Open Garden’s hard sell: A world of shared radios


On the evening of Sept 28, Open Garden co-founder and CEO Micha Benoliel was on Skype call in a hotel room in Hong Kong complaining to his CMO Christophe Daligault that their new app FireChat wasn’t getting any traction in Hong Kong.

Benoliel wasn’t there on business or vacation. He was on his way back home to San Francisco from a conference in India, and he was forced into an overnight layover in Hong Kong. Shortly after he hung up with Daligault though, he saw something that made him change his plans.

Downloads of FireChat started skyrocketing in Hong Kong before his eyes, jumping from a few hundred to 100,000 Android and iOS installs in a single evening. What happened? Occupy Central protesters, fearing a government shutdown of cellular networks or blockage of social media apps, began turning to FireChat as a means of bypassing the internet.

A protestor texts on his phone during a demonstration outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014.   (Photo by Xaume Olleros/AFP Photo/Getty Images) A protestor texts…

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