How we invented the «Chromebook» 2 years before Google by accident

Tariq KRIM
25 min readMay 10, 2017


8 years ago, a team without any hardware experience built and launched the Jolibook, the first and last independent computer designed for the cloud, two years before the Google Chromebook. Here is our untold story.

The Jolibook

“Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote


Today we take for granted that only two companies dominate our digital world. Through their devices, operating systems, and user interfaces, they control our choices. They control our lives.

Back in 2007/2008, when Apple was first introducing the iPhone, there was an attempt to launch a new form of personal computer: the netbook. Asus (with the eeePC), Intel, and even Nokia had their own products. But something was missing. They were just cheaper PCs.

What if someone could use them as a base to create the first personal cloud computer?

I had never done hardware before, and I was very excited by the idea. So I created Jolicloud, the company behind the Jolibook.

Here is our untold story.

A revolution with an ugly interface.

While wandering through the Hong Kong computer district, I bought the very first netbook. It looked almost like a toy with a crappy seven-inch screen. But it was priced at under $250 and running Linux. I instantly thought that I could design something better.

I started prototyping ideas on my notepad, underscoring the words, “I want to build my own computer”.

The initial concept of Jolicloud stands on half a page.

Building a computer?

I had no idea how to build a computer. It’s not something you learn at school. I had to pay a visit to my parent’s countryside house and dig out my old machines along with their accompanying literature left untouched since the late eighties. I’ve always been inspired by the stories about the Home Computing movement. Their passion was so energizing. This project was the opportunity to be engaged in its revival.

Part of my collection of vintage devices was displayed in Wired Magazine.

We found a “garage” in the heart of Paris: a tiny office on the sixth floor without an elevator, furnished only with two tables and a white board. We made a list of all the things needed to create a complete alternative platform: the hardware architecture, the web operating system, the web app store, the cloud management platform. We wanted to imagine something entirely new.

I already had a name in mind: the Jolibook for “beautiful computer” in French.

On paper everything seemed implausible, if not impossible.

But we built it.

Less than two years after this initial idea, people around the world would contact us to buy our little computer. That same year, Engadget readers would select us for the best netbook of the year category, and Jolicloud would be one of the five finalists for best international startup at the Crunchie awards. Intel would display our product on their main booth at the Consumer Electronic Show alongside the first Google Chromebook. And the Wall Street Journal would find our product “lovely”.

We were a bit inexperienced, but very inspired. Many design decisions we pioneered at the time can still be seen today in popular devices.

The Pitch

Jolicloud was one of the earliest hardware ventures to be started from Europe. I wondered who would be crazy enough to back such a project. So I went to see the people who created the company I admired the most in Europe: Skype.

This is how I ended up pitching to Niklas Zennström and Michael Jackson, respectively founder and former COO of Skype. But I wanted to have their opinions as friends first.

We talked about the huge opportunity in personal computers and the fact that this industry had not changed since the seventies. Selling a computer with a preinstalled operating system from Microsoft or Apple and downloading software.

Those two companies would just iterate and improve their products over the years, but never challenge them.

Our first conversations started in the middle of 2008 while the whole economy was on the verge of collapse. Crises are usually the best moments to sell “different ideas” to the world. We believed that a universally affordable cloud computer replacing the home PC was a very attractive proposition.

Atomico and Mangrove, under the impulse of Niklas and Michael, agreed to fund our venture. Gilles Samoun, a good friend with experience in technology from the US and France, agreed to join our board.

I was so happy to have such a dream team on board. But what really impressed me was what they told me right at the beginning that “with such an idea, you will throw yourself at the wall many times, and our job is to help you stand and try again.”

I’d always dreamed of hearing a VC say that to me. Especially after my not so great experience with Netvibes. I was excited and terrified at the same time.

Now, I had the responsibility to deliver a real product.

We moved from “The Garage” to a real office.

Falling in love with a dream

It’s hard to believe all of this was happening because of a dream I had two years prior to that meeting.

I was driving with friends on the beautiful Highway 1 that connects San Francisco to Los Angeles. I had spoken at many conferences the week before, and I was exhausted. I was looking for some me time.

That day, I was wearing my old Timetron watch. I’d had it for many years and loved its unique retro style. Especially its beige design and flashy orange button, an unusual color combination. I was wondering how cool a computer would look with such a retro design.

The Seiko Timetron with it’s unique retro-futuristic look.

