Micha Benoliel founded Nodle with the dream of seeing an internet one day that would allow people to learn, communicate, and share information for free. We’re still quite a ways away from being able to do that, but companies like Nodle are working hard to enhance the user experience of the internet more and more each day.
We sat down with Benoliel to discuss everything from SEO to startup culture and cryptocurrency.
Grit Daily: You had your own adventures before Nodle. Share those.
Micha Benoliel: Since I was very young, I’ve always been super curious, learning, and making new things. I learned to code at age 8 and started to create games and graphic demos mixed with music. My dream as a teenager was to provide access to the internet for free to enable anyone to be able to learn, share and communicate.
In 2011, I founded a company called Open Garden. We built a peer-to-peer mesh networking technology for mobile to make sure everyone could access the internet everywhere as if they were at home. You would share your internet, and in exchange could access the internet through anyone’s device participating in the network. It was a big deal, as back then you would have to pay $50 per month to open your hotspot on your mobile. We were enabling anyone to do it for free; you could connect your other devices like your computer or your tablet or you could benefit from anyone else’s access in your proximity.
Later, some of the techniques we used weren’t working any more on the Android OS, so we decided to build a new messaging app that would work cross-platform and would enable anyone to message one another, even when there’s no internet access. The app, FireChat, was a huge success since the 1st day of its launch in March 2014. We had 1 million installs in the first 10 days and reached the top 10 Social Media apps in 124 countries. The app was originally built for Burning Man and music festivals, but at the end of September 2014, something unexpected happened.
One evening I was having dinner in Hong Kong with a friend and he showed me that FireChat hit #1 on the App Store. It was a big surprise, and the next day we realized 100,000 students had installed the app to organize the Umbrella Revolution. FireChat then hit 500,000 downloads in the next 2 weeks, as people were afraid that China’s government would shut down access to the internet in Hong Kong. When citizens gathered to demonstrate in large crowds, FireChat was the only way to communicate. The app went on to be used in other pro-democracy protests around the world and during disaster recovery situations like the big floods in Chennai in India.
Since then, I was fascinated by the power of decentralized communication tools. A few years later, I built Piperchain, a decentralized Twitter that got bought by Rightmesh in 2018.
Nodle was inspired by the experience I had in Hong Kong, as everywhere I went in the city I received notifications ”Firechat user nearby.” I realized what I called “the smartphone infrastructure” could be leveraged to connect things and sensors to the internet very efficiently.
Cryptocurrencies were not new to me, as I started mining Bitcoin in our Open Garden office in San Francisco back in 2012, and I always thought it could solve some of the challenges we had for managing the exchange of bandwidth. This background was helpful when we engineered the “proof of connectivity” reward formula for our currency, Nodle Cash, where we needed a way to engage more people in sharing their internet access and smartphone resources. So we wanted to create a new generation of mining made for the mobile era that could easily reach any smartphone user.
GD: What’s behind the Nodle name?
MB: The name Nodle comes from the acronym Noodle which was our original name and stands for Network Operator Of Devices Low Energy. The word noodle is pretty ubiquitous, and we didn’t want to compete with the SEO of your local Noodle shop 😉 so we changed the name to Nodle. Nodle is also a sweet way to say “node,” which refers to smartphone users sharing some of their capacity.
GD: For the uninitiated, what is a “low-power network?”
MB: Low-power, or low-energy, comes from the latest evolution of the Bluetooth wireless standard called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). BLE is so efficient that a tracker, tag or sensor can live up to several years on a single battery charge. The next generation will even harvest its own energy through light or other radio waves like 3G, 4G or 5G proximity. For example, this enabled us to place sensors and trackers into smart benches for public spaces in the City of Paris with Groupe Saint Leonard, where they can live up to 10 years with a simple lithium ion battery. You might be surprised to hear this, but many Paris park benches get stolen—so this is one reason the city wanted affordable tracking and insights for their new “smart” furniture.
GD: How does Nodle pay?
MB: Nodle pays you in Nodle Cash for participating in The Citizen Network, which is the name of our community of smartphones that have the Nodle Cash app or SDK installed.
When you install the Nodle Cash app and walk around your general surroundings or during your daily commute, the app will be in proximity of sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT), like e-scooters, pets, smart home devices and appliances, smart speakers/ear buds, toys, wearables, smart meters, security systems, smart city tech, shipping pallets, cargo; the list goes on. These “Things” anonymously and securely push tiny bits of information via Bluetooth through your phone and up to the cloud. This automated “machine to machine” or “Thing to Thing” interaction sends you rewards in the form of Nodle Cash, that you will be able to convert into useful services, or at some point into cash.
The idea is a bit like the first lucky initiated engineers who started to mine bitcoin on their computers back in 2010. We are playing the long-game here and didn’t want to create a currency that was speculative, but rather a globally impactful use-case with a strong circular economy-esque business model where everyone wins.
GD: And how is Nodle “eco friendly?”
MB: Since IoT sensors collect and send data, a lot of energy is used in the process. Many devices often use batteries, which means the more energy needed, the faster the batteries are used up, and the faster they end up in landfills. So the less power an IoT device needs, the longer the battery will last, and thus the better it is for the environment.
As explained earlier, Nodle uses Bluetooth Low Energy which is consuming very little energy to move information compared to other wireless standards like 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G. Nodle is also a 100% software solution that doesn’t require the installation of new antennas or expensive router boxes, as it can leverage anyone’s smartphone.
Overall, we wanted to be extremely conscious of energy usage and sustainability, as the number of IoT devices is expected to more than double, from 30 billion to approximately 75 billion by 2025.