Why empowr (Part 4)

by Johnny Cash on February 04, 2017


Why empowr (Part 4)


Hello everyone,

Together, we've been reading the Why empowr book, written by one of the empowr founders.

Just joining the conversation? You can read the earlier parts here:  
Part 1:   Here
Part 2:   Here
Part 3:  Here

As always, many thanks for your thoughtful comments that you left in the earlier parts.

Each and every comment, each and every word that you leave is being carefully, read and digested by empowr's team and management, the founders and myself. Thank you!

I'll try and post a new part every day when there's not another announcement.

And for the benefit of readers, I promise to do a better job at removing all garbage and unrelated comments, such as "Why does PayPal not support Pakistan" and "Where's my cash out?" and "I would like more money", which have nothing to do with the topic of this blog post.

 

SMS.ac

SMS.ac was the very first laboratory stage—or pre-alpha stage—of the project that would grow into empowr. That phase had only two purposes, the first of which was to enable the “economy” part of the Democratic Social Economy by inventing a way for people to pay for things electronically over the web. At that time, most web users were “cash and carry”: they didn’t have credit cards or any other way to pay for things electronically. So, if we couldn’t first solve that challenge, there could be no economy or DSE—or empowr.com.

One of our many ideas was to convince the world’s mobile phone carriers to allow our software to talk to their billing systems, so that people could use their ten-digit phone numbers as if they were credit card numbers. The idea was that charges would show up on their phone bills or be deducted from their pre-paid mobile credit accounts.

The phone companies would not play along, so we needed to find a way to get their attention. We searched endlessly for opportunities or flaws in their business models and technologies, avenues that we might (legally) exploit to get their attention—and grab a seat at their tables.

What we learned was that, when one mobile phone company’s customers sent text messages to another phone company’s customers, both companies lacked the ability to track and quantify those messages. In other words, if, during any day, the customers of France Telecom sent 100 million text messages to the customers of Deutsche Telekom in Germany, but Deutsche Telekom’s customers sent only 95 million text messages back to France Telecom’s customers, the phone companies ignored the 5 million difference, and no money changed hands between them because of their inability to successfully track and report that difference to each other.

Once we discovered this flaw, we set out to find a way to gain (legal) access to any one phone carrier’s text messaging platform and to use that gateway to send text messages to the customers of other carriers around the world. The idea was that, if we could do that, we could open up a website and allow users to send text messages from the web to anyone in the world without paying for those messages. The theory was that offering free text messaging to consumers might bring millions of them to our platform via word-of-mouth—since we had no money for marketing—AND might give us leverage with the phone companies (in our quest to gain access to their billing systems), because we could show them that we had their customers’ attention; attention that we could utilize to help or harm their business objectives.

We spent over two years pursuing this strategy, and, despite our best efforts traveling around the world to meet with phone companies, we always returned home empty-handed.

Having exhausted all our resources, we were on the ropes. In a last gasp attempt, we decided to stop flying out to meet with directors and vice-presidents of phone companies and instead started to dial directly into the offices of the presidents of phone companies around the world, hoping to convince them to board a plane and visit us.

That strategy worked! The president of a phone company in South Africa agreed to visit our offices in San Diego, California.

There was only one problem. We had no “offices.” We were thirty-five engineers and product professionals working out of my apartment, because we couldn’t afford to pay the rent for an office. Surely if that president saw our poor working conditions, there wasn’t a chance in hell that he would want any affiliation with our company, much less agree to allow us to connect into his proprietary network.

So we pooled our dollars together and rented a fancy hotel room overlooking the beach, at the famous Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. When I picked up the president at the airport, I told him that our company was such a big customer of the grand hotel that they were eager to throw rooms at us anytime we needed one, free of charge. So, I said, he and I might as well stop there for discussions before heading over to “our offices.”

For our meeting, we had mocked up the designs for a product and made it look like it was almost ready to launch. We discussed our vision for mobile data and the future, and time passed by quickly. At one point, he informed us that he would need to get back to the airport soon and regretted that he wouldn’t be able to visit our offices. When I dropped him off at the airport, we agreed with a handshake that his company would allow us to send unlimited text messages, via their platform, to the customers of almost all mobile phone companies around the world. Within a couple of weeks, we both signed a contract to that effect.

