Mark Twain once said that “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” With these words in mind Director of Marketing Kris Adair and I set out last August to explore the broader world and bring Mycroft to communities that sorely need representation in the coming revolution of voice technology. We began in Iceland and ended our journey in Taipei in early May. We covered 13 cities across 11 countries.
It is hard to put my mind back into the mindset of mid-2018. At the time I’d barely been outside the United States and hadn’t taken the time to delve into the needs of our international Community. A year later I’m now much more aware of how badly the world needs an open solution in this space.
What Open Means to the World
There are several reasons open solutions are needed, but one of the primary reasons is the incumbent company’s lack of interest in languages with relatively small populations. Sure, Google and Amazon are going to support English, Spanish, and Mandarin, but how about Welsh, Catalan, and Maori? The incumbent players have done a good job with 40 or so languages, but the people who speak the other 7,000+ global languages need solutions too.
One of the other things I learned on the trip is that the story of voice has yet to be written. Yes – in places like the legendary electronics district of Akihabara, Japan or shopping malls in Sydney, Australia – Google and Amazon are shipping huge volumes of smart speakers. On the other hand, we didn’t see a single Google speaker in Taiwan or Barcelona. There are lots of markets where the incumbent players are not deploying resources. Those markets are ripe for alternatives, especially alternatives that offer what many in the international community want – a technology that gives them privacy from Silicon Valley.
Privacy and user agency are rapidly becoming significant concerns around the globe. Sure, Americans are willing to fork over information to Google and Amazon. These are American companies after all and Americans have seldom suffered at the hands of despots. But in the eastern portion of Germany or Poland where the specter of totalitarianism is barely three decades old, people are understandably skeptical of always listening technologies. The Silicon Valley majors cannot tell a credible story about privacy. That creates opportunities for independent and open solutions like Mycroft.
If you want to help bring Mycroft to your langugae and ensure you always have the latest skills in your language, head to Mycroft Translate to contribute! There are dozens of languages in the platform with more added all the time.
Lessons outside of Mycroft
During the trip, I also learned some other lessons. Some were important, some not so much. For example: filling your water glass to the rim with ice is apparently a uniquely American thing. The rest of the world doesn’t do it. Diet Mountain Dew? Not available internationally. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese seems to be an American thing as well. Though, Americans do miss out by not having Stroopwafels (possibly the best food ever invented by mankind).
Important lessons include: Startup is global – there are small teams working on your idea in nearly every country on earth. They come in early, stay late and are going to be competing with Americans sooner rather than later. Public transit is amazing and American cities run the risk of being second class globally by not building comprehensive integrated systems.
Finally, in the 21st century, people can work anywhere – literally anywhere. I’ve set up my computer on beaches, mountainsides, in parks, restaurants, co-working spaces, and rooftops. I’ve answered e-mail from glaciers and typed blog updates from boats. I’ve taken calls while leaning on the railing of a bridge over the Seine and met for drinks in historic bars built by world famous architects. If your job is primarily communication and most of your time is spent in the digital world, you don’t need to do it in a cubicle. There is a huge world out there full of new investors, new customers and new experiences. Go out and grab it.
Mycroft’s First Officer, a serial entrepreneur and Air Force Officer, Joshua brings more than 15 years of leadership experience to the Mycroft team. He is a strong supporter of the open ethos, net neutrality and consumer privacy. Joshua lives in Holualoa, Hawaii with his wife and co-founder Kris Adair.