What the bit? The best source for your mobile news is closer than you think
Stefan Constantinescu (@WhatTheBit) is a prolific blogger who has for years been regarded as one of the most influential voices in the mobile industry. Recently he started his own news site called TabDump and he’s doing it from Technopolis Business Lounge in Helsinki. We sat down with Stefan to find out how a Romanian born American ended up in Finland and decided to change the way people consume news.
Where were you born and what was your youth like?
I was born in Romania in 1986. My dad was a doctor and my mother was a hospital administrator. What characterizes my childhood the most is constant change of scenery. When I was four, the Soviet Union collapsed and my parents decided to move to the United States. At first we moved to Florida, but my mother hated it. She kept saying that “it’s too hot”. So very soon we moved to New York, which to me was the best place on earth. We lived there for a few years, but then at the age of 17, our family moved again, this time to Texas. I have always been a social person, so for me the move was more of an adventure because I always befriended people easily and lived a very active childhood.
When did you become interested in technology?
The real interest began when my father bought me my first computer at the age of 7. He himself didn’t know how to use computers, but he understood that they were important, so he got me one. You could say that very quickly I became a computer geek and would spent lots of time optimizing and upgrading my machine. I also was an avid gamer, and even played computer games professionally.
Where did you go to college?
I studied at the University of North Texas. My major was Computer Science, and with my computer geek background, I naturally wanted to become a programmer. However, towards the end of my first year, we took a class trip to one of the local software companies where we talked with programmers. Once I realized that the normal work day consist of arriving to your cubicle at 9am, leaving your cubicle at 8pm, and the only thing you do in between is sit in front of a computer, I immediately decided to switch my major! It just sounded so dreadful! For my new major I decided to follow my father’s footsteps and become a doctor so I picked Biolog. I studied Biology for a few years, but that ultimately wasn’t my thing either so I dropped out and took a job in tech support.
What set you on your current path as a mobile enthusiast?
I had an epiphany about the significance of mobile phones in 2002, when I used my phone to access the internet and read emails. During that time, the mobile internet was completely horrendous, you had to access it via a slow GPRS connection, the graphics were black and white, and most people thought it was too difficult to use. But for me it was amazing! I realized that having internet in your pocket would completely change how people live and work, and I became fanatic about knowing everything in the business.
How you ended up in Finland?
I moved to Finland in 2007 for two reasons: Firstly and most importantly it was because of a woman, which is pretty much everyone’s reason to move to Finland. And secondly, it was because Finland was a mobile leader at the time with Nokia and I had a blog which was focused on Nokia’s devices. I have now lived here for seven years and found out that this country is incredibly depressing and cold for most of the year. Yet despite this, even having tried to move away a couple of times, I always end up coming back.
You are currently working on an interesting new project. Can you talk about that?
Yes, I have started a website called TabDump, which aims to help readers to digest the daily news from one place. Instead of writing several lengthy articles every morning, I decided to write 50 to 60 short snippets about what’s relevant in mobile and in the real world. In 15 minutes, you can read everything that’s happened. If people really like my site, I encourage them to support me by signing up for 5$/month subscription.
Why should companies at Technopolis premises read your news site?
I have an inside tip for all the managers and CEOs reading this: Half of your employees spend a large chunk of their day reading news online while they should be working. So instead of that, tell them to visit TabDump, and it’ll take them just a few minutes to get all their news. Think about the increased productivity!
As a mobile knowledge leader, what mega trends do you see happening in the next 3-5 years?
I see that wearable computing will become mainstream very soon. The progress will be similar as in mobile phones – first there will be wrist watch computers that are small and clunky. Then they will become more elegant with bigger screens and easier to use. And then at some point we may see wrist computers that will have flexible screens and go all around your wrist.
The second big area is flexible screens. Everything since the 80’s has been designed with a limitation that you have to have a flat screen. Once people and designers start use devices with flexible screens, like the newest crop of cell phones, it will open a completely new and crazy opportunities which we even can’t imagine yet.
Is there anything you want to say Technopolis News readers, the people who daily work at Technopolis?
Dare to take advantage of proximity to other companies. Stand up from your cubicle, go to a person from some other company, introduce yourself and tell what you are working on. You may be surprised at the business opportunities! Since Technopolis is focused on providing space for knowledge intensive companies, there are lots of like-minded people in these buildings. Go and expand your professional network!
To wrap up this interesting interview, tell us some fun fact about yourself that many people may not know about you?
I love farms! When I was 14 or 15, a friend of mine invited me to work on a farm during the summer. At first I thought that it’s mostly about cleaning shit and carrying heavy things, but once I got there, I was immediately captivated by the animals, the nature, how real everything felt. I ended up going back every summer for the next several years.