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The History of FanBox.com 

Many people have asked how FanBox was started; by whom; and what are the motivations of the FanBox team.

Using this blog, I will do my best to bring you the FanBox story - by interviewing FanBox employees - both current and past employees. 

If you work (or previously worked) at FanBox, please
send me your stories, photos or videos -- and I will do
my 
best to assemble them into their correct chapter.

As I progress, I will continually add more chapters over the coming weeks and months -- and go back to edit previous chapters -- until we have the full story of the Good, the Bad, and Everything In-Between.

 

 

The History of FanBox.com

 

The Beginning

 

FanBox was started here in a 3-bedroom condo (apartment #402) in San Diego, California:

The History of FanBox.com

 

It was started in a residential condo (instead of an office building) because the company had no money and wanted to keep the costs very, very low.

Everyone knew that if they wanted to eventually be able to give money back to the community users and their chosen charitable causes, they would need to keep the company private and out of the control of profit-seeking investors.

This condo was owned by one of the employees, so they didn't have to pay rent.

 

 

The company had no money, and could pay no salaries or give employees any benefits -- for years.


Here's Greg, who departed a company called mp3.com to take on the company's marketing responsibilities:

The History of FanBox.com

 

 

Amanda was one of the very first engineers, and quickly got a reputation as someone who could do technical magic:

The History of FanBox.com

 

Amanda, like the other FanBox engineers, was amazingly talented and intelligent.


FanBox was an extremely difficult place to work if you were not simply the best at what you did, because -- due to the lack of resources -- you had to figure out how to get a lot done each day -- usually as much as what 5 or even 10 "normal" engineers could accomplish in a day.


Every single person that lasted more than a short period of time at FanBox, had at least the following three (3) things in common:


1) They were extremely intelligent, and world-class excellent at their craft. 

For example, Amanda had previously achieved a perfect SAT Score (ZERO wrong answers) -- it was discovered years into her employment at FanBox -- a fact that she had not volunteered up herself.

In another chapter, I will detail some of the technologies that these same people invented -- some of which are things that you are using today -- each and every day -- not just on FanBox but virtually everywhere on the Web.  

When I get to writing that chapter, you will be amazed that you didn't already know that many of the things that you use every day (on Facebook, Yahoo, Google and other web sites) were actually invented by FanBox employees -- and to prove it, the United States Patent Office recently awarded a series of official patents to FanBox for these inventions.

I promise to add another chapter (post), titled "FanBox Inventions", soon.

 

 

2) They were extremely confident in their capabilities, and believed that they not only could but had a responsibility to do something really big with their lives.

To survive under those difficult conditions (for more than a short period of time) they simply had to be driven by a higher purpose. FanBox's mission provided them that exact purpose. I will detail that purpose for you in the next chapter (post) of this blog.

When you're going after a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal), you are put to the test daily and you are constantly working under severe stress and pressure.

To add to that, your friends, family and loved ones are constantly and openly questioning your judgment -- for working double-long days -- for zero pay -- when you could easily be bringing home $100,000 or more per year.

So, one big part of the challenge was silencing "the noise from the naysayers", many of which went out of their way on a daily basis to remind you that this mission has never been accomplished before; that you were crazy for attempting it; and that the sooner you stopped wasting your life chasing this mission, the better off you would be. 

To be able to stay focused and achieve the near-miracles that you needed to accomplish almost daily -- often needing to literally invent groundbreaking technologies seemingly out of thin-air to accomplish a task -- despite all the difficulties, mental obstacles, and challenges you faced -- you simply needed to be operating at a higher level of purpose than most people.


 

3) They were down-to-earth and humble.

At FanBox, there's simply no room for arrogance or self-promoting.

When your brain is focused fully on a big purpose and you see a path towards that purpose, you simply don't care about short-term gratification, flashiness, big talkers, showing off or being full of yourself.

Under those difficult conditions, they were simply trying to keep their minds focused on the positive and make it through to the next day -- without breaking an important piece of software or having a nervous breakdown themselves -- knowing that the other amazing people -- that were also making huge sacrifices like they were -- were counting on them to come through with their piece of the complex puzzle.