I started having these images in my head of a khaki-thin plastic computer with an orange keyboard. It would come with the type of Linux interface that we see in movies, and ship in a military equipment-inspired package. And while I was wondering if it could cost less than 500 dollars, someone woke me up. We had arrived in LA.

A year later, I would have my answer.

I had just left Netvibes, my previous company, and decided to travel around Asia. While attending the World Economic Forum in China, I met with the main Taiwanese PC manufacturers during a session on the future of computing . It was my first real contact with the hardware world. One of them showed me a whole computer that was the size of a credit card. I was blown away.

After the event, a small gathering of YGL (the Young Global Leader program from Davos that I had just joined) went to Hong Kong to meet with city officials and visit the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio (they coproduced Blade Runner and some of my favorite Hong Kong movies).

But all I could think of was the conversations I had about building ultra cheap computers. I could sense that everything in this space was about to change, even if at that time I had no idea how this industry really worked.

I started meeting people around the world who knew how to build hardware and discovered the hidden secret of this industry: most of the computers that we buy from the well-known brands are not designed in-house, but are instead prototyped by companies called ODMs (Original Design Manufacturers).

This means that if you had money and access to a stock of Intel chipsets (often traded like gold on the market), you could theoretically build your own computer.

“Theoretically,” because at the time the PC industry had not been designed to accommodate small manufacturers and direct to consumer distribution.

Remember, back then there was no Kickstarter and no “Hardware Renaissance” in Silicon Valley. Only crazy people like me.

When I was a kid, independent companies ruled the computer world with their fancy colored machines sold in every supermarket. But at this point, unless you had enough money to buy a Mac, most PCs had no soul.

It was time to change that!

Time to melt boiling ideas into reality

After my trip to Asia, as soon as I landed in Paris, my first decision was to call Romain, my gifted intern from Netvibes, who was ready for his first job. We met at Chez Janou, a South of France-inspired restaurant in Paris, and started discussing options.

At the time, the world was very different from the way it is today. Apple had just released the iPhone and was considering opening the App Store. Android was not so sexy and sold on only a couple of devices made by the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC. Chrome had just landed as a beta, and Windows was still ruling the PC world.

It was definitely time to try something different.

With web applications like Gmail, Facebook, and Google Docs, we knew that the days of traditional software were numbered. And with 3G and Wi-Fi, PCs would always be online.

It’s still unclear how two people with pretty much zero experience in hardware or operating systems decided to go on building a new computer platform, but we did.

Experimental is good enough

We had something that others didn’t: we were ready to build our product using untested web technologies.

Besides eating good food, we made a critical decision over lunch. Our product would rely only on web technologies. Traditional operating systems use native software technologies, but in our case, everything that the user would see on the screen would be using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Exactly like a website.

It was quite revolutionary, as most developers we talked to thought it was impossible to do it well considering the state of the web at the time.

A new standard, called HTML5, could in theory make all of our ideas possible. It was still in a very experimental stage. But in our minds, experimental was good enough to get going.

So we started coding.

Jolicloud officially opens

Our first Jolicloud interface prototype

We hired Tristan, our first intern, and started testing some code.

The feeling was amazing, but also extremely scary. The technologies we were experimenting with were so new that we couldn’t find anyone else talking about them on the web.

We were in totally uncharted territory.

Besides building an interface, we had to convince at least one manufacturer to support the idea of a computer relying entirely on the cloud.

A very, very hard sell.

In 2009 in Davos, I tried to pitch Michael Dell on this idea. His answer was quite clear: netbooks are not welcome in an industry that operates on very small margins. The Windows model is not optimal, but it is a much safer bet. Don’t forget that at the time, Dell was one of the most open-minded PC manufacturers. They were the only ones shipping computers with Ubuntu Linux.

As we met with 19 other computer manufacturers, we kept hearing the same answer: “We love this idea, but we can’t do it. We don’t want to undermine our relationships with Microsoft and Intel”. (Intel was also trying to build its own netbook platform called Meego).

After many other trips to Asia, it was clear that no one wanted to build our computer. After every meeting, I was angry at my pitch and for allowing myself to believe I could change the status quo.

But a minute later, I would think about my team and their incredibly hard work would keep me going.

At least on the software side there was a bit of good news. Romain and his team had been able to pull off a barely working prototype. Our web interface was not completely ready, but at least our prototype operating system was booting on a netbook without any major problems.

Now that we had solved that part, we were ready for some testing.

In our line of work, testing with real users is crucial because people always try things you didn’t believe would crash the product. It’s the only way to make significant improvements.

