platform that we were in complete control of. With the devices people use, however, things are necessarily more locked down. Working within the constraints of the Android and iOS platforms, there are a few goals:

  1. Always connect to the best possible network. This might be the cheapest, fastest, lowest delay, most reliable, most secure, or some combination of a variety of factors depending on the application, the user, the network or some combination of these.
  2. Connect people with other people, content, apps, ideas, services, payments & advertisements. This seems straightforward — but remember we are doing all of this within the limitation of not being connected to the Internet — or at least not being connected to the Internet all of the time.
  3. Make it easy to use. Things should be automatic. As little configuration as possible. Intuitive to use. (From the network side — I can help — from the UI/UX side we have some really smart people doing awesome stuff here.

That’s really it — for now. There’s actually a lot to it underneath the hood and big things coming but I can’t give away any of the magic.


Internet in Cuba: Advancing or Appeasing?

“Cuba has changed a lot. Raul is not Fidel!” said our taxi driver, Geovani, through teeth clenched around the cigar he held in his mouth. He turned down the volume of the radio from blaring to manageable as he continued: “He knows that the pressure builds up when people are oppressed for a long time and those Internet access points are like an escape valve. On this island the government loosens a little every 15 years or so.”

Ironically, everything that my senses perceived in this theme park of the past were new. While I have travelled extensively throughout South and Latin America, this was my first trip to Cuba. I was here mixing business with pleasure, sent by YO! with instructions to assess the market viability and to see with my own eyes how the nearly ten thousand Cubans who had downloaded our app were using it.

Geovani, a thickly built man with short hair and tanned skin, maneuvered his old ’56 Plymouth with considerable skill, although he changed lanes a little too quickly for my wife’s taste. She was afraid that the rusted bolts, and us, were going to end up in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the ‘Malecón’ (an 8km long seawall that stretches from Old Havana to the Vedado neighbourhood).

It had been almost 10 years since Danielle had last visited the island and a decade, even for the anachronistic Cuba, it is a long time. For my wife, collecting stamps in her passport it is almost an addiction and, although she is not a fan of visiting the same place twice, the Caribbean country was always on her list of places she should go back to. Despite the difficulties that face travelers there, Cuba had always had a magnetism, the promise of something she had never seen, but that she knew existed, still intact, behind the walls of the crumbling old buildings.

“Now there is more access to information and more freedom”, Geovani continued; however, despite the distinct lack of revolutionary propaganda we had seen along the way (which had been quite prolific a decade ago, according to my wife), we couldn’t completely believe him. Not because the island doesn’t have the capacity for change, but because we had still not seen a single Internet café nor any of the famous WiFi hotspots the international press had boasted about. Obviously we were looking in the wrong place.

Havana’s Hot Spots

After asking around we were finally directed to a section of town no tourist would think to go to. We walked through narrow streets and past food-venders with prices listed in nacionales (the locals-only currency), finally emerging into a huge plaza filled with hundreds of people glued to their smart phones and tablets, and even the occasional laptop. Young and not-so-young Cubans surfed the Net in this square located along La Rampa, one of the main avenues of Havana. Although largely hidden from tourists’ prying eyes, what used to be an unusual sight in Cuba is now common in the new 35 WiFi spaces enabled by the Government on the first of July of last year.   “Today I brought my grandson so he can use the Internet for the first time. He wanted to see the new dog his aunt in Miami has adopted. Now he is talking with his cousins,” says Roberto, a 66-year-old retiree whose face, like that of Alexis, his 12-year-old grandson, glows with joy.

Sitting in front of Roberto and his grandson, using smartphones and laptops to check the signal quality of this relatively new service, are employees of the largely state-owned telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. Surprisingly, a few meters away, some bisneros (street traders) take advantage of the inability of the company to maintain a stable supply of prepaid cards by reselling them for 3 convertible pesos (CUC), one more than the official rate. “Many people are trying to connect and ETECSA cannot keep up with the demand; the lines are very long and the cards are only sold during working hours. That’s why people have to go to the black market,” says one bisnero who prefers not to reveal his name.

Many local media, especially the official newspaper Granma, criticize informal WiFi traders, who range from the aforementioned card resellers to others who, after connecting to the main network with an official card, use their devices to create hotspots which can be accessed for half the official price. “People do not have much money and have to accept what is offered but, since the government has become aware of the resellers, surveillance has increased considerably,” says Sofía, a peanut-setter in Paseo de la Villa Panamericana, one of the busiest access points in Havana.