 

Arrogant people were humbled very quickly by the sheer weight of the challenges they faced starting on Day 1 of their employment, and after just a week or two at FanBox either became quite down-to-earth under the weight of their challenges --- or rapidly quit and/or disappeared.


The survivors - the ones that were still around for a year or more after they started -- all shared the same characteristics of being amongst the best in the industry at their profession and skills; were noticeably similar in their deep humility; and shared the same sense of purpose and belief that they were going to succeed in helping make the world a better place.


                      ------------

 

Little by little, word got out to the local community about FanBox and its mission.

Many people applied to work at the company -- ALL FOR NO PAY -- but for a chance to make a difference.

Here's one of the bedrooms at the condo:

The History of FanBox.com

 

The kitchen was in bad shape:

The History of FanBox.com

 

The bathroom was in bad shape too:

The History of FanBox.com

 

But somehow, people didn't seem to care.

People left Yahoo to work at FanBox. They left Microsoft, Qualcomm, Price Waterhouse, and Genentech. They left Creative Labs, College Club and Google.

People came from all over the state of California to work at "The Condo" -- leaving their $100,000 to $300,000 per year annual salaries -- knowing full well that there was no paycheck; the working space was cramped and tight; and that work days were very long:

The typical day started before 8am and didn't end until after Midnight -- six (6) and sometimes seven (7) days a week.

 

Every night, the engineers took turns making sure the web site stayed up during the night, so people often took a nap under their desks during the night:

The History of FanBox.com

 

Monitors on the kitchen shelf showed important stats and numbers; flashing when a computer or server went down or was having an issue:

The History of FanBox.com

 

 

Due to the lack of space, interviews only happened in the fire escape stairwell, so everyone hoped it didn't rain (but sometimes it rained and interviewees got wet):

The History of FanBox.com

 

 

Company meetings had to happen outside. When the weather was good, the beach made for a soft place to sit and a fun place to meet:

The History of FanBox.com

 

There was only enough room in the condo for 35 employees, so to bring on a new employee (with a desparetely-needed skill) someone had to be asked to leave.

This was particularly hard because everyone worked very hard, for long hours and no pay, so asking someone to leave the company was one of the most difficult things to do.

The 35th person had to put a piece of glass on the sink in the bathroom, and get his/her work done from there:
The History of FanBox.com 


 

 

Eventually, the product began to come together, and the company started to generate revenues.


An important day:

Here's everyone showing off their very first "Paycheck" -- $100 for each employee. By now, many of the employees had been working for no pay and under these conditions for 2 or 3 years:

The History of FanBox.com

 

 

Those paychecks grew by $100 a month, until eventually everyone had a normal -- but small -- monthly paycheck.

 

One day, the city of San Diego discovered that the company was operating a business in this residential area, and put a "Cease and Desist" (order to vacate the premises) on the condo door -- ordering the business to leave in 24 hours.

The company would be forced to shut down, as it had no money to secure an office.


Coincidentally, that very same day -- only 3 hours after the notice from the city, the company received, in the mail, an unexpected check (for $20,000) from Sony Corporation -- paid in advance for advertising -- making it possible for the company to pay the deposit for an office ($19,975).

This coincidence continues to puzzle everyone, as the company had never made a penny from advertising before this, and had not served even one advertisement for Sony (or any other company, for that matter) and had only asked Sony (and been rejected) for an ad sale many months before.

-----------------

The very next day, everyone stopped what they were doing and helped move desks, computers and everything else to the new office:

The History of FanBox.com

 

Notice the "SMS.ac" stickers and logo on the office door. SMS.ac is the official (corporate) name for FanBox. The company now had the office space it needed to grow beyond 35 employees:

The History of FanBox.com

 

And it grew quickly - even though paychecks were still at only a few hundred dollars per month per employee -- about 10% of their "market rates".

 

Here, the company is celebrating an important product launch:

The History of FanBox.com

 

In this photo, Pradeep Menon, the company's first head of product, is standing in the front with a white shirt and his hand crossing his chest.

Earlier this year (2011) "dEEp" -- as they all called him --  slipped and fell, banged his head, and passed away within a few hours -- at the young age of 31.

His funeral was a chance for everyone to get together to honor him and his accomplishments; and also remind each other of how short life is and how quickly it can be taken away; and how important relationships become between people that set out to do something challenging and difficult together.


