Jo Lee Talks To Andrew Greig: Mr. Intrigue!

By Josephina Lee Mascioli-Mansell



It was one of those times when the world was chaotic at the airport – the Cleveland airport. Flights were delayed, cancelled, not cancelled, depending on whom you spoke to, with the First Class Lounge closed for renovations, and redirection… seeming like… the other end of heaven! There I was! Too much luggage, an over-sized Harrods bag pulling down on my left shoulder, barely staggering in my four-inch heels and – my phone rang! “Hey, is all well Jo Lee? Where are you?” It was one of my editors telling me he needed “a few seconds” at that very moment to discuss a possible interview with this fascinating guy! He lived in Costa Rica and was the brains behind VizzEco Inc., the only global Google Apps reseller.

About one week passed and there I was! Sitting across from one of the rare, brilliant geeks who was “way” out there. His mind, so beyond comprehension, his philanthropic caring – above most levels of graciousness: his charm – catchy.

Growing up in a small, Ontario, Canada town, couldn’t have been easy for a young boy like Andrew Greig. Plagued with a litany of such debilitating neurological challenges as dyslexia, attention deficit and bipolar disorders, young Andrew also suffered from symptoms of glycemia and thyroid problems. Coupled with genius – one can only imagine the inner turmoil.

So what did he do? It was during his very, early years that Andrew came up with a plan. He would solve parts of his discomfort by skipping four out of five days of his week at school. By the time he reached high school he was expelled for lack of attendance. This lack, of course, hadn’t prevented him from maintaining a 90 percent average grade, becoming a star athlete, and creating his first company, a DJ business.

Today, Andrew moves in big circles. As a techno geek, he made and lost his first million at the age of 27. He became an entrepreneur who envisioned a way to use technology flow to eradicate poverty and maybe even usher in a greener earth while he’s at it.

Andrew is the modern-day Will Hunting, with a tinge of Gandhi and Robin Williams sprinkled on top. He is a modern-day prophet who came from a humble beginning with a single mom, and an alcoholic father who liked to let him know who was boss.

Andrew’s idea of a massage at Ben’s Permaculture Retreat
in the mountains in Costa Rica.

My question? How can we uncover the mystique that is Andrew?

Andrew is anything but average. He flirts with all aspects of human endeavor. Whether it is business or relationships, spiritual or financial, or any part of mental, emotional and physical health, Andrew presses the edges of his humanness.

His view of life is that of a spectator, player and coach. He wants to watch, play and then coach, although coach is a strong word for envision. He watches with a keen eye for the missed opportunities and (in football terms) illegal procedures. He then jumps into the game to play because life, after all, is experiential – always looking to laugh, sort the urgent from the important, and attract the right people into the play. And then, when he’s bitten off more than he can chew, he organizes a team that supports his vision.

Some great people see the world from 30,000 feet, while Andrew sees the world from 100 kilometers – at the earth’s Kármán line – at 360 degrees. {The Kármán line is the edge of earth’s atmosphere.} Add to this the desire to be ambitiously lazy and you have an interesting human specimen called Andrew Greig.

Andrew shares with very few people the deep pools of passion that drive his visions and hopes for change. Andrew is like a 1,000 piece puzzle. If you don’t start with the edges, you’ll never piece that whole thing together.

We know Andrew is not a negotiator; he is a masterful “manifestor” who already knows the outcome of a meeting before he enters the room. We know he is kind, thankful, generous, and can hit anyone right between the eyes when necessary. Life is custom ordered through “serendestiny”.

He is a friend to some of the most global thinkers and wealthiest people on the planet and they all love to be in his company. By 2004 Andrew had discovered that free communications and entertainment is an aphrodisiac for people. Going global, he thought, is just a matter of money, so Andrew created the path of least resistance for people to communicate and remove themselves from poverty by way of a borderless contract with Google. And the geeks shall inherit!

Leaving a Google Inc. meeting in Mountain View, California.

JO LEE: Andrew, it would be an understatement to say I’m intrigued! I’m so excited about our interview. Tell me about some of the power people you’ve met and what they wanted from you and you, from them.

ANDREW GREIG: Jo Lee, so many come to mind. After Robert Cringley’s PBS article on one of my projects, many venture capital companies, governments and executives from large companies contacted me to learn how to monetize and productize my little design. Mark Shuttleworth, for one.

Mark sold his first venture to Varisign before he became a billionaire and was the second space tourist to visit the international space station. Mark founded Ubuntu, a company that used our thin client, mini computers for its call center infrastructure. Through Mark and his people, I was invited to come to the Google head office in Mountain View, California where I met Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the people at Google – launching Google Apps for Business. This meeting resulted in VizzEco, my company, becoming one of the very first Google Apps for Business resellers.