The eagerness of Cubans to communicate with the outside world has generated, according to official sources, nearly 60,000 wireless connections in just six months. The number of people able to connect at the same time has reached the not inconsiderable figure of eight thousand Internet users. However, Cuba remains one of the countries with the lowest rates of connectivity in the world: only 5% of the population has Internet access, while only 1% has access to broadband.

In Cuba, Internet access from private homes it is so restricted and expensive that the populace sees it as a luxury only available to members of the government, journalists, and foreign diplomats. Although 11,503 people have some sort of connection to the network, according to the International Telecommunication Union, that number is not very encouraging when taking into account that the country has more than eleven million inhabitants, of whom 500,000 are university students.

Back in La Rampa, Ivan Rodriguez complains about the stability and the speed of the connection: “The browsing speed is supposed to be up to 1MB, but this is very slow [browsing speeds rarely reach 56 kb]. I just spent 10% of my salary to send my mother, who lives in Spain, photos of her grandchildren. The way it is going now, I don’t think the hour that I got from the card is going to be enough.” The 32 year old tour guide, who earns only 20 CUC per month, politely ends our conversation with “I cannot stay and talk any longer. For good or bad, in Cuba now, time is money, brother”.

Although Cuba has taken steps in the right direction by allowing its citizens to become globally connected, there is still a long way to go. Like everything else we noticed, the government’s need for ultimate control inhibits large scale growth; it does, however, inspire creativity. As is indicative of their culture, Cubans once again come together as a unit in much the same way as they did following the US embargo on trade: overcoming the challenges through collaboration and innovation. Like Geovani’s car, which boasts a new Hyundai engine under the 60-year-old chassis, Internet access in Cuba is pulling the citizens of a bygone age bit by bit into the future. Will this new “escape valve” be enough to last for 15 more years, or will access to the Internet turn up the heat in the pressure cooker?

 

Regardless, the door has been opened and, judging by the avarice of the Cubans who sucked up every precious second of Internet time, will not be closed easily. Islanders, especially the youth, are pushing for change, trying to catch up to their peers in fully-connected countries. This new addiction to tactile screens combined with the hunger for information and the desire to communicate with the rest of the world, has begun a new, unstoppable revolution.


YO! on KTVU FOX News!

 Our 15 Seconds of Fame on KTVU FOX News!

During a quick visit to San Francisco last week for the 2015 Post-Seed Conference, I had the pleasure of joining the KTVU FOX News team for an interview on their 9.00 am show. I did not have much notice prior to the appearance, and as this was my very first appearance on live television that probably helped me avoid getting too nervous. The hosts were lovely, and the team at KTVU made me feel right at home. We had a great conversation about YO!, which, apparently, was very popular with their viewers in the San Francisco and Oakland area. The interview itself felt like a whirlwind that only lasted a few seconds, but in reality we actually spent nearly 5 minutes talking about YO! and what we are trying to do.

The segment was designed to help travelers who are heading on vacation to areas that have limited or no internet connectivity, which lines up perfectly with what YO! does and why we do it. As the KTVU host pointed out, one of the first questions people ask when visiting a new place is “do you have Wi-Fi?” This was a great introduction to the need we are addressing with YO! and how we are going to change the world by offering people a way to connect and communicate without the need for a data plan or internet connection.

The central theme of the interview was the fact that people want to share with each other; wherever they happen to be. Several huge companies are trying to connect everyone to the Internet, but we were able to show that we are connecting people with each other. The truth is people run their lives from their smartphones, and when they take a photo on their vacation or a video of a family wedding, they want to share it with the people they are with, right then and there, in the moment. There are currently over 200 million people, in India alone, that have just purchased a smart phone for the first time, and they want content on their phones – YO! allows them to do that. I think this idea really resonated with the News team and hopefully sparked interest in the viewers to try YO! out for themselves.

By the end of the interview I really felt the hosts recognized what YO! can do and the potential we have to change the way the world connects. Now that my nerves have settled I have had a chance to enjoy my few minutes of fame, but my family are doing their best to ensure I don’t start to act like a star!

Thank you to the team at KTVU FOX News for treating me so well and allowing us to tell more people about YO!

You can watch my full interview with KTVU News above.