-----------------

As the company grew, it stayed focused on its mission, and although typical work hours still averaged around 16 hours a day, everyone often took the opportunity to have a laugh with their comrades.

Most people that have worked at FanBox can claim that some of their very best friends, to this day, are people that they met at FanBox and shared the same "brain-expanding, learning, goal-chasing, hard-working, fun, challenging, tiring, purpose-driven, emotional, difficult, exhilarating, scary, high-acheiving, growth-filled, sleep-deprived" experience.

Here's some of the FanBox staff taking a moment to have some fun at the holiday gift exchange party:

The History of FanBox.com

 

 

In the next chapter, let's explore what it was that motivated the employees of FanBox to take on those challenges -- and sacrifice as much as they did: The purpose and reason behind FanBox.

 

  >> Next Chapter >>

Understanding FanBox's Purpose, part 1:

The Knowledge Revolution


Overview

Around 100 years ago, 90% of people earned their living by getting things out of the ground or out of machines -- or, transporting those things from one place to another.

 

In other words, almost everyone performed one of these three (3) activities:

 

Growing things (agriculture):

     FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution

 

Making things (manufacturing):
         FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution

 

Or moving things (transportation):
        FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

The others -- less than10% of people -- made their living as “Knowledge Workers”.
                     FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution
        

 

Knowledge Workers were people like doctors…
          FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution
       

 

 

 lawyers….
             FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

 

 

 teachers….
            FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

 

and salespeople…
          FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

 

 

 – and they earned their pay by selling their knowledge to their customers (their clients or employers).

 

                            ------------------

 

Throughout the last century and a half, technologies were invented that made farmers and factory workers more efficient.


Those technologies included electricity…
           FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

and the electric motor…
            FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 


 the internal combustion engine….
            FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

 

and new materials, chemicals and fertilizers….
    FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution
     FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution    FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution

 

 

Thanks to these technological inventions, less workers were needed to grow, make and move things, because:

-- Each farmer could grow many times more crops

-- Machines got better and better, so that only one or two workers were needed to operate them

-- Few or even only one worker (a driver) was required to move massive amounts of things using trucks, trains and boats

 

In other words, technology enabled massive productivity gains for farmers and industrial workers.

 

The evidence:

Today less than 10% of people grow, make or move things.

 

The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions were indeed REVOLUTIONS.

 

As a result, today over 90% of us are Knowledge Workers.
              FanBox's Purpose, part 1:  Knowledge Revolution 

 

And the Knowledge Revolution has begun.

 

In the next chapter, we'll look at what enables the Knowledge Revolution: The Knowledge Economy

 

  >> Next Chapter >>

Understanding FanBox's Purpose, part 2:
The Knowledge Economy

 

The Knowledge Revolution has started, and now we’re living in the Knowledge Economy.

 

   (WHAT'S THE KNOWLEDGE REVOLUTION?)

 

The Knowledge Economy has two main participants:

 

1) The Knowledge Worker: The producer of the knowledge; the person that is selling his or her knowledge, and

2) The Knowledge Consumer: the person that is receiving (benefitting from) the knowledge.

FanBox Purpose, part 2: Knowledge Economy

 

 

Examples:

 

Knowledge

Workers

   

Knowledge

Consumers

       

Musician

   

Music Fan

Doctor

   

Patient

Personal Trainer

   

Person wanting to get fit

Chef

   

Restaurant Customer

Film maker

   

Film lover

Lawyer

   

Client

Real Estate Agent

   

Home buyer

Stand up comedian

   

Person that likes to laugh

Sports writer

   

Sports enthusiast

Plumber

   

Client


   

 

          (To learn about the different types of knowledge work -- that YOU can do on FanBox to earn money TODAY -- go here)

 

While 90% of us are now Knowledge Workers, virtually all of us are Knowledge Consumers -- consuming many different types of knowledge on a regular basis.

 

As Knowledge Consumers, we have many choices -- so we're picky and generally only want to consume the very best knowledge.

Therefore, in order to compete for Knowledge Consumers, Knowledge Workers must focus on one type of knowledge work… usually the work:

      1) That’s in the most demand

      2) Or, that we’re the best at

      3) Or, that we enjoy the most


With the way the economy is these days, many people don’t have a job at all.