But how could people test our OS if we didn’t have our computer yet?

Are you ready to break your computer?

We decided on a very uncommon move: make the software available for people who already owned a netbook and ask them to wipe out their existing systems to install ours instead.

In order to make this operation as smooth as possible, we decided to buy all the netbooks available on the market and ship them to Canada where Adam, our Linux wizard, would test them and make the proper adaptations.

But installing a new operating system on a computer is not a common task. In fact, most of the people we contacted had never done it before.

It was then clear that we had to create a very simple OS installer that needs no specific technical knowledge. I asked my old friend and Linux mentor, Benjamin, to join the team and help us.

All these tasks were incredibly hard and would normally require a much, much bigger team. But we were so excited by the idea of launching that we always figured out a way.

This fresh approach brought great results, and we suddenly discovered we had created the easiest Linux-based operating system to install on a computer.

But we were not interested in building a new Linux distribution. We wanted an OS for our very own computer.

However, that part was still not ready.

My first real mistake

I made my first mistake for the company when I took the decision to unveil what we were doing to the press.

While we didn’t encounter too many technical problems with our early users, our project was leaked on TechCrunch by Michael Arrington and was presented as an operating system for netbooks rather than a new computer company.

Putting our half-baked product in the spotlight was a horrible feeling. Not because our work was suddenly open to the public for criticism, but because the initial perception of a product defines the course of action and the type of users you’re going to attract.

I better understand the secrecy of hardware companies now. The initial perception of a product is the final one. It’s not like the web where everyone expects you will improve your service over time.

I should have known better.

Creating a new paradigm

After the leak, it became a race to release a finished product.

At Le Web 2009, we presented our interface for the first time. I was pretty nervous (you can see the video here), but quite relieved as the audience started to applaud when I presented our HTML5 web interface.

There was also an impossible philosophical equation to solve: the open-source community did not favor the cloud model, and the web community didn’t really like Linux.

But merging these two concepts together would create an amazing value for our users because their little underpowered computers would leverage the infinite storage and computing power of Google, Amazon, and others.

The most important part was our interface. Our operating system acted as a digital unifier for all these services. We had put relentless effort into the design.

It was so beautiful that someone joked at us saying that we were trying to build the “two hundred dollar Apple Computer.”

But annoyingly, it was months away from being released.

Getting closer

TechCrunch (thanks to Robin Wauters) and the Wall Street Journal (Ben Rooney) were, for the first time, very enthusiastic about our product.

But inside, I was boiling. Often, startups need to focus on one thing and do it right. In our case, we were building, brick by brick, everything except our core product: the computer.

After our announcement, our download rate started growing fast, reaching dozens of thousands of users. We were starting to receive praise about the quality of our operating system. Even if it wasn’t perfect, people enjoyed the ease of use and a much better choice than Windows XP on their netbook.

Businesses and schools were jumping on the opportunity to recycle their existing computers because kids loved using our OS. The demand to support more netbook models was very high, and like a Swiss clock, our team was responding to this demand. From a few devices, our OS was becoming the most compatible platform available on the market. Hundreds of downloads turned into thousands, and soon we passed the 100k download milestone.

Charlotte and Amelia Purkis, early and avid Jolicloud users

A punch in the stomach

Our operating system could now transform any netbook into something as easy and fun to use as an iPhone (remember, the iPad had not been introduced yet). And we were very close to a releasable product.

After an internal demo, I remembered walking home with so many hopes in my head: we had just created the first social operating system (you could see what apps your friends were installing) and a new form of web app store. There was a chance we could genuinely change the game.

But we were not alone anymore. Google had just announced that they would launch their own web operating system: Chrome OS.

It was like a nuclear bomb in the world of tech, and for us, a big punch in the stomach.

Not only did we have competition, but we had the biggest competition possible, Google, which was providing us with a key element of our operating system: the Chromium browser (the open source version of Chrome).

We could feel how effective the Google PR machine was.

The first article on TechCrunch about Chrome OS from MG Siegler didn’t even mention our project. And in the coming flow of articles that would follow, it was like our work had never existed.

The team was devastated. I was angry.

But I remembered what Shai Agassi, the founder of the electric car company BetterPlace, told me once: “better be first than crazy!”

The truth is that our vision was now validated by Google. But the moment Google was in, none of the major manufacturers would ever respond to our calls again. We learned via the press that the head of the netbook division at Asus, one of our main supports, had quietly joined Google. It felt like game over.

