Crowdsourcing Innovation: Alex Gizis, CEO at Connectify

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour.

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour with something new to offer. Is this a business of the future?

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Name: Alex Gizis

Job title: CEO

Organisation: Connectify

Location: Philadelphia



Product: Connectify Dispatch

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What it does:

Connectify Dispatch is software that lets your computer take advantage of more than one internet connection at a time. You can join a Wi-Fi network, and tether your 4G cell phone, or with a second Wi-Fi card, you can join 2 Wi-Fi networks at once. Dispatch then load balances your downloads and uploads between the connections to give you better speed and reliability.

What makes it special:

There’s no other software that lets you use more than one internet connection at a time. There are some hardware boxes, but that’s another device you need to carry, plugin, etc. Nothing that works for the mobile user.

What’s your background, and what inspired you to come up with the idea?

In the 2000s, our team developed advanced networking software for the US Department of Defense. At one point there were thousands of robots in Iraq running our networking software. But, in 2009 we decided to reboot into a commercial software company using the same skills to solve the problems that regular people have with their wireless networks.

Our first product was Connectify Hotspot, a software router that turns your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot, so you can share your internet connectivity with all your devices. Once we launched Connectify Hotspot, it started becoming really clear to us that we could do marvelous things with your network that no one else had done before: like allowing you to use more than one connection at a time.

Why Kickstarter?

We went with Kickstarter for the combination of funding and public relations that it brought. There were a lot of stories in the press about Kickstarter campaigns and we believed (correctly) that we’d get more coverage for our product through a Kickstarter campaign than we would being a startup independently launching some “beta” software.

Is Crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

Yes! It turned out that the best thing about Kickstarter was getting access to all those passionate users who felt vested in our project. They tested Dispatch all over the world, and told us what they thought at every step of the way. It resulted in us having to completely redo the user interface halfway through the project, but the end product is much better for it. I don’t know a better way to find beta testers with such passion than Kickstarter.

What have you done since you successfully gained funding on KS?

We shipped software! We spend the next three months after the end of the campaign finishing the software and supporting our users, and we were able to launch, as promised, in December 2012. Since then, we’ve released a number of updates to Dispatch. All our Kickstarter backers are getting a lifetime of software updates for their support, so they’re all benefiting from the additional work we’re doing as time time goes on.

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What have the biggest challenges been in developing the Dispatch technology?

One of the biggest challenges was making sure it really works everywhere. And this is where the Kickstarter backers were unbelievably valuable. There would have been no way for us to know what we needed to do to get it work correctly on 3G networks in Eastern Europe and Africa without our patient users going back and forth with us, submitting logs, and trying fixes. There’s simply no other way we could have gotten that level of worldwide testing.

Doesn’t this kind of technology have a lot of security issues?

No, there’s very little security concern, to be honest. We only combine internet connections that the user already has access to. Users just see faster internet than they would have without it.

Possible business use?

We’re hearing from a lot of mobile professionals who are having success with Dispatch to get great internet even when on the road. Combine the hotel’s so-so Wi-Fi with a tethered cell phone or MiFi. Pop a small second USB Wi-Fi card into your computer, join two hotspots at the same time, and Dispatch ensures that you’ve got fast and reliable internet no matter where you are.

Aims for the future?

We’re aiming to build a great company that exists to make our customers’ networking experience better. We’re going to ship a couple more amazing software products in the next year.