Therefore, many of us are lucky to simply have a job – any job.

Some of us are even luckier, and get paid to do a job that fits into one of the above categories.

And then some of us are even luckier; we fall into two of the above categories.

 

Then there’s the lucky few – a tiny percentage of us – that can say that we get paid to do work that fits into all three categories.

--------


As human beings, we spend more of our life focused on our work – more than any other thing we do -- including sleeping.


Therefore, it is a tragedy that most of us don’t get to do the work that we love most.

At FanBox, we are convinced that technology will enable virtually all of us to do the work that we love to do, and be compensated fairly for that work.

In other words, just like new technology enabled most of us to stop working in the soil in order to eat, new technology will also enable us to do the knowledge work that we love to do.

 

FanBox’s mission is to bring you the building blocks that you need to profit from your passions.


We believe that if we are successful at doing our part in helping make that opportunity a reality for most people, the world will be a much better place.

Our reasoning is that happy, focused people -- that are fairly compensated for what they love to do – are operating at a higher level of existence.

At that level of consciousness, love, compassion and understanding are most easily accessed.

We believe that when the planet hits a certain inflection point -- or percentage of the population that operates at that level – we will have our best chance for survival and continued evolution as a species.


On the flipside, the continued advent of weapons of mass destruction, combined with poverty and religious fanaticism on a global scale, are taking mankind to a place of almost certain destruction.

 

Thus, the race is on – the clock is ticking and time is of the essence.
 

  ---------------


Before we can fully understand the solutions that FanBox is working to bring you, let's drill down to identify the specific obstacles that are limiting Knowledge Workers.

We'll do that in the next chapter

 

In the meantime, please enjoy some quotes that remind us how getting lost in work we enjoy, can uplift us to a place of higher consciousness.

 

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

James M. Barrie (1860 - 1937)

 

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.

David McCullough (1933 - )

 

Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is.

Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

 

You can't rest on your laurels. Your own body of work is yet to come.

Barack Obama (1961 - ), Arizona State Commencement Speech, 2009

 

My work is a game, a very serious game.

M. C. Escher (1898 - 1972)

 

When you choose the paradigm of service, it turns everything you do from a job into a gift.

   Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ), Stanford Commencement Address, 2008

 

When you're doing the work you're meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you're getting paid.

Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ), Stanford Commencement Address, 2008

 

You don't become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

Randall Munroe, xkcd, Marie Curie, 2011

 

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.

Richard Bach

 

Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day's work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition.

Sir William Osler (1849 - 1919), to his students

 

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

         Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919), Speech in New York, September 7, 1903

 

Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.

Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881), Past and Present, 1843

 

I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

 

Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.

Voltaire (1694 - 1778), Candide, 1759

 

The secret of greatness is simple: do better work than any other man in your field - and keep on doing it.

Wilfred A. Peterson

 

Whenever it is in any way possible, every boy and girl should choose as his life work some occupation, which he should like to do anyhow, even if he did not need the money.

William Lyon Phelps

 

You've got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you've found it.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc. (1955 - ), Stanford Commencement Address, 2005

 

 

In the next chapter, let's take a look the specific obstacle that is most limiting Knowledge Workers.


  >> Next Chapter >>

 

Understanding FanBox's Purpose, part 3:
Revolution on "pause"

 

 

The Problem

 

 
Like all prior revolutions, the Knowledge Revolution also needs technological advancements to make its workers -- Knowledge Workers -- more efficient.

 FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause"


 But this has not happened:

·      One doctor can only see 30 patients a day, virtually the same as 100 years ago.

·      One lawyer can only represent a few clients; same as 100 years ago.

·      One teacher can only serve 30 students; again, the same as 100 years ago.

To be fair, there have been some productivity gains.

Examples:

·      Using telephones, sales people can make more sales calls.

·      Using personal computers, typing is faster with word processing, and calculating forms got faster with spreadsheets.

·      Other software has made other specific tasks more efficient too.

 

However, the massive productivity gains that we witnessed in the industrial, agriculture, scientific and renaissance periods – that brought profound advancements such as the printing press -- have simply not occurred.


--------------------


Only 15 years ago, we all thought the greatest invention of our era would be the Internet and the World Wide Web.

The Web was supposed to ignite the productivity of Knowledge Workers!
 

