Hi I'm Amir, co-founder and CEO of blockchain startup Helium. Ask me anything!

Amir Haleem
37 replies
Hi I’m Amir, co-founder and CEO of Helium, the company behind the world’s first blockchain-based, peer-to-peer wireless network for IoT devices. In a few weeks, we sold out of our first batch of Hotspots which blanket Austin (our initial launch city) with wireless coverage provided by individuals who earn Helium tokens, a new cryptocurrency. Before Helium I used to compete and win esports events, and went on to work in the gaming industry at Diversion as the CTO, and was a member of the original Battlefield 1942 team at DICE. In my spare time, I build and race Japanese sports cars. Ask me anything!

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Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
I've read about your mission to build the People's Network at Helium. With such a big vision to change how we connect on networks and deliver faster wi-fi to the masses, how do you keep your team focused and motivated through day-to-day responsibilities?
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CEO, Helium
@abadesi two or three things are pretty important here. first is for everyone on the team to be clear about what we're trying to accomplish, why, and when. second is to do whatever you can to chunk the work in to achievable goals - the entire scale of the project is so large, that it's dangerous to try and think too far out. and third is to ship. nothing is better than shipping to get everyone focused on the most important problems, highlight issues, and get excited about users actually using what you've built.
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Could you share a bit about the financial incentive for using a peer-to-peer wireless device as opposed to a traditional one?
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CEO, Helium
@lonnylot the internet of things (IoT) world is a tough one for capex heavy infrastructure models. the cost of deploying network coverage - even for low power things at low datarates - is still high. when your customers are smartphone users, this might be OK, as you've got a chance to collect $100+/mo per user back. IoT device operators, in some cases, expect to pay on the order of single dollars per year. it's hard to make the traditional centralized model of deployment work, which is why this space continues to be the least well served in all of telecoms. this is why we think a decentralized model is the better approach, putting low-cost infrastructure ownership in the hands of the people and allowing anyone to act as their own network operator.
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Founder of Product Hunt & Weekend Fund
LOVED Battlefield 1942. Thanks for your work on that. :) Super curious about Helium. How do you overcome the chicken-and-egg problem? I suppose Helium isn't that useful until you hit some geographic density, right?
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CEO, Helium
@rrhoover thanks! hard to believe BF1942 was almost 20 years ago. crypto-economics is part of the answer to the chicken-egg problem. by giving people the opportunity to participate in the economic model for these networks - with the early participants being disproportionally rewarded - you completely invert the traditional cold start problem. of course in the long run these economics depend entirely on having a useful ecosystem of devices using the network and paying Hotspot owners for that traffic, which is what we as a company are focused on helping occur. regarding geographic density - it sort of depends. as we've seen with our Austin rollout, 50+ Hotspots is sufficient to cover a large metro area. that coverage is already useful to any enterprises, startups, and makers who want to build devices to use it. in some situations the use cases will require inter-city or inter-state coverage which will take some time to materialize. but we're confident that there isn't a faster or cheaper way to build coverage than via Helium.
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Hi @amirhaleem I like your product, if you'r looking for partnership in Canada, just let me know, you can contact me for further discussion.
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CEO, Helium
@aboubakr_mekhatria absolutely, will have someone from the team reach out.
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Founder at peopleofcolorintech.com
Hey Amir! How did you convince investors in the early stages to back your startup?
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CEO, Helium
@michaelberhane_ I could write a really long answer around my thoughts about VC fundraising, but my attempt at a quick answer would be that you have to have a compelling story. fundraising is really all about story telling. if you can convince someone to believe your story, then the rest of the process (market size, feasibility, are you the right team to do it, etc) gets a lot easier. if you're looking to fundraise yourself, get really good at telling great stories. in our case, investors clearly saw the problems with the current model and opportunity for what a network like this could mean to the world. almost everyone we've ever met with concludes that something like this has to exist, and then we just had to convince them that we were the best team to do it.