Against all odds, at a conference in Taiwan, a small Chinese manufacturer agreed to build our computer and a distributor was ready to open the UK market for us.

After several meetings, we would be able to sell our computer on Amazon. But with one condition: deliver a final product within 3 months.

The Jolibook race

The timing was impossible. We only had a few months to build a beautiful computer from scratch, working with a Chinese manufacturer that had never done anything else than cheap computer knockoffs.

When you run on a small budget, you have to be very creative and flexible to compensate.

The first bad news was that the Wi-Fi card on the computer would not work with our OS. If we wanted to release our computer, we had to hack our way there. We decided to retrofit the Windows driver for our system. This technique is not appreciated by the Linux purists because it’s not open source. After a debate between our engineers, we agreed it was the only way to get things to work in our timeframe.

The second bit of bad news was that we didn’t have as many options for the design of the machine as we initially expected. At that price, it was not possible to get our own typeface on the keyboard or use colored keys. But we discovered that we could use the back of the computer to print our own graphics.

We commissioned SF artist Cat Oshiro to design our lid. Our idea was to introduce young demographics to the world of the cloud.

Our packaging options were also very limited. We had to forget about crazy design ideas. It was very frustrating.

But after weeks without proper sleep, the team pulled it off.

Receiving the test boxes at the office was an unforgettable moment. We had done something real. A physical product. A computer. The Jolibook was born. The first cloud computer to be shipped in a European retail store!

The first test box received at our office.

We celebrated our victory, but we already knew it was a small one.

Learning the price of being right too early

We already sensed that it would be very hard to build more machines. We couldn’t use the same tricks for the next batch. We would need more capital and a better manufacturer deal. And with the Asian hardware culture endorsing only big brands, there was only room for someone the size of Google, not for a small independent brand coming out of France. In their world, all our awards and the huge interest from users meant nothing. It was only about distribution deals, kickbacks, and expensive marketing plans.

We didn’t want our investors to take that risk. So we never ordered a second batch.

While our operating system was doing extremely well, our dreams of building our own hardware stopped that day.

It was a very emotional moment, but it was also the smartest decision we could have made.

It would take two more years and the combined pressure of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms to see Chinese hardware manufacturers open up to smaller independent players like Pebble or FiftyThree (the Pencil). I was really happy to discover that their founders were all early fans of Jolicloud.

We would joke with my two American interns (who both later joined Kickstarter) that crowdfunding should have started a few years earlier for us.

But that’s the price of being too early. A lesson also learned by Google.

Even with their deep pockets and the success of Android, Google had a very hard time convincing manufacturers to produce Chromebooks that people would want to buy. To showcase their vision, they would need to build their own super Chromebook called the Pixel and give it away to all the developers attending their annual conference, Google I/O.

Thanks for the inspiration (again!)

The Jolibook was the star of the Intel booth the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas

As a coincidence, Romain and I got invited to that conference. Our implementation of the new Google sign-in had impressed their developer relation team, so they gave us a free booth. While I was attending a meeting, an unnamed senior Chrome OS engineer came to visit us and told Romain “thanks for the inspiration.”

We laughed at it. It was like history repeating itself. The last time I had to compete with Google toe to toe was when I was doing Netvibes. I would draw widgets with my designer and a few weeks later “similar ones” would appear on iGoogle, their competing service.

I knew from my time at Netvibes how hard it is to compete with Google at product level. When they decide that something is strategic it just becomes impossible.

Google has something that startups can’t afford: infinite time and massive engineering resources. Because Chrome OS could become the next Android, hundreds of engineers were brought in to boost the project.

We couldn’t keep up. The year ahead was going to be very challenging if we couldn’t find a partner.

Hard Questions

Probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make was to stop updating our OS. I knew this move would disappoint my team. The OS was the soul of the company and what had brought us initially together.

But we had to face reality.

We no longer had the resources to keep building a consumer grade operating system the way we wanted to do it. We didn’t have enough team members to keep up with innovating on our web platform either. We had to make a choice.

The bitter part for me was that we were starting to become very successful in underprivileged schools. And giving up on the OS felt like giving up on them. One teacher believed so much in our product that he made a video to convince other teachers around the world to use our OS.

A English-speaking School in Spain used all their computers with Jolicloud OS

Like in many other startups, there is a moment for growth and building and there is a time for hard questions. Some people would have to leave and we would have to bring in new talents to extend our platform to mobile devices.

