I was born in Belgium in 1995, and as far back as I can remember, computers have captured my imagination. At age 4, the Commodore 64 gave me a first taste of this technology, and it opened my eyes to the sheer limitless opportunities of developing software. This fascination persisted -when I was 8, I built my first website-, and it steadily increased as I learnt additional programming languages.
The journey that resulted from this enthusiasm was at times bumpy and unconventional, but also strengthened my determination to succeed and to be at the very forefront of cutting-edge technologies. This is all I ever wanted to do, and I fought hard for my achievements. It is the path that led me towards who I am today: I have created and sold several apps, and I am looking forward to get involved in more adventures, more projects in tech.
The Road Not Taken
When I was fourteen, I decided to quit school to pursue my IT passions full-time. Understandably, my parents and school principal were not pleased, and expected me to either give in to their wishes or to end up in jail eventually. And whilst, this unusual decision was at times not without challenges, this path has shown and taught me things that few of my peers will ever experience.
I taught myself the principles of software development and cyber security, and immediately proceeded to work. I got involved in a project involving various governments and research institutions. Its successful completion led to a presentation in front of an audience of international officials; for a 15 year old, it was a very memorable experience.
To widen my professional horizon and further my skill set, I embarked on a series of jobs and projects, in both the business as well as the public sector. Some of them were more successful than others, but from each setback, I emerged more motivated and more determined to continue on the path I had chosen.
My First Steps
BlackPear Security Lab, an underground research vehicle specialized in cyber security, was my first foray into the world of startups. With employees based in the US as well as Europe, the lab’s primary goal was to provide consultancy services to the private sector, governments, and NGOs. After releasing a software tool, BlackPear swiftly established a reputation in its respective community for being particularly innovative.
As the Fukushima disaster of 2011 was unfolding, I established one of the largest intelligence- gathering networks, and collaborated with employees of Greenpeace and CRIIRAD (an NGO working on radiation safety) to gather and analyze information on the magnitude of these events.
In that same year, the federal law enforcement agency briefly arrested me for developing a botnet that had resulted in one of the largest cyber attacks in Belgian history. Consider it a youthful indiscretion; I had to pay a hefty fine, and thus learnt my lesson the hard way.
Let’s Hear Some Music
Around this time, I also set up Furious Eardrum Agency, a management and booking agency. At first, Furious Eardrum Agency solely operated in Belgium, but by devising new and innovative social media strategies to promote its events, it quickly gained a following outside the country’s border.
After more than two years, I decided to close down Furious Eardrum Agency to be able to better focus on my other business interests. Currently, the company’s technology is still being used by Shotta TV, one of the UK’s biggest electronic music agencies, to promote its more than one hundred musicians across Europe.
Gaining More Experience
In 2013, I co-founded two tech startups, LoadStory and Crossnode. In the former, I assumed the role of CTO; in the later, that of CISO.
LoadStory is a French-language event management app, and has been used at several large-scale events. The app allows users to access additional features provided by an event’s organizer, and to thereby enhance their experience. I managed to attract the first investor for this project. Crossnode provides a similar platform, and its development process strengthened my conviction that not native, but web-based applications are the future.
As both startups operate on the crossroads of social media and real-life events, it was a great opportunity to share with my colleagues what I had learnt previously from setting up Furious Eardrum Agency.
Opportunities and Threats
Concerned by the deteriorating regional security situation during Operation Protective Edge, my friend Farid el Nasire and I developed the IsraelUnderAttack web application. Our app allows users to trace the trajectory of missiles launched against Israel -in real-time and with a 99,9% accuracy rate concerning the detonation location-, and to seek shelter in the meantime. The app’s goal was to save lives, and to draw more attention to the ongoing missile threat that Israel and its citizens are exposed to.
The app instantly went viral, and not only garnered considerable media attention in Israel, but also in the international press. In October 2014 I successfully negotiated the sale of the app to an Israeli tech company for a six figure sum.
As I am writing this, I have just turned 19, and I am currently involved in various projects in the domain of finance, security, and related fields.
Based on my own experiences, I have started to mentor several Israeli startups. I enjoy guiding them through the journey of creating and developing their ideas, and turning them into a reality. It is my firm belief that the ability to mobilize and motivate a team, even in times of challenges, is a key pre-condition for the kind of synergy that is necessary to the ultimate success of a startup.
Innovation and creativity are at the core of my vision for the future: I am fascinated by the disruptive potential that wearable devices, open-source technologies, and web-based applications have generated, and how they might help humanity resolve some of the most pressing problems of our time.
This journey has led me from a Commodore 64 to web-based apps. Along the way, I have learnt that constant optimization, creativity, resourcefulness, and courage are factors in maintaining a competitive edge in today’s world. What will our future look like? I am convinced that the technologies we are working on now will make it a brighter and better place for all: the best is yet to come!