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Hooman to Sando, Community at Alongside
Thanks for doing this @amirhaleem 🙌 I'm curious how much of a role social media plays in growing Helium and what are some of the channels working wonders for you in terms of marketing 🤔 Could you share some insights on that? 🙏
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CEO, Helium
@amrith we've been using a combination of traditional digital marketing, social, and events to drive awareness. I feel that the events we've run have had some of the highest value outcomes, as you get to really talk with and understand your users, and they have a tremendous word of mouth effect that has a very long tail. we'll keep experimenting with different ways to reach larger and more targeted audiences.
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Chef
Hi Amir! 👋 thanks for starting this discussion. Helium is such an interesting concept I’m wondering what steps you took to initially validate it during the beginning?
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CEO, Helium
@aaronoleary our early validation came from entrepeneurial friends of ours who wanted to build low power and low data connected products, like wearables or people counting devices. the level of complexity in building hardware is already extremely high, and there really aren't any economically reasonable ubiquitous low power wireless networks that exist. there are plenty of low power wireless technologies, but they are very difficult to use, have user-hostile tradeoffs, and are not broadly available. beyond that, I like the infamous Keith Rabois quote: "I believe product market fit is forged, not discovered."
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YC SUS grad 2018
Can I host my website on your blockchain? I am looking for something cheaper than AWS
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CEO, Helium
@youssif_maxzoom no, Helium is not a general purpose "world computer". recommend checking out our friends at solana.com
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Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
What advice can you give makers who are inspired to work on huge disruptive ideas like Helium but don't quite know where to start? I've met tons of makers with huge ideas who feel like they can't even make a decent MVP without fundraising.
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CEO, Helium
@abadesi there's a lot of money out there to fund entrepreneurs with big ideas. it can be difficult to get started and there's definitely an ivory tower feeling about it, even when you've done it a lot. if you absolutely need $ to start, find VC's or investors who seem to be passionate about your idea and find a way to connect with them. researching who to talk to, even within the same firm, matters a lot.
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COO @ Product Hunt
Hi Amir 👋🏻 Thanks for answering our questions. What marketing tactics did you use to sell out so quickly in Austin?
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CEO, Helium
@ejsnowdon our marketing operation is a team of ninjas, I can't take any credit here. we leveraged everything we could, from investors to social media to physical events. fortunately with LongFi you don't need a huge number of Hotspots to consider a city "done", so we only had to convince 150 people to join the movement.
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snoop doggy dog from the LBC
yo, it's ya boi, Dee to O to da Dee O Double Gee. What the world wants to know is, why Helium is better than Ethereum?
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CEO, Helium
@crypt0d0gg Helium isn't trying to do what Ethereum does. we're trying to build a decentralized wireless network, d0gg.
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snoop doggy dog from the LBC
Something else on my mind is do I earn more Heliums if I am in early? Why is that? How does that work?
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CEO, Helium
@crypt0d0gg the amount of Helium created every month is fixed forever (5,000,000 HLM), so the fewer Hotspots there are the more each Hotspot gets proportionally.
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from the death star
@crypt0d0gg @amirhaleem So, If I buy a bunch of hotspots now, I'll earn a disproportional amount of tokens?
@amirhaleem is the mining of Helium somehow correlated to the usage of bandwidth on that specific node or is it totally uncorrelated?
snoop doggy dog from the LBC
Also, what's your take on Proof of Work vs. Proof of Steak? I'm a fan of Steak as you can guess. You feel me?
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CEO, Helium
@crypt0d0gg how do you liked it prepared?
snoop doggy dog from the LBC
@amirhaleem medium-rare
snoop doggy dog from the LBC
I hear thru the grapevine that you use to roll in Santa Monica. You know LBC is the place to be right?
CEO, Helium
@crypt0d0gg that 710 freeway is really a pain in the ass.
from the death star
I'm a cyber security paranoid freak. How secure is the hotspot?
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CEO, Helium
@dr_antivirus we are continuously doing work to ensure the Hotspot is as secure as can be. that means no open incoming ports and ongoing penetration testing of both the Hotspot itself, and anything that interacts with it (like our OTA server).
Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
Thanks @amirhaleem for taking time to share with us, folks this online discussion is now closed.
What over the top applications have been developed and currently using the helium network in Austin? Any success story?
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