·      We thought each teacher would be teaching hundreds of students using the Web.

That didn’t happen.

 

·      We thought lawyers would be going to court via sessions on the Web.

That didn’t happen.

 

·      We thought doctors would be helping many times more patients – by using the Web.

That didn’t happen.

 

Significant productivity gains have simply not occurred.

 

Again, to be fair, the Web brought us:

Better and cheaper communications: Email, social networking and Skype

More entertainment: YouTube

More information and news:  Google

 

However, the Web has not yet brought us -- the world’s Knowledge Workers -- significant productivity gains.

 

To illustrate and better understand the problem, let’s use 3 examples of Knowledge Workers:

·      Musicians

·      A personal trainer

·      A plumber

 

Musicians:
         FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause" 

Before the Web, to get compensated for their work, musicians had to score a recording contract from one of the big music labels, who would distribute their music to record stores around the world.

Getting a music contract was harder than winning the lottery. You not only had to be good, but you had to get lucky. Very lucky.

When the Web came around, musicians rejoiced! All of a sudden, you could load your music onto MySpace, and voila! Your music was being distributed to anyone who was interested -- anywhere!

Soon, you had thousands of fans around the world!! Amazing!!! Musicians were finally free!!!

Or were they?

Today, those same musicians, with thousands of fans around the world, still make their primary living from waiting tables in restaurants and similar jobs.

Imagine if musicians could get even a little bit of compensation for their work from each willing fan. They could quit their “day job” and focus full-time on the work they love to do.

 

A personal trainer:
            FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause" 

Like many people I know, a friend of mine has joined a local gym, and works out on a regular basis. In fact, he has hired a personal trainer to coach him three times a week in 1-hour sessions.

His trainer has been training for many years, and as a result, has become amazing at helping people realize their fitness goals.

The trainer’s compensation, however, has not increased over these last few years, even as she has mastered her knowledge and skill. Reason: She can only train about 5 to 7 people each day.

A year ago, she invested in a video camera, and has created a number of training videos that she’s uploaded to YouTube -- teaching thousands of people how to get fit.

But that effort has failed to bring her compensation, so she stopped focusing on creating or improving her videos.

Imagine if she could get even a little bit of compensation from each student that benefits from her videos over the Web.

Instead of transporting her body to the gym daily to distribute her knowledge to 5-7 people per day, the trainer could instead distribute that same knowledge to thousands of people around the world, gaining the reputation and success a trainer with her knowledge level deserves.

 

A Plumber:
              FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause" 

Last week, my girlfriend called a plumber to have our garbage disposal fixed. The plumber told my girlfriend to make sure she was home between 2pm and 5pm to enable his visit, and it would probably cost $75 to fix the problem.

Around 6:30pm, my girlfriend called the plumber to see if he was still on his way. He apologized and explained that he had become very busy with other customers, and had lost track of time.

But he felt bad for making her wait for so many hours, so he said: “I'll tell you what. Go and grab a broom. Put the handle into the garbage disposal and turn it counter-clockwise 10 times. That will fix your problem”.

She did exactly that and 30 seconds later, the problem was fixed.

A plumber is a knowledge worker! He has knowledge that he uses to make money.

And like the personal trainer, he too can only see a limited number of clients each day to distribute (and earn money from) that knowledge.

Imagine if he too could distribute his knowledge using the Web. Not only could he make a lot more money, but he wouldn’t have to run around town all day – mostly for things that don’t really require a visit.

The plumber would also have higher job satisfaction, knowing that he was helping people accomplish their goals more quickly and cost effectively.

Instead, today (like so many knowledge workers) he has to live a little bit of a lie.  He spends a lot of time going out to visit customers… just to fix a problem that he could have instantly told or shown them how to fix over the phone or Web.

  -------------

In each of these cases, the Web has solved one part of the problem:

Distribution of knowledge from the Knowledge Worker to the Knowledge Consumer:

               FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause"     

Indeed, today anyone can post their thoughts and writings, videos, music and applications on the Web FOR FREE, and millions of people can enjoy (and pass around) those morsels of knowledge (also known as content or media).

 

However, for this to be a business transaction, we need to return value – compensation – from the Knowledge Consumer back to the Knowledge Worker:

             FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause"       

 

 

And it is in this precise spot that technology has thus far failed us.

