Tariq Krim, currently honorary vice-president for ‘Ecosystem and Innovation’ at France’s national independent advisory body the Digital Council, calls himself an ‘Internet entrepreneur’. Since 2005, he has been working to streamline the user experience in people’s digital lives. The two startups he has founded have won international renown.

[Portrait of an Innovator] Tariq Krim Helps People Take back Control of their Digital Lives

An innovator?

Tariq Krim grew up in Paris. After studying physics at the Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6) and then at the prestigious graduate school Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications (Telecom ParisTech), he embarked on a career as a journalist. His work took him to the United States, to Silicon Valley, where his love for information and communication technology (ICT) blossomed. “It was already a real industry over there,” he remembers. Since IT had always attracted him, he decided to launch a business based on the new ICTs. In 1999 in San Francisco, when the Internet was still in its infancy, he set up his first website, which was dedicated to online music. The site soon morphed into a specialist tech blog.  It was in the US that Tariq honed his pioneering instincts. “Over there it’s best to be a few years ahead of the game. That gives you time to reflect, to build, and also to make mistakes when you’re trying to invent an entirely new market. In France, on the other hand, we have a tendency to be much more opportunist, with more of a ‘follower’ mentality in certain technologies,” he points out. Intuitively, Tariq felt which way the wind was blowing for ICTs. “I wanted to seize on this intuition and start to serve ICT users.” The man who defines himself as a ‘technology artisan’ is proud of what he has achieved. He believes that rubbing shoulders with these different cultures has given him a special advantage to help him make his mark on the scene. From his ideas have emerged two startups.

The disruptive idea

Tariq Krim’s credo is that it ought to be quite easy to access data. In 2005, at a time when the concept of curation was just getting started, Tariq Krim founded Netvibes. “My main objective was to facilitate and accelerate access to technology. At the time there was a feeling that an information explosion was just around the corner and that we would find ourselves drowning in blogs and all sorts of other information feeds.” Netvibes provides you with ongoing simplified access to the various kinds of information you need, customised according to your focus of interest and your affinities with particular sources of information. The tool provided by the website enables anyone and everyone to be his/her own curator, selecting the topics that s/he finds interesting without getting submerged by the non-stop deluge of information pouring on to the Internet.

What’s the most valuable part of his work?

Throughout all his initiatives Tariq Krim has remained focused on the user experience. It is this ideal of ‘empowering’ people that led him to establish a second startup in 2009, which provides a service that enables the user to aggregate content s/he has generated. “When I went to Japan, I found that everyone was connected all the time on their mobile devices – the market over there was at that time far more developed than in Europe. So I wanted to create an interface which would provide you with a simple means of organising and accessing your online life, via what we now call the Cloud,” he explains. Jolicloud, a new computing platform built around life in the Cloud, was born from this basic goal.

So how does this affect us?

Jolicloud meets a clear need among connected people, i.e. giving you a way to access all your own data from a single interface, from anywhere you happen to be, thus ensuring you have an instant overall view of your ‘Internet life’. In a world where people sometimes wonder whether technology is serving or actually enslaving them, Tariq Krim’s aim is to give power back to users and allow them to take charge of their own data.

And what does the future hold?

“Basically it’s quite clear today that the Cloud is only a small part of digital life. What we call the Internet has so much further to go, especially with the Internet of Things, connected objects in the home, in our cars, devices we use to monitor our health, and so on. That means there are so many ways for the big players to gather data,” he points out. However, Tariq thinks it is unfortunate that the owners of this data, the actual users, are in a way being dispossessed of their own information. “What we’re hoping to do is enable people to get hold of their own data, to help them reorganise their entire digital lives, have a better grasp of all the content and be able to preserve it. That’s what we’re trying to do with Jolicloud.”

By Lucie Frontière