Jennifer Arcuri – Hacker Extraordinaire
I feel so privileged to feature Jennifer Arcuri on Breakfast with Tiffany! She is a serial entrepreneur: Founder of the Inno-Tech Summit – a series of conferences to connect previously siloed entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers. She is the founder of Hacker House – the world’s first cyber security makers space: gathering, training and educating young kids who have started to breach code. And she is also the co-founder of Pinksheet Database – a network of the finest professional female voices combatting the old mantra of “no women in tech”. She champions disruptive, positive development and growth.
Current Job Security Hacktivist and Events Producer
Education Life education
First Job Radio Disney DJ
Favourite book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Go to meeting spot Rooftop on Shoreditch High St
How do you switch off? Hot Yoga
Female inspiration in business Joanna Shields and Sherry Coutu
Top networking tip Congratulate people publicly on social media – increases your visibility and strokes their ego!
You started your career in film how did that transition to technology?
My career began in California in film production largely within the paradigms of digital distribution. I was fascinated why some films succeeded and others didn’t and I quickly learnt that distribution was king! My transition from film to tech was not a misnomer as technology was the medium through which I has always syndicated a message to my audience. Tech traverses across all industries and I identified that I could apply my distribution abilities to any vertical.
What did you do upon realising your distribution wizardry?
I built Ubroadcast – a live stream video distribution platform that allowed aspiring filmmakers to interact and engage with their audience. It encouraged filmmakers to pave the way in digital history for innovative ways of making projects happen. I had c220k unique users in just a couple of months but despite aggressively building traffic I sold the business at 22! I learnt a lot along the way including the importance of having the right partners.
Why did you launch Inno-Tech in London?
It was a Bollywood film that drew me to London after selling Ubroadcast and I moved here to embark on an MBA! Shortly after moving my relationship didn’t work out. But rather than cry about it I did what any other girl would do with a broken heart – channel that energy into something else, and in my case it was building a business and a brand. It was 2001 and technology was taking off and I knew how to do tech distribution in my sleep! I envisioned a project to raise my school’s profile – something that would sit at the intersection of innovation and technology – resulting in the name Inno-Tech! Through my course I had met Boris Johnson and Joanna Shields as well as VCs contributing towards my vision for Inno-Tech as a summit of entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers as a catalyst for change.
How did you make Inno-Tech such a success?
Jimmy Wales pulled out of the conference last minute resulting in me pursuing and convincing Boris to speak instead! I even ended up persuading Boris to take part in a Google hangout with Silicon Valley at the summit. It is drive not degrees that makes the difference!
What inspired your pivot and immersion into hacking?
The Inno-Tech event was so successful that we decided to run it again…and again, and the brand kind of stuck! Under the Inno-Tech umbrella I then ran and produced an event called Tech Vs Brains. One of the speakers George Freeman (co-founder of 2020 group & co-chair of the innovation economy) discussed artificial intelligence and robotics. I was captivated by the biggest political challenge for our generation – how to equip existing and next generation workers with digital skills to survive and thrive in this new technological paradigm. I then ran a follow up event called Legislating LulzSec where we put members of LulzSec (a computer hacker group) on stage with Queen’s Counsel barristers to discuss questions surrounding ethics and legislation for hacking and cyber criminals. It was such a hot topic and struck such a chord. My interest in hacking and security only grew as our audience demanded “more cyber”.
What has been the evolution of Hacker House?
The velocity of my personal development took off! I learnt about Aaron Swartz – the Internet hacktivist who committed suicide while under federal indictment for data-theft. I studied Anonymous – the international network of activist and hacktivist entities as well as Snowden. Through my immersion I ended up building an insane network of hackers! One of my events attracted c800k hackers online – proving my distribution was still top of its game! At this point I formalised the settup slightly and created Hacker House – the world’s first cyber security makers space: gathering, training and educating young kids who have started to breach code and verging on the dark side!
What is your vision for Hacker House?
The battle for security has begun – by 2020 every manufactured device is predicted to be smart, opening up enormous risk to privacy breaches. Hacker House offers a different approach to what we have experienced so far. My vision is to bring together law enforcement with cyber criminals – harness hackers’ raw talent and bring them inside of the entrepreneur eco-system. Cases such as Ross Ulbricht who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in online drug emporium Silk Road, exemplifies such a loss of talent. Hacker House offers a refreshing opportunity to attract and transform such individuals which stuffy government projects have wildly missed the mark on. Often these kids only know how to destroy and have no direction to use their skills in a morally correct way. We must not malign them – the government simply can’t afford not to use them!
What is ethical hacking?
Hacking is the pursuit of knowledge – breaking things apart to see what is inside and putting it back together again. We should therefore avoid propagating ‘ethical hacking’ as we must avoid generating a stigma about hacking in the first place. Law enforcement and hacking should not be two separate entities, instead my goal is to harmonise the two.
Women in Tech
What is your opinion on the focus and direction of the women in technology debate?
The “no women in technology” mantra that pervades media is old and outdated and only serves to undermine the women who are there and achieving in technology! The truth is that there are very many wonderful women in the tech paradigm. Small groups can change the world so I don’t want to waste time dwelling on the lack of women on the panel, but rather dedicate my time to getting more badass women up on the stage for next time. I co-founded Pinksheet Database (with Catherine Allen and Chloe Nichols) – a network to formalise female voices in technology to optimise #womenwhorock. We champion empowerment, integrity and fearlessness!
Who inspires you the most?
- Joanna Shields (UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security)
- Sherry Coutu (Angel Investor and Chairman of Founders4Schools)
- Russ Shaw (Founder of Tech London Advocates)
- ICE crew (International Conclave of Entrepreneurs)
- Lawrence Lessig (Academic and Political Activist)
- Eric van der Kleij (Head of Level39 Fintech Accelerator)
What is your advice for women seeking to start their own business?
As My Big Fat Greek Wedding eloquently put it – “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants”. I believe women are far superior to men in getting things done and being truly innovative and advancing society. Women are biologically more nurturing and therefore more considered when getting involved in something new. We like to know that what we do is going to make a difference (resultant of our genetic makeup to protect the next generation) meaning we are far more strategic in what we decide to dedicate ourselves to. Men typically have more ego and generate more noise, consequently receiving more funding. Thus my advice would be to for women to remain cognisant of these differences, embrace them and selectively advance and distill the noise. Go and be the next inspirational example for more women!