              FanBox's Purpose, part 3: Revolution on "pause"

 

The value chain is broken, and business continues to be conducted like before (back in the Industrial Revolution) by musicians, trainers and plumbers (and teachers, and lawyers, and doctors, and journalists, and ….  all of us).
 

  ----------------
 

You know how your radio won't power up until it's plugged into the wall (and it's full 2-way circuit loop is connected)?

The economy is also a loop.

Until that last part of the economic loop is enabled, the Knowledge Revolution is as disconnected as a radio put away in the closet.

  ----------------

 

 

In the United States, unemployment is hovering around 10%.

All that means is that everyone is no longer needed to feed the masses.

We can continue to provide government assistance to prop up old manufacturing giants such as the U.S. automotive Big 3 (and only prolong the issue) -- or we can realize what’s really happening and commit to the future.
 

 

  ----------------

When the last part of the economic loop described above is solved -- it will mark the true beginning of the Web as a vehicle that creates massive gains in the productivity of workers.
 

It will also mark the beginning of the largest job creation period in global history – putting more people to work than all prior economic boom periods combined.
 

    ----------------
 

In the next chapter, let’s drill down further to explore the difficulty of transferring compensation from Knowledge Consumers, to Knowledge Workers.
 

  >> Next Chapter >>

 

The First Challenge (part 1) 


The challenge with transferring money -- compensation -- from Knowledge Consumer to Knowledge Worker -- is easy to understand:

 

The vast majority of users of the World Wide Web do not have an electronic way to pay for something.

 

Most Web users do not have a credit card or bank account number that can be used to pay for something on the Web.

 

There is simply no way to stuff cash into your PC's floppy or CD drive, to send money electronically via the Web.

 

And so the Knowledge Revolution is virtually on hold.

 

------------

 

With over 5 billion mobile phones in use globally, however, today most Web users do have a mobile phone.

 

What if FanBox could get electronically connect to the billing systems of the world's mobile phone companies?

 

Then, simply by entering their mobile phone numbers into the FanBox web site, users could pay for content (knowledge, media, blogs, music, video and film, etc).

 

The charge would then appear on their phone bill or get deducted from their phone's pre-paid balance -- and FanBox could then route the money to the owner of the content (the Knowledge Worker).

 

---------------

 

Accomplishing mobile billing connectivity turned out to be the mother of all challenges.

 

But FanBox employees have always been up to taking on huge challenges.

 

This seems to stem from a belief that the employees share, a “Core Value” as they call it.

 

FanBox employees have four (4) core values -- and one of them is WTAWTAW (pronounced W - Tah - Tah) -- and it stands for “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way”.

 

We'll discuss all four Core Values in another chapter, but for now, what WTAWTAW suggests is that "there is ALWAYS a real solution for accomplishing absolutely ANYTHING you can imagine".

 

WTAWTAW suggests that the solution is not always immediately apparent, but the more you believe in your idea, the more likely "people, events, situations or circumstances will mysteriously arise to your rescue".

 

There are many examples of breakthroughs and coincidences that allowed FanBox to move forward when it hit an obstacle -- simply out of everyone's belief in WTAWTAW as a Core Value.

  

------------------------

 

In order to achieve mobile phone billing system connectivity, FanBox employees met with mobile phone companies all over the world.

 

Overall, the idea was interesting to phone companies, but they all asked the same question:

 

"What other mobile phone company have you done this with"?

 

And FanBox's answer was always "None… You have the opportunity to be the first!"

 

This was not an answer they wanted to hear.

 

Opening up their billing system to an outside company seemed completely out of the realm of possibility and reality for these multi-billion dollars companies.

 

Over a three-year period, the FanBox team met in-person with mobile phone companies from over 100 countries – asking for mobile billing connectivity.

 

Each and every time, FanBox employees were rejected.

 

Given the company's lack of financial resources, all that travel was paid for by employees using their personal credit cards, family members, and even by taking out mortgages (loans) on their homes.

 

As the months passed, the dream of igniting the knowledge revolution sometimes seemed further and further from reality.

 

All of the employees eventually ran out of money as they rushed around the world to speak to mobile phone companies.