YO! App Connects Apple Users Without Internet Over WiFi

Award-winning app now enables users to share and connect across Apple and Android platforms without data or Internet

MAPLE RIDGE, BC, CANADA – Dec. 8, 2015 – YO!™, a global mobile communications app, is now available for free download in the Apple App Store. Described as a cross-platform AirDrop™, YO! allows Apple users to instantly share videos, messages, pictures, documents, and more – without the reliance on Internet or data connectivity. YO! is the only app that allows sharing between Apple and Android devices. YO! is already connecting over half-a-million Android users, including many who live in previously unconnected markets such as Bangladesh, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and throughout the Middle East. YO! empowers users to share life’s moments without a data plan or Internet connection. YO! uses a proprietary and secure, WiFi-based peer-to-peer protocol to transfer files and messages with other users nearby at high speeds and ‘off-the-grid’. This method eliminates the need for carrier data plans and cloud connectivity. YO! users launch ad-hoc mobile hotspots or use existing WiFi routers and access points to share with nearby users across home, office, or public networks. To communicate over longer distances, YO! has its own Internet-based messaging platform that facilitates longer distance communications. In recognition of these capabilities, on November 25th, YO! received The WiFi Innovation Award at the 2015 WiFi Innovation Summit in Amsterdam. “This award is designed to recognize the most innovative use of WiFi technology from new market entrants,” said Guy Redmill, Managing Director, Redmill Marketing Association and Head Judge for the Award Selection Committee. “The new award celebrates the best and brightest new entrants to the world of WiFi and YO! was selected over a number of other entries based on its potential for user impact, its technical expertise, and its innovation and originality.”

The new iOS version of YO! allows users to:

  • Share large files at high speeds between Android and Apple devices
  • Send and receive text and voice messages
  • Share photos and videos
  • Join any other Android-created YO! HyperNet™ or WiFi network

“Being connected to the Internet should not be a requirement to sharing and connecting with friends,” said Chris Jensen, CEO of YO! and parent company Left of the Dot Media. “We already empower thousands of Android users to share meaningful digital content in parts of the globe where data allotment and network connectivity are scarce and challenging. Our launch on Apple helps bring people closer no matter where they are and regardless of which mobile platform they use.” About YO! and Left of the Dot Media Inc YO! made its debut in March of 2014 to address a pain felt by the app developers themselves. Our team in Bangladesh dealt with frequent Internet outages, slow speeds, and high data costs. After a year of testing in harsh, global environments, YO! for Android arrived on Google Play in the Spring of 2015. Since then, YO! has amassed over 500,000 installs and a 4.1/5.0 star rating, with over 4,000 people providing positive feedback. As a subsidiary of Left of the Dot Media, YO! maintains an office in Canada and two in Bangladesh. YO! is available in nine languages and can be accessed by visiting http://get.yo.com


Keeping People Connected: Apps That Work Without Internet

Chris Jensen, Co-founder and CEO of YO.com, was invited for a live interview broadcast on KTVU Channel 2, a Fox television station that serves the San Francisco Bay Area. Interviewed by Ross Palombo, Sal Castaneda, and Gasia Mikaelian, Chris talks about YO! app and the demand for connectivity in areas of the developing world like India and Bangladesh.

Aplicación Para Chatear Y Enviar Archivos Sin Acceso A Internet

YO!, una plataforma para smartphones que posee todas las funcionalidades de una aplicación de mensajería instantánea tradicional, como Whatsapp, Viber o Line, pero con la ventaja de que puede enviar cualquier tipo de archivo, incluyendo otras aplicaciones, sin límite de tamaño y a unas velocidades que pueden superar hasta mil veces una conexión a internet tradicional. Cómo funciona YO! se apoya en una tecnología peer-to-peer que utiliza el Wi-Fi del teléfono para buscar otros dispositivos que estén cerca y así comunicarse con estos directamente, sin necesidad de que los mensajes o archivos tengan que pasar por la antena del proveedor de telefonía celular o por servidor alguno. Lo que la aplicación hace es utilizar redes Wi-Fi existentes o habilitar un hotspot, cuando las anteriores no están disponibles, y así crea una red exclusiva para sus usuarios. El rango de transmisión vía hotspot es de 60 metros, aunque la distancia puede aumentar drásticamente si hay una red Wi-Fi de gran tamaño al alcance. YO! está disponible en la tienda móvil de Google. Source: Click here to view the original post on El Nuevo Zol