Brendan Eich is back in business.
A year and a half after resigning as chief executive of Firefox maker Mozilla because of a gay-marriage uproar, Eich has begun spinning up a new company, Brave. With nine employees and $2.5 million in early funding from angel investors, the startup has begun work on software that promises to make the Internet safer and faster when the company publicly launches it in early 2016.
Though he parted ways with Mozilla, the Brave CEO is carrying some of the nonprofit organization’s power-to-the-people ethos to his new for-profit venture. Eich won’t yet share details, but said Brave’s software will help give people independence from technology giants that often care more about shareholders than their users.
Today’s tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft wield tremendous power over the technology we all use daily, from smartphones at the center of our lives to communications with our closest contacts. But anyone who doesn’t like those companies’ policies has little choice, since boycotting one or another will just mean being cut off from the mainstream. Brave evidently aims to shift the balance of power toward the user through new software that will give people some ability to collectively push back.
“It’s vitally important to put the user first,” Eich said in an exclusive interview. “Since all the big powers are public companies, they have to serve their shareholders…We’re trying to innovate in dimensions that a lot of incumbents won’t innovate, where the user will have more control and maybe bargaining power.”
Helping to co-found Brave are Brian Bondy, a programmer who worked on Firefox at Mozilla and more recently was an engineer at online education specialist Khan Academy, and Kevin Grandon, who worked on Firefox OS and the WebVR technology for virtual reality on the Web. On Tuesday, Brave plans to announce two more employees. One is Yan Zhu, previously of the Yahoo security team, creator of the SecureDrop software for helping whistleblowers share documents, developer of the Tor software that lets people use the Net anonymously, and a fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Another is Marshall Rose, a programmer and longtime contributor to Internet standards who developed online payment technology and more recently worked on the Internet of Things technology to spread the Internet to a broader class of devices.
Mozilla was founded to keep the Internet’s inner workings open, so powerful companies like Microsoft couldn’t control it and lock people into their technology.
Firefox succeeded in that mission a decade ago, heading off the dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser. But that success was in large measure because Firefox was faster and had better features. Eich took that lesson to heart: He promises Brave will offer tangible benefits, not just something that appeals to a small group with philosophical motives.
Eich, regretting he didn’t push earlier into the ranks of management, still plans to program as well as raise funds and run Brave’s business. “I’m writing code, but I need to write more,” he said. At Brave, “it’s going to be like [the movie] ‘Starship Troopers’: Everybody fights and no one quits.”