 

The level of sacrifice on their families and personal lives was severe, as they often went weeks at a time without a solid 8 hours away from work.

 

Even when they weren’t working, they couldn’t stop thinking about the challenge… surely if they could just think harder, they could find a way to solve the issue.

 

They knew that time was not on their side. With each passing week and month, they were more likely to run out of sources of money to pay their rents.

 

They knew that most of the other employees were running out of time too, so they felt guilty with every moment that they weren’t at least mentally wrestling with the challenge that, as the core value WTAWTAW suggested, surely had a solution.

 

This inability to “turn off their brain” for even a little while, over a long period of time, for many people created “mental burnout”.


FanBox employees were often mentally exhausted – and the more exhausted they were, the harder they wanted to push their brains to get solutions.

 

In those days, “burnout” – a condition where the employee basically breaks down mentally and emotionally, was the number one reason that employees were forced to leave the company. It was often a matter of survival from a health perspective.

 

In other words, mental burnout was a much bigger issue for employees than running out of money – which is surprising because there was absolutely no compensation for years.

 

The idea that motivated FanBox employees was so powerful that once they understood the implications of solving the challenges, they would always “find a way” to make ends meet – even if that meant giving up their apartments to live with a friend or stranger, going without any money whatsoever for entertainment, health care or, sometimes even food.

 

Indeed, malnutrition (caused by employees not eating) become such a big issue that a group of employees started providing other employees with lunch and dinner, to make sure they could and would eat on a regular basis.

 

Today, lunch and dinner are provided to FanBox employees, who still often simply “forget to eat” for many hours.

 

There is ample proof at FanBox that an idea has the ability to inspire and lift people to levels of existence where their bodies will simply not crave energy from food for long periods of time.

 

It was a tough time indeed, and many questioned the wisdom of not raising money from investors, to buy time for the company to figure out how to convince the mobile phone companies to take a chance and open up their billing systems to FanBox.

 

But each time the employees discussed the merits of raising money, they ended up reminding themselves that if they did take money from investors, they might sacrifice their ultimate objective of giving most of their revenues back to the community and to the local charities – something that will be discussed in a later chapter.

 

They also knew that there still existed a large amount of other challenges still ahead of them to bring the entire vision to life… so if they started taking money from investors, they would need to continue to do that for years, until all those challenges were solved.

 

That would mean that eventually they would lose control of the company to investors, who rightfully would be looking to maximize profits to themselves and their funds – hence the company’s mission would ultimately not be realizable as those investors would, of course, refocus the company on maximizing profit to its shareholders.

 

Having had prior experiences, they also realized that the largest likelihood for success would arise out of whatever path created the most team motivation – and motivation was clearly maximized by the simple fact that time was not on their side.

 

In other words, they believed that not having millions of dollars in the company's bank account created a sense of urgency that would force the breakthroughs and creativity needed to solve the many challenges ahead of them.

 

On the flip-side, they feared that being well-capitalized might make everyone a bit more “fat, dumb and happy” – meaning it would rob them of some of their motivation -- which would have a detrimental effect on their ultimate success – even though in the short term having money would make them both look and feel more successful.

 

Later, when we take a look at some of the inventions that arose out of the team’s struggles, it becomes easy to understand and even quantify that line of thinking….

 

When we do, it will become more apparent that perhaps most, if not all of FanBox’s breakthroughs and inventions resulted from the high levels of pressure that the team operated under.

 

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It was a very tough time, and this period lasted for over three years.

 

The team simply did not give up hope or quit.

 

Some people were forced to quit -- usually because of mental and emotional burnout -- but when they did, they made sure to train a replacement, who took on their challenges with new energy and excitement, amidst the heroic examples that the past and current employees had left.

 

Surely if just one mobile phone company could give FanBox access to its billing system, the concept could be flushed out with live customers, and that would make it easier for other companies to jump on-board.

 

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WTAWTAW suggests that there is always a way… and to find that way, you need to keep at it ... not give up... and keep trying different approaches.

 

If an approach fails, learn why it did and add that to the list of successful “knowledge nuggets”.

 

No idea or approach is “too dumb or not worth trying”.

 

One of the employees, Brandie Smith, had such an idea – which we’ll explore in the next chapter.

 

  >> Next Chapter >>

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