LUMS graduate, Muneeb Ali, BSc Computer Science 2003 was featured at a TEDx New York talk to share his journey of setting up his company, Blockstack, which he co-founded with his friend Ryan Shea.
Muneeb Ali met Ryan Shea at the Computer Science department at Princeton and both shared a common frustration that over time the Internet had become too centralised. “Back in the 1990s Larry and Sergey could write a web crawler and download the entire Web graph, analyse it, and innovate on top of it by coming up with a better search ranking algorithm. But now only Facebook engineers have access to the social graph. These big monopolies emerged on the Internet and they have exclusive access to user data; it's very hard for small startups or open-source developers to compete with them. This is bad for users as well because they don't have any control on their own data. Facebook and LinkedIn can use their data however they want and when these large companies get hacked it's the users who suffer; recently the information of 500 million users was hacked from Yahoo,” said Ali.
Keeping this in mind, Ali and Shea started thinking about a new Internet that is more secure and where the users own their data. They envisioned this new Internet would have no central points of control or failure and users would be able to directly talk to each other instead of relying on large companies and giving them all their data. One thing led to another and they got accepted to a Silicon Valley startup incubator called Y Combinator and ended up raising venture capital for their work. The rest as they say is ‘history.’
Talking about his experience at LUMS, Ali said, “LUMS is the ‘Harvard of Pakistan.’I learned the basics of computer systems research at LUMS and picked up work ethics, critical thinking, and ambition from my teachers, Dr. Zartash Uzmi and Dr. Umar Saif. Looking back, I think I was incredibly lucky to have access to the world class education LUMS is offering. A large part of the Undergraduate experience is social interactions. Some of my best friends in life are from my time at LUMS and they're some of the smartest people I know. I often turn to them for advice and help. “
About his experience at TEDx New York, he said, "It was a great experience. The organisers were really helpful and paid attention to every small detail. Our technology is fairly complicated and has a lot of moving parts. Most of my talks are usually in front of a technical audience and I can go into the technical details but this talk was very different as it was to a much more diverse audience and I had to explain this new concept while staying at a very high level. That was challenging and I hope I was able to do a decent job.”
Listen to Muneeb Ali's TEDx New York talk here.