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Mega reloaded

Divina Paredes | Feb. 28, 2013
Many Silicon Valley startups -- and some global technology companies -- trace their beginnings to a garage, or a university dormitory room.

Many Silicon Valley startups -- and some global technology companies -- trace their beginnings to a garage, or a university dormitory room.But Mega -- the cloud storage company that is the latest venture of Kim Dotcom -- has a different pedigree.

It was launched last January 20, exactly a year after Dotcom's cloud storage company Megaupload was shuttered for alleged copyright violation.

Thirteen months after the Megaupload raids, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk -- Dotcom's co-accused in a case that sparked headlines across the globe -- can see the upside of the incident.Without it, the pair tell CIO New Zealand, they would still be working on "2005 technology", referring to the year they launched Megaupload, and not with "2012 technology".

They also dispel a popular perception that Mega emerged from the flashy Coatesville mansion of Kim Dotcom.The "birthplace" of Mega, as Ortmann puts it, is a room in a more modest house, albeit in Orakei, one of Auckland's priciest suburbs.

This house, which was raided at the same time as Dotcom's mansion over a year ago, remains the residence of van der Kolk and his family.Ortmann says that having two of them working from home was a big factor in the making of Mega. "We are not your typical corporate office," he says. "We work through the night, long hours, so we are flexible." 

Merging roles

"Our technical field involves innovating," says Ortmann. "We are not strictly CIOs. We are CTOs.""We merged the task of CIO and programming into two people," says Ortmann. "He [van der Kolk] is basically a chief programmer which is basically a sub-CTO.

"But Ortmann explains that this is not a hierarchical structure. "I have to say much of the innovation, even 50 percent of the innovation that made Mega, is coming from Bram."He has contributed immensely important innovations to Mega and therefore we merged the task of CTO/CIO and programming into two people.

"Indeed the two have worked in tandem so much so that they finished each other's sentences during this interview."Basically we sit down together like here," says van der Kolk, pointing to the room beside the lounge that is the headquarters of Mega.

"Standalone, we could not come up with great ideas, but by challenging each other, we do," says Ortmann.Like a ping-pong game where the ball goes back and forth, adds van der Kolk.Ortmann says Mega was hatched as a direct result of the "illegal government surveillance" that Megaupload was subjected to. 

"That played a major role in our thinking," he says. "If the government is able to look at everything and scrutinise all data in transit or stored without valid warrants and even illegally, what can citizens do to protect their privacy?"

 

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