Seven or eight hours per day, minimum. That is the time Silvina Moschini (40) spends connected - in front of the screen of a laptop, tablet or phone – and it does not seem too much if we keep in mind that she is the founder and director of a successful company for which Internet is both a means and a goal; that she is one of the few women leaders in technology, and that she was already walking freely around the cyberworld when most of us still looked askance at that abstract thing that became known as Internet and now provides the framework for the way we live.
These days, with issues related to new technologies in the public eye, including the controversial U.S. bills SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), and the discussion that they generated about online piracy, the Argentinean is an authoritative voice and is a necessary presence for media across all Latin America. During a brief visit to Buenos Aires, she spoke to Para Ti. Moschini is Argentinean and a public relations woman initially, after which she completed her education in Marketing and Web Communication and emigrated to the United States to end up living between Barcelona and Miami.
Her first approach to the Internet world was in 1998, when it was still an incipient industry, and she was a very young lady. These characteristics, and the fact that she was surrounded by "brilliant people" made her "learn like a sponge.” In that context, she says: "It was where that I discovered I had two passions: communication and technology. I wanted to work in that part of communication which allows companies to use Internet technology to reach out to their audience, to talk to their people and to be enabled to offer a better service." After gaining experience working in the communications departments of large companies, in 2003 she made the leap and founded Intuic, a social media company that currently has 84 permanent employees and offices in New York, London, Miami, Barcelona and Buenos Aires. "I wanted it to be dynamic, flexible and as virtual as possible. There was already a strong tendency toward remote working, from home, that today continues growing and offers many possibilities for efficiency," she confirms.
- What was it like working in the first phase of Internet, when it was not massive? Did your family and friends understand what you were doing?
“People thought you were a programmer. And I have no idea about technical issues, I know what you need to ask a programmer, who is the genius that deciphers everything, to give you something useful. But it cost a lot, because people did not understand that there was a thing called Internet. Today, thanks to it, people work differently, fall in love differently” (she points to herself, as she met her husband on an online dating site), “and relate differently. People even complain about companies in a different way. Some time ago, you sent a written letter, but today you set up a Twitter campaign defenestrating the poor service. There was a radical shift in everyone´s life. Business models changed. This week, for example, Kodak announced bankruptcy. Why did that happen? Because it did not adapt. They were the first ones in the beginning, but you always have to be one step ahead. To be successful in business you have to see movement where the rest sees something still. They saw it at that time, but finally they missed the turtle. And this can happen to any company if it does not reinvent itself. The reality of the moment is now, not in five years, because then it will be too late. Internet generated a new economy, although the record and film industries do not like it, and are crazy about SOPA and PIPA.”
- What are, specifically, SOPA and PIPA? Why do they create so much controversy?
“Both laws seek to combat piracy, that is to say, illegally downloading products that consist of intellectual property. In short, they say: "we will pursue, blame and judge channels that allow interactions with a fake product in the U.S. market." If you have a site with content that is disrespectful of intellectual property, such as Wikipedia or Google, they condemned the whole site, not just that material. And if you link that type of content, you might be fined too. Many times, if you open a platform to people to post material, you do not know if it is their own or stolen. With Megaupload, which was shut down by the FBI, many people used it genuinely to send large files from one user to another. But others used it to upload a shoddy movie copy so others could download it.
What is your personal opinion regarding Piracy? Is it okay to watch movies online and download music?
“I do not think that anyone can be in favor of piracy. The issue is how you fight against it. People who are against these bills argue that blowing up the bridge by which the information reaches the users is not the way, but instead we should pursue those who make unoriginal copies.”
- Can there be an effective way to combat piracy?
No. I think the industry must change. The record industry and all content-producing companies have to design an Internet strategy, a much more flexible way to license their products. If you could download a movie for three dollars, you would probably not be pirating something shoddy. If it costs you fifty dollars, you'll probably think twice. So one way would be to have a much less aggressive policy on price, and make it more massive. If I have a better quality option, why am I going to get the other one? Although people often do not perceive piracy as a crime, there is a different social feeling about what is a private or public good on the Internet.”
- And what do you think about reactions on the opposite side of these laws? For example, about the fact that the Anonymus hacker has responded to the closure of Megaupload byhacking the databases of record industries?
“It seems the fight is between right and wrong, and it is not clear which is which. Now public opinion is on the side of Anonymus. He is like the figure of the righteous, which attacks the wicked, with the power he has, which is technological. This also shows that perhaps across the world, in the next war, the largest area of risk is technological vulnerability. So I find that people get carried away a little bit, but on the other hand this is like a check and balance of power; a message that industries cannot do whatever they want. Before the Internet economy there was no possibility that a consumer had a public voice when he was abused by a company. Today, with the technology of user-generated content, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, companies hold their breaths when critical movements begin because they scale quickly. This also happens with social causes, such as in the case of the Arab Spring. It is the power of the masses which now meets at the virtual campfire to plant a flag or express their ideas.
- Why do you think that when it comes to Internet and technology there are so few women leaders?
It is surprising that of all the projects that on the Internet, which are many, there are practically zero women. In the United States there are about 15% of Internet companies that have women in their directory. And of this 15%, only 8% are women who have received venture capital. I have a theory that when women start doing business they often do craft-type business, which has to do with their good taste and creative attitude, but rarely scales up. I think women are still afraid to propose a billion dollar business. And they're afraid to sit with an investor and negotiate with the amounts of money involved. It still has not stuck around long enough that the woman is sufficiently valued intellectually to sit down and negotiate money with a man. And they surely have the capacity, but choose to focus on things much less scalable.
Love at first Search
Silvina Moschini does everything through the Internet. Everything. From shopping, communicating with loved ones and working, even to falling in love. And, in this last category, the process was as fast as navigating broadband. Encouraged by a friend, Silvina made her first search at the online dating site Match.com. She completed a detailed list of what she wanted in a man, and a processor and database did the rest. The name of Alex Konanykhin jumped out, a Russian cosmopolitan businessman and entrepreneur, who agreed, as the platform calculation did, with 99 percent of what Silvina considered would make the ideal match. After the first virtual contact, they chatted five hours a day for eleven days. "Before we met, Alex had already changed his vehicle registration plate for one with my name (SILVI) and had the first class tickets ready that would convey me to see his home in Washington. For me, I already knew I had found what I had sought all my life, even before I met him personally." That time, that face to face meeting, was the next step, and it happened. She was in Buenos Aires, he was in Washington, and they chose Miami, their "second home", as a neutral ground on which to meet. Twenty-four hours later, Alex proposed to her and she accepted without hesitation. They married in Miami. "It was not crazy. We were crazy about each other," she says now, five years later. According to her, the main advantage of this way of looking for love is the greater openness of feelings of each of the parties. Besides, there is the extra magic that is generated with the expectation. She adds: "The disadvantage is that the moment of truth is when you meet personally. Chemistry cannot lie". The web specialist highlights how natural it turned out for her to have met her match by this means: "Internet is the largest database in the world and the odds of finding someone special are much higher there than in the physical world."