Then there’s Steve Mosher of Openmoko who’s led strategic initiatives, including the development and launch of the very first MP3 player with 80 percent market share and the first 3D graphics card for open source developers’ smart phones, creating whole new market segments. Steve is one of VizzEco’s team members.

Guy F. de Téramond Peralta introduced me to EARTH University in Costa Rica and to Franklin Chang-Dìaz. Franklin has more hours booked in outer space than any other astronaut. He privatized a plasma energy project he invented at NASA that now provides the propulsion for many projects in space. He also invented the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket. When Guy introduced me to EARTH U, I met the then president of Costa Rica, Óscar Rafael de Jesús Arias Sánchez, and Muhammad Yunus, the economist who founded the Grameen Bank and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Sr. Sánchez was president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2010. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 1987, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, and is a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. Mr. Yunus’ speech was moving and helped inspire the new 4-Play sphere compu-phone we are working on. Cell phones are the best way to get people out of poverty but we need a better version that suits the needs of the emerging markets.

Mr. Herb Phillipps Jr. (MBA, CMA), a long time friend and mentor, is a technology innovator and a pragmatic visionary. Herb was the first to put trading records on a computer and was a pioneer of on-line banking. Currently head of his inspired consultancy, HIPNET Inc., Herb took a bankrupt Jamaican bank and made it into the number one earner in the Caribbean in five years, NCB Jamaica Limited. His other clients include AIC Ltd., Global Bank of Commerce (Antigua), InterTrade Financial Corp.(Jamaica) and Fujitsu Jamaica Ltd.

Alexander Eisen and I became fast friends. Alexander has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) protecting the Pentagon from live computer intrusions, is a member of Mandiant, and became part of the recent project where China broke into Google. A National Security Agency-sponsored Computer Science Information Assurance Fellowship award sparked his career.

Most recently, I’ve engaged in a synergistic partnership with James “JR” Ridinger and his wife Loren, the husband and wife team that founded Market America – THE up and coming social shopping giant that purchased, second only to

Hiking up the mountain toward the 1,200-foot Diamante Waterfall

Another recent relationship that inspires me is with Dynamic Fuels, a transitional technology company that can drastically reduce fuel consumption and pollution through an inventive process. I’m honored and proud to have been appointed to the Advisory Board.

JL: You’ve come a long way from the town you grew up in and where you shouldered a lot of pain. Tell me about the early years?

AG: Jo Lee, my mom was a single mother; my dad was a classic alcoholic. They divorced when I was about age six. My sister Kelly is three years younger than I am.

My mom worked long hours for 28 years at the Canada Employment Agency. We were not poor but definitely not rich. It allowed me to be very independent. I told my mom I was considering becoming a male stripper. Her response was: “Great, I will be in the front row to support you!” Needless to say I didn’t go that route after the image I had in my mind. I left high school at grade nine and started a DJ company.

JL: Where on earth did you ever find help to work around your early trials? Was there anyone, anywhere in your vicinity even close to your wavelength? What was it that enabled you to bring yourself into the competitive world you now work in?

AG: I found myself innately attracted to the use of bleeding edge technologies in all my ventures. Constant use of the esoteric became the backbone of my businesses. As I have often said: “Be the collector, connector and perfecter of all the genius of the universe, and then build a go-to market strategy so you have no competition.”

I have a built-in thirst for how the dynamics of economical, ecological and sociological systems work. I see the world’s systems as tapestries of collective, connective consciousness. These are my playgrounds of thought, where I’m at my best.

JL: I read that you had established your own neighborhood communications system in the early 2000s. Was this your first business venture?

AG: VizzEco, Jo Lee, started from a PBS article called The Limits of Sponge Bob Square Pants by Robert Cringely, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Forbes, Upside, Success, and Worth – writing about technology in business with great success in predicting future trends. This article was about my project, which showed that communications and computing, as well as entertainment, can be delivered as a wireless converged utility model leveraging free and open source software. I even had a smart phone that was a combination of Blackberry, iPhone and Mini Tablet all in one. That was 2004.

This article sparked thousands of e-mails and calls and meetings with educators, government, schools and companies – venture capitalists. I learned from this and started to monetize the vision.

The article touched many people and I had people from all over the world contact me – executives at CICSO Systems Inc., Battery Ventures, university professors.

Under the Diamante Verde {green diamond} Waterfalls —
in the middle of Costa Rica’s rainforest.

JL: How did you make that first million?

AG: Built a company that sold satellite entertainment.

JL: You have said, “Costa Rica cured all that” referring to the fallout from your business loss. How so? Did the country’s innovative Universidad EARTH – affectionately called EARTH U – have anything to do with this, