Introduction to Entrepreneurship

Subject: Business
Type: Argumentative Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1503
Topics: Entrepreneurship, Finance, Management


The debate over the censorship of information on the Internet has escalated over the years. Governments, organizations, and individuals offer differing elucidations into the necessity of censorship. By definition, censorship refers to the intentional repression of public communication, free speech, or other form of information which may be seen as sensitive, objectionable, harmful, inconvenient, or politically incorrect as specified by governments, authorities, media outlets, or other interested parties. While these parties may have different reasons for advocating for or against censorship, some of the most common reasons include political, military, moral, religious, and corporate motives. One of the most notable personalities opposed to Internet censorship is Ian Clarke, an Irish entrepreneur and designer of Freenet, a peer-to-peer, censorship-resistant, communication and publishing platform. To achieve its goal of offering freedom of speech over the Internet with a sturdy anonymity protection, Freenet uses a distributed data store to deliver and keep information without any possibility of censorship (Clarke, 2001). The platform is utilized in numerous third-party plugins and applications to provide media sharing and micro-blogging, centralized and anonymous version tracking, spam resistance, blogging, and so forth. Freenet was born from Clarke’s final year project at the University of Edinburgh, which he called ‘A Distributed Information Storage and Retrieval System’. He later released it and invited volunteers to refine and implement the design (Clarke, n.d.). Clarke was raised in Navan, Ireland.

Business – Feasibility/Industry/Opportunity

The Freenet project was a product of Clarke’s student project, which he completed in the summer of 1999 as one of the graduation requirements at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. After scoring a B in his paper, Clarke released it on the Internet as a way of popularizing his ideas and attracting volunteers to improve and execute the design. Eventually, the project resulted in a freeware that was named Freenet, which drew immense interest and attention from both technology and mainstream media (Tian, Duan, Baumeister, & Dong, 2015). After two successful careers at Logica PLC, a software consulting firm in London, and Instil Ltd., a software startup, in 1999 and 2000, respectively, Clarke relocated to Santa Monica, Carlifornia in 2000. He cofounded his first company, Uprizer Inc. with Rob Kramer and Steven Starr, whose aim was to commercialize his Freenet-related designs. The firm raised an initial venture funding amounting to four million US dollars from investors (Langley, 2001). 

Clarke’s motive for creating Freenet is clearly outlined in a document titled ‘The Philosophy behind Freenet’ as written by Clarke himself. He reiterates the significance of freedom of speech and the uninterrupted flow of information as a core right of every individual. He holds the opinion that communication differentiates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom due to the capacity to convey abstract and intricate models. Further, Clarke believes in for superiority of knowledge and the abundance of information, which help in making better and informed decisions as well as being successful. At the core of Freenet’s philosophy is the role of information in any form of democracy. Information allows people to keep governments in check and thwart abuse of power (Clarke, n.d.). In this respect, Clarke considers censorship of information as an abuse of freedom by manipulating individual opinions and concealing facts. The Freenet project is Clarke’s solution to ensuring that democracies remain effective and that regimes do not control or hinder the populations’ ability to communicate and share information. It allows people to share whatever information they deem fit. While acknowledging the importance of censorship in some instances, Clarke is of the opinion that it is impractical to rely on those in positions in authority to enforce good censorship without leaving a loophole for imposing bad censorship. In addition, it is important for people to be able to remain anonymous to prevent the unnecessary castigation of people who practice free speech. Freenet utilizes a mechanism known as ‘subspaces’ to provide validity to anonymous information using digital signatures to create secure anonymous pseudonyms (Clarke, 2009). 

Freenet has been continually improved since 2000. The 0.7 version that was created in 2008 incorporated numerous elemental changes, the most fundamental of which is the support for Darknet, which makes Freenet impossible to detect. Other improvements include the ability to switch from TCP to UDP, thereby facilitating faster transmission of messages on the network. Version 0.7.5 of 2009 also had major improvements, including faster content insert and retrieval, reduced memory usage, performance improvements, bug fixes, usability improvements, and enhancements of the FProxy interface that is used to browse freesites. Later builds, including 1226 and 1468 of 2009 and 2015 respectively, also featured improvements in security against external attacks, spam resistance, and compatibility with OpenJDK, an open source version of the Java application (Clarke et al., 2002). 


