It was a friendly banter on a cold winter night in Zurich that sparked the fire. Some of my old friends had come over to spend the weekend, and as was customary, we intoxicated ourselves to talk nonsense.
At some point, Google's now deprecated tag line ("don't be evil") popped into our conversation, and as the only Googler left awake, my thoughts on whether my employer was now evil became interesting to the rest. As a fanboy who treasured the first Adsense cheque he received 15 years ago, I entered the battlefield, prepared to defend my hero's honor.
The debate boiled down to if we could trust a single entity with visibility into our world's memories, given its history of unnecessary metadata derivation.
Memories that can be leveraged to "personalize our user experiences", and for profits.
Metadata that can be used to improve pattern recognition tools that target our identity, behaviors and emotions, whose impact we yet know not of.
I had to agree that despite my faith in my employer, it would be unwise to trust a single entity with such sharp tools whose use cases are yet to be defined.
The weeks that followed were unpleasant. Searching for friendly, safe alternatives to Google's data storage services did not yield useful results.
As an engineer whose sense of self worth is driven by how "useful" I am, I felt that I should make an attempt to push things forward in a safer direction. One where my data is just mine to see and feel.
Thus on February 1, 2020, ente - a privacy focused photo storage service, was born. The mission being to protect the privacy of people like my mom and dad, who cannot be inconvenienced to preserve the sanctity of their memories.
There is no billion dollar dream. If what we build provides peace of mind to some of us, and encourages a few others to treat data with respect, we would have made ourselves useful.
There is a long road ahead. But I'm happy that the journey has begun. And I'm very grateful for the friends, family and customers who have joined along the way.
Together, we hope to make this world a safer place.