The founding team was burned by years of hard work. We never compromised and we worked hard against the market narrative. And sometimes it’s too hard to deal with.

Things were different from my time at Netvibes. The market had changed. There’s too much money and marketing in the tech space, and it is very hard to succeed on pure technological merit.

I had pushed the limit of what the team could handle and I knew it. When Romain told me he had an offer from Twitter, I wanted to convince him to stay, but eventually I told him, “it’s an amazing opportunity, I’m so happy for you.”

Seeing people you had under your leadership leaving is always a sad feeling. But I have always been extremely proud of the careers people had after working with me.

We had created the base for a new computer platform, but our only go-to market was the recycling of old computers from individuals or schools. According to our internal stats, our operating system had been downloaded two million times. It was a pretty good number, but with schools buying Chromebooks, they would no longer need our services as they went with Google.

An unfair battle.

It was a frustrating moment. Even if users preferred our interface, Google in no time had convinced the US government and major schools to use Chromebooks. The battle had changed in nature. It was no longer about technology, but more about political lobbying. With the hope of replacing Windows and Apple in the lucrative government and education contracts.

To survive, we had to know if we could get similar support in France, our own country.

On TV, the French President, François Hollande, had already announced a new digital school initiative of a billion Euro.

I wondered if we could convince our government to use technologies made in France like ours.

After all, our tech team was based in Paris and had managed to defy Google for three years in a row. We could be a perfect match to provide alternatives to Chromebooks to schools.

I had to find out.

How we tried and failed to convince our government to build the French Chromebook

I never liked the idea of dealing with politicians. They always promise things that are rarely delivered and don’t understand how technology works.

Even if I had no direct contact with the elected government, I had friends who worked with them during the campaign. I managed to obtain a meeting with the Minister of Technology, Fleur Pellerin, to discuss how our product could be used as an alternative platform in education. I asked if we could get government validation for our device and build the “French Chromebook”.

I told her staff that we were ready to release a French version of our operating system and help with the deployment in schools. Because it was an opportunity to give back to our local education community we could be very price conscious.

But after a few meetings, it was clear that they would not help us. A list of preferred entrepreneurs had already been picked and they would be the only ones to get support and the President’s time during his trip to Silicon Valley. I didn’t know how this list was decided. All I knew was that I was not on it.

Instead, they offered me an official mission on digital talents. I was reluctant to do it, but I couldn’t really refuse the opportunity to promote the French savoir faire in technology to the public (the report is available here).

During early conversations, I discovered that, in addition to €150 million of government money given to the two largest French Telcos to create the “Sovereign Cloud Initiative”, a secret deal had been made with Google, Cisco, and Microsoft to give them a privileged access to education markets. France was betting against its own technologies and entrepreneurs. We were already out of the picture.

But we were not alone in this case. French cloud technology makers like SlapOS, NiftyName, Gandi, Cozycloud had also been systematically dismissed in favor of their often less advanced American counterparts.

It was not a very enjoyable experience. During meetings, some government aides made a point to make us feel unimportant. None of them actually believed that companies like ours could compete with Google. In the meantime, none of our interlocutors with any decisive power had the technological expertise to “vet” us.

As expected, the “Sovereign Cloud Initiative” didn’t release a single product. Both companies were quietly dismantled and all the engineers stolen with a big paycheck from small French startups sold to US company Red Hat! Whatever remains of the project is now hosted by a Chinese company.

It was such an incredible waste!

I discovered how cynical politicians can be. While talking about supporting the local ecosystem, them and their aides all secretly dreamed of landing a nice paying job with one of the big guys or leveraging their newly acquired network as a VC.

The missed opportunity of HTML5

Looking backwards, I am convinced that France missed the unique opportunity to take back control of its government’s digital infrastructure by supporting HTML5 and the open web.

Unlike consumer markets controlled by Apple and Android, education and government IT would have massively benefited from using open web as their default standard.

There was already an existing and vibrant ecosystem of talent around HTML5 in Paris. This is why Mozilla has decided to open its R&D center there.

In the US, the choice from the Obama administration to support Chromebooks lead to an incredible success. Chrome OS is now the third desktop platform on the market. (In August 2015, consulting firm NPD confirmed that for the first time Chromebooks were exceeding sales of Windows notebooks in education, and in the first quarter of 2016, IDC announced that they outsold Macs).

But that political decision from the government to support HTML5 never came. And the dream of building an independent French-inspired technology stack running from laptops to servers died in complete indifference.

After too many polite meetings, it was time to get back to real work.