A few weeks later, we launched www.SMS.ac—a simple website that allowed people to send free text messages to the mobile phones of their friends anywhere in the world. Given that text messaging was something people were accustomed to paying for, word of mouth exploded instantly, and within six months, over six million mobile customers had signed up—strictly through word of mouth—providing SMS.ac with the fastest customer ramp-up of any company in history (or so we were told). We broke the world records set by Hotmail and Napster, according to Fast Company magazine and USA Today.

More important than world records and cocktail party stories, we were able to go back to the mobile phone companies and tell them that we were quickly developing relationships with millions of their consumers. And, if they didn’t give us access to their billing systems, we would start to provide their competitors with advertising access to those customers.

THAT got their attention. One after another, the mobile phone companies of the world began to give us access to their billing systems, starting in the United Kingdom. They allowed our/their customers to pay for things over the web using only their phone numbers. We were finally on our way to knocking down one of the major hurdles in attaining the “economy” part of the DSE (Democratic Social Economy).

It’s worth mentioning that, in the process, we also generated many billions of dollars for the phone companies. But, thankfully, since we took the time to patent our invention of transactions over mobile devices, the mobile phone companies awarded us with $150 million (U.S. dollars) for our efforts. This meant that along with enabling global electronic payments—which was a must-have enabler for the DSE—our company also “got funded” without taking a dime from venture capitalists or Wall Street.

This was the second objective of empowr’s first phase. Not taking any investor capital was important to us because of the “democratic” part of the DSE, which called for, among other objectives, returning most of the company’s revenues and profits to our users—whom we call “citizens”—instead of the typical model, where profits belong to, and are extracted out, for the benefit of the shareholders.


Working with the CIA to Save Lives

Within hours of the bombs going off, the CIA reached out to us for information. They wanted the now-dead suicide bombers’ text messaging history on our platform so that they could catch any other partners and perpetrators before they escaped or planned a next phase of their attacks.

When the CIA approached us and asked us for help, I had significant reasons not to trust the U.S. government and what they were telling us. (I will explain these soon.) But it was hard to ignore the images on the television and the extreme circumstances of this event. If we didn’t cooperate and if those people ended up harming others, I knew we might regret that decision for the rest of our lives.

It turned out that the information we gave to the CIA was critical in helping them detain several suspects quickly and stop future terrorist acts that those suspects had planned. To thank us, the CIA flew one of my co-founders and I out to their headquarters in Langley, Virginia and rolled out the red carpet for us. Along with a comprehensive all-day tour of their facilities plus meetings and dining with some high-ranking officials, we even saw President George H. W. Bush, who once headed up the CIA and just happened to be visiting that day to receive an honor in a special ceremony.

While the end result of helping to stop more terror attacks was spectacular and memorable enough, there was another aspect of this experience that really stuck with me. Throughout all my interactions with the CIA, I noticed a common characteristic: the highest level of professionalism that I have encountered from any organization. For example, regardless of the topic we were discussing, they always had an attentive lawyer present to ensure that nothing they said nor the way that they said it might come off as threatening or intimidating to us. Every single discussion was passed through a filter of “is this appropriate or legal to ask or discuss,” which almost always slowed down the process but ensured that the rights of me and my colleagues, as U.S. citizens, were protected.

It takes a lot of motivation, process, and organization to ensure that an effective and well-trained lawyer is present at all times. That was just one sign that these people were professionals. I have never witnessed people more focused on doing their job the right way and with the utmost integrity. After all of my meetings with various CIA staff members, I left with the distinct impression that virtually everyone working at the CIA really believed that they had a sacred responsibility to protect not just their fellow citizens but the other free citizens of the world, as well.

It’s important to note that, following that experience, we have had no further interactions with the CIA. As I write this in mid-2015, the CIA and NSA aren’t exactly the most popular organizations in the world, partly as a result of the secrets revealed by Edward Snowden about extensive U.S. government monitoring of everyone’s communications.

But, following my experience with these consummate professionals and the results that they produced, I was left with a new appreciation for the power of democratic governments to create highly efficient agencies able to reach across the world and cooperate with one another in order to save lives. In fact, one of the best things about democracy is that it fosters not only the national unity required to create intricate, complex organizations with global reach but also international cooperation, which makes that reach much more useful. It’s worth noting that no country with a democratically-elected government has ever gone to war against another democracy. Perhaps that’s one of the primary reasons democracies work so well together and have so many mutual interests.

Additionally, democracy has been responsible for some of the most inspiring stories of national success ever told, which we'll discuss in the next part.

321 Comments

Amada Marcelino

Yes, I love it again!!

10 months ago
Kapil Manoj

hi

10 months ago
Kapil Manoj

I loved reading this part again. It is great that empowr helped with terrorism back then. Looking forward to the next part or might just have to open the book on the Kindle.

9 months ago
Bob Poster

Hello JC,

I loved reading this part again. It is great that empowr helped with terrorism back then. Looking forward to the next part or might just have to open the book on the Kindle.

Thanks!

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Hey Bob,
It's always great seeing you around the community, and the results you're getting in your work as a success coach. It seems you're becoming more and more influential within the SC ranks -- possible future empowr President?

And we all appreciate the positivity and encouragement you spread around the community.

Cheers!

10 months ago
Riad Ezzat

Interesting stories to know once for all. Thanks

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Always good to hear from you Riad!

10 months ago
Parvu Chivuta

Super !

10 months ago
Mizan Khulna

HALLO DREAM

10 months ago
Anaquiris Rojas

Extraordinario

10 months ago
Anzela Antonova

I am amazed and delighted by the fact that you have done and are doing now so a lot of work You have a purpose and it charges you to act, and all who have znaet.Mnogo effort, a lot of money, a lot of work - it moves you in buduschee.Spasibo for your strength and kindness !!!

10 months ago
Anzela Antonova

I first read the chapter once your knigi.Mne wondering how you manage your zhiznyu.Ponimaete, I have never in my life did not go out on Ukrainy.Nahodyas empovr, as if I am in other countries and beautiful places ...

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Anzela, maybe it's time for you to travel? Perhaps you should become a success coach (if you aren't one already) and then in the next empowr presidential election, run for president! (Then, you'll have to travel)... :)

10 months ago
Anzela Antonova

Thank you, Johnny, for the answer! Of course, I would like, as you have success in that like it! I like you, but I empovr total of 20 days and a lot of znayu.Nuzhno not have the information to take responsibility.
To be honest, I'm so nice to dream that I was going somewhere and experience the wonderful emotsii.Spasibo you that helped me feel ...

10 months ago
David Bruyland

Wonderful post content. I'm learning more about empowr every time you post, and I'm starting to love the platform, and all people around it even more.

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Thanks for your confidence, David.
We know we have a lot to still accomplish, a lot of issues to solve, and a lot more to bring to you -- so your vote of confidence is a great shot in the arm.

10 months ago
Andreea Alessia

only a very intelligent person would be able to obtain such collaborations. I think that the interaction with the CIA was an unforgettable experience. I forward to reading the next chapters of your book.

10 months ago
Mohamad Sabbih Zubairi

Nice content and thank for this information.....

10 months ago
Katherine (nl Citizen)

It was an amazing story to be told. Very inspiring. It only makes me more proud that I´m still a member of Empowr. I have to read word for word because it has a lot of suspense details. You have done a lot already and you have already saved so many lives by doing what you did.

With regards to free texting. I remembered that free text message on the web and told my other friends to use it so that they can send a message to me freely. I love the strategy and the success you attain out of helping others to save money from SMS. The billing system to pay for things over the web using my phone number which I am using until now. It´s so great to know where the idea come from (lol)

You are so kind to share your profits with us. I remember my first cash out. I think it was 2010. I can´t believe I got that amount. There was not too many tasks to do before and I remember I paid only $2-$3 a month and got hundreds. I heartily thank you JC and the rest of the founders and the team.

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Katherine, every time anyone sees your face and name next to a comment, they know they're about to get inspired and encouraged after reading it.
It is without doubt that without your constant encouragement, many employees at empowr, many success coaches, and many citizens, would likely have given up on the effort sooner. Therefore you are a gift to empowr and ultimately the people of the world.

