Viber’s Ofir Eyal talks about his career in telecommunications and love of dishwashers
Ofir Eyal is head of product at Viber, an instant messaging and VoIP application for smartphones and desktop owned by Japanese Internet giant Rakuten.
A veteran of the mobile and telecommunications industry, Eyal is a fan of any technology that makes life easier, improves communication and allows him to spend more time with his family.
What has been your favourite project so far?
Prior to Viber, I was working as a product manager in an innovation lab founded by one of the world’s largest banks.
Our product was a first-of-its-kind mobile trading app for the institutional market which brought new technology and design that was innovative to both the institutional and retail market, which at the time, was considered to be more advanced in its mobile trading applications.
The product was received by users with great enthusiasm, and we managed to register a patent on the user interface and design – I hope to do something similar at Viber as well.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Ten years ago, I was working in the telecommunications industry which was booming due to the uprising use of mobile phones.
The technological solutions of those days were very different than today’s mobile applications and involved hardware that had to be installed at the customer’s site and required engineers to travel on site to connect to the systems, whereas today, everything is remotely maintained.
What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
Growing up on films like “Back to the Future”, by 2025 I’m expecting to get to work in a ‘flying DeLorean’. By the way, our current year, 2015, is the year that portrayed that futuristic view in those movies, so a 10-year delay is something I can live with.
Who’s your tech hero?
I do not have any tech heroes simply because I think our industry is based on promoting and pampering talented individuals and allows all of us to have a comfortable lifestyle while the real life heroes are employees in industries that have no choice but to work in less rewarding and fulfilling jobs just because they no alternative to provide for their families.
Who’s your tech villain?
The tech villains are the people of power that abuse their power to prevent their citizens from accessing technology. There are countries where Viber and similar apps are being blocked by the government, these blocks are solely intended to keep the power on one side and prevent knowledge and the hope for change from the masses.
What’s your favorite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
I’m particularly fond of technology that bridges the physical and virtual word and saves me time doing so. I haven’t visited the supermarket for several years because we order everything online. Taxi-ride applications totally changed the way I commute during the week.
Kidding aside, I think the dishwasher is one of my favorite of older technologies because it allows me to spend more time with my kids after family dinners.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
I truly respect all of the competing messaging and communication apps; it is a crowded and tough neighborhood where it’s difficult to innovate as every company seeks to employ A-Talents.
Each product in this field has an endless backlog of ideas to develop and the challenge is to separate the wheat from the chaff, having a simple but functional product that users can’t go one day without using it.
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Back in the mid 1900’s if you wanted to compete with the Ford Motor company you had to build factories and hire hundreds of employees before you even had a chance to compete.
Nowadays, any kid with a $500 laptop can be building the next Google or Facebook in his bedroom, it’s truly an amazing time to be building a company.
That’s the same reason that large IT companies are willing to spend millions acquiring small startups: these small teams sometimes have better focused execution abilities than the larger companies.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
Definitely cloud but make sure to spend a fortune on security.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
As a small child I wanted to be some form of artist like a painter or a sculptor, and later on this changed to wanting to be an advertising copywriter.
I guess being a product manager is a form of combining visual arts and copywriting – so I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.
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