Esther Dyson is an american entrepreneur, angel investor, writer and publicist, philanthropist and social activist. Member of the Board of Directors of Yandex.
Esther Dyson was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 14, 1951. In 1980, Dyson founded EDventure Holdings, a pioneering information technology and new media company. In 1982, she took over Rosen's Electronic News. In the late 1980s, she became an active investor in Eastern European technology ventures. She also became involved in public discussion about the future of the Internet. In 2000, she started writing a column for the New York Times.Esther Dyson, named one of the most powerful women in American business by Forbes magazine, is a study in contradictions. She's widely regarded as one of the most influential voices in technology, but she's not a programmer or high-tech executive, and doesn't even have a phone at home. Dyson started out as a magazine fact checker, but ended up managing her own venture capital fund. She has rarely, if ever, voted, but she's an active technology policymaker in Washington.
She entered Harvard University at age 16, but by her own account, rarely attended classes, instead spending most of her time at the university newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, or hanging out with friends on the Harvard Lampoon. She graduated with a B.A. in economics in 1972.
Foray into Venture Capital
She'd hoped to become an entertainment writer at Variety, she ended up as a fact checker, and later a reporter, at Forbes, where she became fascinated by the business world. In 1977, she left print journalism behind and became a Wall Street securities analyst specializing in electronics and technology. In 1980, Dyson founded EDventure Holdings, a pioneering information technology and new media company. Her career took another turn in 1982, when she joined venture capitalist Ben Rosen and took over Rosen's Electronic News, an industry newsletter which she purchased the following year and renamed Release 1.0.
Her newsletter quickly became a must-read among elite technology executives. In 1983, she took over the PC Forum, an industry hot ticket where Bill Gates rubbed shoulders with Lotus founder Mitch Kapor and other high-tech giants.
Internet Policy Adviser
In the late 1980s, Dyson became an active investor in Eastern European technology ventures. She also became increasingly involved in the public discussion about the future of the Internet. As co-chair of the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIIAC), head of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), and interim chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Dyson has helped mediate and inform public policy regarding privacy, encryption, trust, and the assignment of Internet domain names. Her book, Release 2.0, addressed to a general, non-technical audience, presented in plain English the key issues and controversies surrounding the evolving Internet.
In January 2000, Dyson started writing a syndicated twice-weekly column, Release 3.0, for The New York Times. The feature discusses the impact of digital technology on daily life as well as on the world's social, political, and financial fabric. In addition to managing EDventure Holdings, Dyson continues to invest in start-up Internet companies and to serve on various boards that set policy for the Web.
Dyson is an active member of a number of non-profit and advisory organizations. From 1998 to 2000, she was the founding chairman of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. As of 2004, she sat on its "reform" committee, dedicated to defining a role for individuals in ICANN's decision-making and governance structures. She opposed ICANN's 2012 expansion of generic top-level domains (gTLDs). She has followed closely the post-Soviet transition of Eastern Europe, from 2002 to 2012 was a member of the Bulgarian President's IT Advisory Council, along with Vint Cerf, George Sadowsky, and Veni Markovski, among others. She has served as a trustee of, and helped fund, emerging organizations such as Glasses for Humanity, Bridges.org, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Eurasia Foundation. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The After-School Corporation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for all students. She is also a member of the boards of the Sunlight Foundation, StopBadware, The Long Now Foundation.
Dyson has served as a judge for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's NYC BigApps competition in NYC.
-Change means that what was before wasn't perfect. People want things to be better.
-I think copyright is moral, proper. I think a creator has the right to control the disposition of his or her works - I actually believe that the financial issue is less important than the integrity of the work, the attribution, that kind of stuff.
-But there is a corollary to freedom and that's personal responsibility, and the real challenge is how you generate that personal responsibility without imposing it.
-What I'm thinking about more and more these days is simply the importance of transparency, and Jefferson's saying that he'd rather have a free press without a government than a government without a free press.
Part of the problem is when we bring in a new technology we expect it to be perfect in a way that we don't expect the world that we're familiar with to be perfect.
-It may not always be profitable at first for businesses to be online, but it is certainly going to be unprofitable not to be online.
-Well, take the evolution of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It began as hackers' rights. Then it became general civil liberties of everybody - government stay away.
-As long as a government can come and shoot you, you can't jump on the Internet to freedom.
-Don't leave hold of your common sense. Think about what you're doing and how the technology can enhance it. Don't think about technology first.
-A worker's paradise is a consumer's hell.
-I think that the use of copyright is going to change dramatically. Part of it is economics. There is just going to be so much content out there - there's a scarcity of attention. Information consumes attention, and there's too much information.
-Having seen a non-market economy, I suddenly understood much better what I liked about a market economy.
-There's almost no way of doing importing honestly, because if you do you're at such a disadvantage competitively. So people spend huge amounts of effort getting around stupid laws and not paying taxes.
-I've seen disgusting excess in business, and I've seen disgusting excess in Washington. But at the same time, I've certainly learned that Washington matters and that you can't ignore it, especially when you get into telecom.
-I became a real free market fanatic. I'm probably less so now than even two or three years ago.
-Since I became chairman, I've tried to turn EFF into civil liberties and responsibilities.
-And the Russians certainly don't have it. If a woman shows up in a fur coat, I just assume she's a crook. And that's me, the nice American. The assumption that you can't make money honestly is a killer.
-From the business point of view - not to overstate it - intellectual property is dead; long live intellectual process. Long live service; long live performance.
-I would much rather see responsibilities exercised by individuals than have them imposed by the government.
-In the sense that people who produce things and work get rewarded, statistically. You don't get rewarded precisely for your effort, but in Russia you got rewarded for being alive, but not very well rewarded.
-In the space of three weeks, I met a fair bunch of the guys who were just starting those little programmers' co-ops, and everybody was talking about starting businesses.
-Oh, that all the things my father had told me about how disgusting Washington is are true. And again it's the system - there are lots of nice, well-meaning people there. But it's a sleazy place. And politics is all about doing favors.
-I think I have the right to know what Steve Forbes paid in taxes - I don't think there should be a law. I think there should be a presumption. I wouldn't vote for a guy who wouldn't reveal what he paid in taxes. That kind of thing.