10 months ago
Katherine (nl Citizen)

Thank you JC and I´m flattered. I´m glad every time you are the one responding comments, and of course, Mila, Brian, and the other team are not bad at all but it is what the feeling says.

10 months ago
Dzack Co

You guys are tough, running SMS.ac with very low financial budget, yet finally claim a Big Success results from the millions..
Your Text Messages were a really Creative and Beneficial.. Something to learn from the CIA story..
So Part 4 is more on Democratic review ? We'll just have to wait..

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Thanks Dzack -- it's been quite the journey, but anyone who's been here for a while, will you tell you that the progress rate has not been linear but actually exponential. So much can be accomplished when you have a community and company come together around a mission that has a real shot at uplifting humanity.

10 months ago
Prashant Dimri

I very much understand the sensitivity of above said all about the SMS .ac and its crucial role with CIA...Of course you did awesome.
.People forget what they had dinner in last night,.But again,every citizen must know what we did in past.
.Please Why we are digging past stories and emotions..Lets move ahead..
Hope you understand me.

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

When people understand the reasons and history behind something, some of the policies and features make more sense to them, Prashant. They'll be able to make a deeper contribution because they'll understand better where the community is headed.

Imagine if you were asked to join others in rowing a boat, but you have no idea about where they're trying to go and why. Despite your best efforts, you'll likely only hurt their objectives, as you'll be rowing in the wrong direction.

10 months ago
Prashant Dimri

You are right..Thanks Sir.

10 months ago
Muddssar

Just Amazing.......Thanks.

10 months ago
M Sajjad

Interesting stories to know once for all. Thanks

10 months ago
Farooq Jan

Best of luck,nice to hear this.Thanks

10 months ago
Olga Zhuravkova

Thank you.

10 months ago
Olga Kapustina

Very creative and informative! Thank you!

10 months ago
Karl

I find all this very informative
Can't wait to read more

10 months ago
Isabella Ali

You make me feel like anything is possible. Thank you for everything you've done to get us here.

10 months ago
Johnny Cash

Dez, with your incredible passion and optimism, everything IS possible. Then, add a community of like-minded people to your network (circe of trust) and things go closer from just being possible, to actually become a reality.
I, for one, love your passion and energy, and I notice how I become more motivated and focused when I hear from you.

10 months ago
Isabel Darlerbe

Thank you JC for that informative read. Transparency is key to leading a democratic society and I'm thankful to Empowr for that. My confidence and trust in this forum are now supercharged and I'm looking forward to becoming a part of the Empowr Team in the not too distant future. Long live Empowr!

10 months ago
Umair Siddique

I remember hearing this part "London Bombing and working with CIA to save Lives" in one of the SC meetings with Marius some months ago, I was really inspired then and it's always so good to read that part again, refreshes the motivation level and how proud we're to be part of the Empowr :-) Thanks JC for sharing the chapters with the community, looking forward to reading the next part :)

10 months ago
Iulia Maria Caracostea

I like the description beginnings, and sincerity collaboration with the CIA, especially worries about the consequences talks. It is to be appreciate. I hope I understand better! :)

10 months ago
( Will S )

Thank you Empowr team for sharing all these information. Giveing us better understanding of Empowr and it Mission.

10 months ago
Stasia

Very interesting information!Thank you Empowr Team for sharing! Everyfhing you've done

10 months ago
Rom Ned

Very interesting story! Good fellows guys!
Thanks you!

10 months ago
Marina Lobova

Wonderful post! I like it!
Thanks a lot for that You have shared with us. :)

10 months ago
Valeriy Yanuchenok

Thanks for the info!Very informative!

10 months ago
Татьяна Вишневская

Thank you, it is very poznavatelno.Hotya I did not understand everything, but I really like all the best in Empovr.Zhelayu.

10 months ago
Bogobogo

very interesting post :)
thank you for sharing!

10 months ago
Ben Shirida Da'aja

Thanks a lot for sharing this with us.
A lot of good information

10 months ago
Muhammad N Rasikh

Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing this interesting history of the platform.
Wish the platform, empowr team and all citizens a shining success. Thanks!!! :)

10 months ago