Sci-fi visions and today’s problems
By Gabey Goh March 25, 2014
- Teleportation takes a backseat for Serguei Beloussov as he looks into quantum communications
- Don’t need to look to the future for inspiration, the present has problems that need to be plugged
I FIRST encountered Serguei Beloussov, entrepreneur and founder of virtualisation technology company Parallels, in 2013 during the annual Parallels Summit, which took place that year in Las Vegas.
The British journalists I met who’ve attended the summit a few years in a row urged me to sit in on his keynote presentation, noting that one could always bank on Beloussov to be, at the very least, entertaining.
And entertaining he was. Standing on stage addressing a crowd a few thousand strong, he first shared a funny anecdote to illustrate his current role in the company he founded, which was focused on long-term strategy rather than short-term gains.
That anecdote found its way to one of my columns a month or two later that year, but it was his lament on the number of hours he spends a year in the air shuttling between Russia and the United States that was the most amusing … and inspiring.
A self-made multimillionaire, Beloussov had taken a step back from day-to-day operations to focus more on his work as a partner at venture fund Runa Capital.
That year, the focus of his presentation was on enabling the viability of teleportation technology – all to fulfil his dream of spending fewer hours sitting in an airplane.
He insisted that it was not impossible, just “very difficult” and during his presentation, pointed to a few firms (that he has invested in) doing promising research into making it work.
It certainly fired up my imagination then, as being independently wealthy means you can help fund research and ventures that you felt strongly about, so why not help make teleportation a reality?
Fast forward 12 months later, and I was offered a one-on-one interview slot with Beloussov during the 2014 Parallels Summit, which took place in New Orleans.
The main focus of the interview was supposed to be on Acronis, a data backup company he had founded about the same time as Parallels.
He had recently stepped back into the role of chief executive officer months earlier, and the company was poised to launch a new backup-as-a-service offering.
Of course I would be asking him questions about that, but my main mission was clear – yes, call it selfish desire – but I had to get an update on his teleportation quest.
The Russian-born graduate of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology was certainly amused when after the typical questions about his ambitions for Acronis, I promptly declared, “Okay, now we can talk about the fun stuff!”
So how goes the mission to make teleportation technology a reality? Alas, we’re still many years away from that, according to Beloussov (pic), although he hasn’t given up just yet.
But it was obvious that looking far out into the distant future to achieve the impossible has been put on the backburner in favour of plugging the gaps in preparation for our more immediate future.
Amidst overarching technology megatrends such as mobility and big data, Beloussov had anchored his keynote presentation on the identification of real opportunities for Parallels partners to offer real value to SME (small and medium enterprise) customers. (Tip: Offer everything as a service.)
And touching upon the most pressing concern of a post-Edward Snowden present, he revealed what’s been occupying the bulk of his thoughts – keeping data secure, protected and dealing with privacy.
During my interview with him, Beloussov pointed out that at one stage, the world was not digital enough to make a loss of online privacy dangerous.
In today’s environment, the capability to read everything from email to messages has truly become a dangerous thing but remains a relatively difficult thing to do.
Beloussov noted that today, very few governments can do that – the United States is perhaps the most sophisticated at it, and maybe a couple more – but it is difficult to access, decrypt and analyse all that data.
“But it’s getting easier. The problem with privacy is that every next step is a consequence of the previous step. It’s a very important issue, but most people don’t really understand that yet, and are still concerned about the physical world.
“They’re not concerned about data but more and more, you’re seeing even in your direct vicinity the case of real people with problems due to the fact that data privacy is not there,” he told me.
Beloussov confessed that he has become obsessed with privacy, thanks to the developments and incidents of the past year. This is when Snowden, the former defence contractor, revealed what US National Security Agency has been doing to spy on people.
Beloussov has become convinced that the only way to deal with it is via the adoption of quantum communications technology as “every other way is breakable.”
That’s where his investment money is going these days.
In late 2012, he helped set up Quantum Wave Fund, a venture capital firm dedicated to quantum technology, and has since invested in ID Quantique, a Swiss-based firm that develops high-performance multi-protocol network encryption based on conventional and quantum technologies.
“Privacy is a basic instinct and basic human right and in the digital world we have to think about privacy,” he said.
So is there a message in this story of one man’s dreams of teleportation and viable quantum technology for entrepreneurs out there?
We all want to change the world in some fashion, thanks to science fiction-inspired dreams of teleportation, hover boards and 3D holographic projections – to those hell-bent on achieving these dreams, I applaud you.
But for those who lack the means or insights to do so, take heart in the pivot made by a man who had both the means and insights. You don’t need to look to the future for inspiration, when the present presents such a rich tapestry of problems that need to be plugged.
“I believe in an optimistic future, that knowledge is generally good. Optimism is not about being stupidly optimistic and I believe that it’s never too late to fix things,” said Beloussov during the tail-end of my interview with him.
So be optimistic and look around, there’s much to be done. You and your startup could very well be the solution.
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