Michael Lewis joined Mycroft as our new CEO this month. We wanted to take a moment to find out a little more about him, why he is interested in Mycroft, and what makes him tick.
Michael’s list of achievements is enviable and he has a clear commitment to open source. The whole Mycroft team is making the most of his expertise, but we’ve been very focused on Mycroft, and less on Michael. So we pinned him down to ask the serious (and some not so serious) questions.
Hi Michael, you’ve had tremendous success in your previous startups. Why aren’t you sitting on a beach somewhere sipping on a Margarita? Why Mycroft?
Well, I did sip Margaritas on the beach in Tahiti in 2012. We swam with dolphins, waded into a throng of sharks and rays with bags of food, watched some traditional dances and bought pearls right from the source. It was really nice for a week, but like many awesome experiences I’ve had, the beauty was ultimately tainted by the ugly reality of the Tahitian’s situation. For example, there were no public beaches- they were all owned by resorts. Think about that. Wait… was that supposed to be a serious or not-so-serious question?
I was attracted to Mycroft by the confluence of technology that interests me and to which I can contribute based on my own tech experience. A team with a firm commitment to open-source and user-privacy, a product in one of the the fastest growing business sectors and, most importantly, the opportunity to disrupt the status-quo on a meaningful scale by treating customers as people instead of assets.
You’re obviously very new to Mycroft, but what have been your priorities getting started?
My first priorities were to get to know the team, understand the history of the company, and get familiar with the technology. Now I’m focused on the future of the company, balancing the short-term needs with long-term goals. Mycroft’s commitment to privacy and openness were key elements in my decision to join, so you can be sure those will remain front-and-center aspects of our business going forward. I’ll be able to be more specific soon.
You mentioned Mycroft’s firm commitment to open-source. How do you see the Mycroft Community being involved in the years to come?
I see the community being involved in two major elements of Mycroft’s products: Skills and the Mycroft Core.
It is easy to see how everyone benefits from an open Skills marketplace. It allows everyone to make their Mycroft experience their own via customization (see City of Heroes) and adding new features. On top of that, our open-source Core is open to review, critique, improvement and extension which benefits everyone by making it more robust, capable and trustworthy. I see improved collaboration processes for both of these elements in the coming years.
Mycroft has already had hundreds of Skills submitted. As our process matures we will provide even better support to enable our community to make the most effective Skills. At the moment we’re developing guidance for optimizing the user experience and for effective testing.
We’re now looking for opportunities to utilize Mycroft as a platform for more than control of your IoT. We think there are many untapped and unrecognized opportunities for improving the user experience in a wide range of applications, giving a coherent voice interface to all of your devices. The full potential of this can only be reached if the users are comfortable that they are in control, which is a unique advantage of Mycroft’s approach.
Think about what you could do with an always-on voice assistant that was privy to all of your digital information, knew about all of your applications, and that you trusted implicitly as if it were an extension of you. What could you do with such a system? What would you need to make it come true? That’s the long-term vision for Mycroft, and I want to hear your practical and pie-in-the-sky ideas about what it looks like and how we get there.
Outside of Mycroft, we heard you’re a gamer, are you more of a table top or computer gamer?
I’ve never really thought of myself as anything but a “gamer”. I started with D&D, then got into Warhammer (and painting tiny people and creatures), then played a zillion board and card games. When not with my friends I would play games like Zork and Ultima, then Reach for the Stars, Spaceward Ho! As the internet developed I was inspired (like many others) to bridge those interests which directly resulted in Stellar and Cryptic.
What’s your favorite game right now?
Assuming you don’t want to hear about the made-up dice and card games I play with my 5-year olds, the last game I played was Lords of Waterdeep, the online version of the board game, with Zoom on the side to chat with my friends. Is that a board or computer game? But when I can find the time I’m partial to sprawling epic board games like Eclipse and Gloomhaven.
What words of wisdom would your DnD character have for the Mycroft Community?
“Trust your instincts and act on them without hesitation… you can always come up with a good explanation afterwards.”
I wouldn’t describe my characters as “wise” per-se, but they do keep things lively.
And finally, where were you July 30, 1975 – the day Jimmy Hoffa disappeared?
Are you implying that a 3-year old with a newborn brother and busy preschool schedule was somehow involved in the disappearance of a notorious labor union boss with mafia connections, just because he lived close by? Why would I get involved in that, unless I already had Mafia connections? And if I did… let’s just say you should read the tale of Mr. Nosey.
An accomplished serial entrepreneur and open source enthusiast, Michael mastered hardware development at his first startup, Stellar Semiconductor, before founding Cryptic Studios and launching the legendary City of Heroes MMORPG. Michael and his family live in Venice, California.