Clarke’s innovativeness extends beyond the Freenet project. In 2002, he left Uprizer Inc. to form Cematics LLC to explore, develop, and design new concepts, such as Locutus, an enterprise peer-to-peer search application, 3D17, a collaborative editing tool, and WhittleBit, a self-learning search engine. He also commenced work on Indy, a music finding system, and Dijjer, a peer-to-peer web cache, in 2004 after moving back to Scotland (Berkes, 2003). He was in collaboration with ChangeTv, another company he cofounded with Steven Starr. ChangeTv was renamed to Revver Inc., whose website allowed video creators to earn from their creativity. Clarke left Revver Inc. and founded SenseArray, an ad-targeting engine that was based on Clarke’s proprietary algorithm. His other innovations and companies include Swarm, OneSpot, and LastCalc (Oram, 2000).

Being the first of its kind, Freenet is a highly innovative project that provides a unique, though controversial solution. Freenet’s relative success can be seen in the over two million downloads since its launch and its use all over the world. The concepts and ideas pioneered by this project have had an immense impact in academic circles, including philosophy and law. Further, the paper written in 2000 about Freenet is the most cited paper in the computer science field in 2000 according to Citeseer. Clarke was also among the top 100 innovators in MIT’s Technology Review edition of 2003 (Langley, 2004). All of Clarke’s firms have also enjoyed relative success as at his time of leaving, including Revver, which was shut down and suspended after it was sold to LiveUniverse in 2008 (Johnson, 2013). Despite his success, Clarke could achieve more success by concentrating on one product and seeing it through to the end rather than founding a company and leaving shortly afterwards. Freenet, for instance, could be more popular and have more downloads and usage if the entrepreneur concentrated on commercializing it more instead of launching numerous products that compete with already established brands, such as LastCalc’s competition with the Google Calculator (Clarke et al., 2002). 


Clarke can be characterized as a motivated, enthusiastic, and future-oriented (Johnson, 2013) person. He believed that his final year school project could be turned into a successful business idea and pursued it to its implementation. His creativity enabled him to identify a need for censorship-resistant Internet communication and effectively managed to convince volunteers to contribute to the idea’s execution. In addition, is tolerance for risks is admirable (McMullan & Kenworthy, 2015). Despite the existence of bigger players, such as YouTube and Google, Clarke proceeded to launch products that competed directly with such firms. He also launched Freenet in an era when the Internet was not widely used and the debate on censorship was still at its peak. The entrepreneur is also visionary in that he knows exactly where he desires to be and takes steps to realize his objectives. However, his open-mindedness and flexibility allows him to counteract any unknowns that he encounters (Ghauri & Kirpalani, 2015). He has repeatedly left the companies he co-founded and started new ones in pursuit if his goals. However, his academic background in computer science and artificial intelligence is what makes Clarke most suited for his numerous ventures. 

Finance, Start-up, and Security

Clarke initially sought the services of volunteers to develop the project. His start-up, Uprizer Inc., which he used to commercialize Freenet, received an initial round of venture capital amounting to four million US dollars from various investors, such as Intel Capital. The project’s cumulative revenue is not a public record. However, Clarke and his Revver co-founder made five million US dollars from its sale in 2008 (Roemer, 2002). Basing on Clarkes wealth to date, it is apparent that he has made quite a fortune from his numerous ventures. Currently, the entrepreneur is working on Stacks, a platform that makes use of machine learning to manage personal finances. It uses personal data and information about peers to provide a detailed report of personal finances, both revenues and expenditures. Clarke does not advocate for the use of copyrights to protect intellectual properties, which is probably why the Freenet project is free and open-source. Instead, he advocates for voluntary payments, an expansion of the patronage method. He advocates for charitable contributions from numerous donors over the Internet, a technique he continues to use on the Freenet project (Clarke, 2009).

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