Fighting the windmills — my Don Quixote moment

There was one question everyone in tech was afraid to ask was “do we really want to live in a world where five companies control our entire digital experience?”

I was surprised by my own resilience to keep fighting.

A friend told me that it was my “Don Quixote moment.”

We were watching together this TV show called “The Newsroom,” and one of the episodes was debating the sense of true journalism in the age of social media. One of the characters said, “Don Quixote was not fighting the windmills. He was fighting for what he believed was right.”

Presenting our vision of an open web in Paris.

I pressed pause. Went for a walk. I felt powerless. Why would it matter that we fought so hard for this if nobody cared? If our own government and even Europe had given up by supporting our competitors?

In the 90´s, Europe had created Linux and the web. These same tools are now used to control our lives. It happened so fast. Without even a fight.

I was hopeless. I had to make my decision. We had been in conversation with Samsung for a partnership, but they decided to pull out to fully support the Google Chromebook platform. Our last option had vanished. I had no choice. I would let go of the existing team and put the Jolicloud project on hiatus.

This fight was over. At least through Jolicloud.

It has been my biggest learning. Sometimes as an entrepreneur you are given the gift or the curse of tackling a problem very dear to you. And you try, no matter how big the problems along the road are or how many people ask you to give up. It’s what I now call the Don Quixote moment. Jolicloud was that to me. I think every entrepreneur should celebrate those moments. But learn when the fight is no longer viable and move on.

The slow internet

I was exhausted, burned, and extremely cynical about the ability to build radically independent product ideas in Paris.

But I couldn’t completely give up.

When you taste freedom, you don’t want to go back to the polished prison of platform adult supervision.

I was looking at Berlin, but my answer came from France’s second city: Lyon.

I had been there a few times to speak at the wonderful European Lab conference during the incredible electronic music festival, Les Nuits Sonores.

There, a friend had introduced me to a very talented team of French coders. We discussed a lot about what the future should look like. The platform battle was over. All we could do was trying to change the way we accessed and consumed our information.

Inspired by the slow food movement, we started to discuss about unmediated access to quality content. And what was needed to go deeper into things and stop relying on the misleading and volatile algorithmic editorialization of our lives.

It was one of these very creative moments that gives you hope in the future.

I was very open to them. After spending so much time on Jolicloud, I was not really in the mood for building a new company yet. But I was interested in testing new ideas and fresh perspectives with a side project. And building the tools that creative thinkers need to have a more fulfilled content life.

Designing a new product is my happy moment. I bought fresh notebooks and started filling them with ideas, drawing while reviewing code in late afternoon.

But the joy of creating was interrupted by the November 13th attack in Paris, where five of my friends lost their lives.

I should have been there. I was late (as always) to come. That’s the only reason I am alive today.

It was a tough ordeal. After the funerals, I decided to disconnect completely and leave Paris.

Being away made me realize how much my perception of technology had changed. I wrote a piece about it here.

With technology bringing our world to the verge of collapse, I decided that we should relaunch our project and finalize our tools to help people better organize their content, their thoughts, and sources of inspiration. We acted quickly out of instinct. We needed a name for this product and our new mission.

During our early conversations, we believed that people should be offered the possibility of opting out from a world dominated by machines. Because we were diverging from the official techno-optimism, we called it Dissident. A slow platform and set of carefully crafted tools. The missing workspace for creative thinkers.

But it was not enough. Alongside Dissident, every Friday we have been working on an open education platform that will be shared at the same time. You can already follow our project here and here. More to be unveiled soon.


Seven years after the Jolibook, the concept of a casual cloud computer is still debated by the big players. While the Chromebook has merged with Android to become a closed platform, Apple has stopped selling affordable laptops. And Samsung is making the bet that phones connected to big screens will replace our desktop computers.

But in the absence of an independent player to break the established rules, this world has become incredibly boring.

I just hope someone will shake up this market and excite us all again!

Looking back, it’s impressive to see how much was achieved with so little money and such a small team. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such an extraordinary team, investors, and partners.

Thanks for the ride!

A special thanks to my ex-partner in crime Romain, my investors Niklas and Michael and their firms Atomico and Mangrove, Gilles, the incredible Jolicloud team, and of course our beloved users.

A little nudge to Mehdi, Zak, and Charlotte for the help on getting this article out and to the “Dissident” team brewing our alternative vision of the online world.

PS: If you still own a Jolibook or love Jolicloud, please contact me. I want to stay in touch!