Not only has the Covid pandemic accelerated the use of technology, or the time spent online over the last few months, it has changed the way we work. With many organisations encouraging their employees to work from home or to re-evaluate the way they run their businesses, the way in which we engage on a day-to-day basis has changed. We thought it would be timely to have a look at the Digital Movers and Shakers , in -country, starting with Gibraltar.
Those digital natives, leaders, thinkers and doers who have played a part in the digital transformation we have witnessed have already been working remotely for quite some time. Business as usual for these like-minded individuals.
Victor Shaburov – Director of Snapchat
Victor Shaburov is one of these individuals, currently living and working remotely in Gibraltar. A Director of the popular Snapchat app, Victor has worked hard to get to where he is today.
It all began when he was studying Mathematics at St Petersburg State University, one of Russia’s largest and oldest universities. It was during this time that he started thinking about how he was going to make a livelihood out of his hobby; computers. He started developing programmes and became involved on a big email management system for the Italian Minister of Agriculture. This is when he incorporated his first company and other projects began coming his way, including the building of a website for the community of people working within The White House.
Naturally, this led to big things for Victor and in 2004 he founded Handster Inc, an app store which supported different types of applications, including Google Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. This was subsequently acquired by Opera Software, known mostly for their web browsing services and mobile equivalent, which was created later on when he became Vice President of Opera. Today, the mobile app store is visited by an impressive 100 million users monthly.
Noticing a change in trend, with people moving towards Instagram and Facebook, where perfect photos were a must, he created the app Looksery in 2013, which can modify your face live with different features, essentially making you look better, or worse, depending on which filter is used. Examples are a ready-made face of make up for users who cannot be bothered to apply any, as well as scary faces to frighten people off at Halloween. Naturally, people were hooked, with the app becoming rated by Vogue as one of 2014’s best apps, just a year after creation.
When asked how things have changed in technology over the last 20 years, he says mobile apps have become the new focus.
In the past there was a lot of interest on websites and the internet, as this was all the rage at the time, where there was a focus on search engines and getting people to websites. Nowadays, it’s all about promoting apps and buying the right traffic in order to boost campaigns.
Looksery was acquired by Snapchat, who now feature the Cameo function within their app, a feature created by another one of Victor’s ventures, Al Factory Inc, which turns selfies into a short video with the ability to add stickers and special effects.
Today he is settled in Gibraltar, where he says it provides a combination of the best things; warm weather and plenty of opportunities to enjoy sports. Victor is an active person, and enjoys kayaking, cycling and hiking up the rock. He is also a keen environmentalist, choosing to walk and cycle instead of driving. Naturally given this, he is in support of the Government of Gibraltar’s plans to review their environmental policies to ensure that they are doing all they can to keep pollution down.
Not only is he good to the environment, he is also a proud philanthropist, donating to many good causes. Just recently he donated £65,000 to the GHA Covid-19 fund, to support the community during this difficult time. He also supports 20 universities across Eastern Europe, where he sponsors tickets for championships and masterclasses for techie youngsters.
His advice for those looking to get into the digital market is to get as much experience and practice in as possible; create your own website or app and experiment with technology, and work on a business plan as this will be important to produce to potential investors in order to get some capital behind your idea. Now it’s easier than ever, with the ability to set up meetings online with the likes of Zoom and Skype. With all this at your fingertips, you have the ability to really succeed.
Caroline Cerisola – MD of DLT Advisers Limited
DLT Advisers is a boutique advisory firm that assists with digital projects and start-ups with a focus on disruptive technologies.
Caroline, the MD of the team, has a background in financial markets, previously working as an Equity Analyst at JP Morgan. Her main mission when starting on a project is surrounding herself with a diligent team with the relevant skills to execute the client’s requirements. She then focuses on creating a road to market by assessing the product and analysing whether there is a market for their product before then considering their needs. The main elements are ensuring the board has governance and transparency, as well as legal factors such as protection of intellectual property.
They focus on things that a start-up may not think about to ensure their business is doing as well as they can. In Caroline’s experience, not enough importance is placed on protecting intellectual property; a start-up’s most precious and often only asset, as most feel that funds are best placed in
developing the product itself, so that they have something firm to market.
Caroline’s latest project is an instant messaging application; aimed at a security conscious market which will be launching its beta version in August 2020. Data privacy is now on everyone’s mind more than ever with the new GDPR legislation in place. The app comes with unmatched encryption and privacy respecting features, as well as the ability to work with no internet or network connection amongst users in proximity using the phone’s capabilities by way of connection on a peer to peer basis. Their primary focus is to build this user base network in order to allow connection on a grand scale.
The name of this fabulous creation? White Mouse App. More secure than anything else on the market, users can choose their own security level, ranging from basic to post-quantum computing level, which is military grade security. When you compare this to products like Zoom which are relatively unsecure, it’s a no-brainer.
The idea behind this app will be useful for businesses, where information will have to be shared and kept confidential, and to expel the fear of potential cyber-attacks. There are plans in the pipeline to release as software specifically for businesses once the app is created, but for now the concept is
tried and tested.
This software is also critical for battling the digital divide. In many poorer countries, in places such as Africa and South America, their infrastructure is not in position to enable everyone to have communications capabilities. This is a way of giving them the opportunity to stay connected by only
using their mobile phones. This technology really is the future.
Caroline believes that there is plenty of appetite for this type of service; she feels there is a growing focus on secure and privacy respecting services, clearly visible from privacy groups on Reddit forums which are constantly looking into this issue and together make over 950,000 users committed
to White Mouse’s cause. This app has the potential to become huge and spread, just as we saw with WhatsApp and Facebook. Currently there are over 100 users in over five countries who have been involved in the alpha testing of the app and have proved that it works. Now Caroline and the team are
ready to launch the app to a wider beta audience.
When asked how she feels the Corona virus has affected the market, she believes that it has just proved that we can and will work digitally. Previously schools would not have considered offering lessons online. Whilst there is no indication how this has affected education, children have been able
to continue with their schoolwork, which would not have been possible without these digital tools to do so.
This has also been proven in the Governmental sector, where we have seen changes to the old mentality of original documents being required for filing purposes. Now, we are able to carry on ticking along by filing things online with a digital signature being sufficient.
Caroline believes that the digital market has changed quite significantly since the first days of the internet and that Jeff Bezos was one of the main facilitators of this with Amazon, completely changing the way that we shop. David Bowie was another big influence, who predicted the power of the internet. He created Bowienet, an exclusive platform for him to post to with an opportunity for fans to interact with him a good 13 years before we had even heard of Instagram. Even Lady Gaga owes her fame to the internet. Having been turned down on several auditions, she posted videos of herself singing on YouTube where she was finally recognised for the artist she is today.
Caroline notes that another key change is the way that data is becoming a commodity to advertisers to give a free service. With White Mouse App, they want to be transparent and show users that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that there has to be some way of deriving funds from the app to maintain it. One of their main taglines on their campaign attempts to assist users understand this, saying: ‘No such thing as a free lunch – as a mobile messaging user, access to your activity and data is sold to the highest bidder. This is the price of free messaging services. The system is supported by mass harvesting of data meaning privacy and security will always take second place. We want to stop the data free for all. Our offer, a no compromise security plus privacy respecting service.”
Sounds like a win-win to both the user and the creators.
For more on White Mouse App, watch this space.
If you’re interested in being featured in this series of articles on digital movers and shakers, or know someone that should be , or are looking for advice on your latest online venture, then please get in touch.
Words by Allegra Cross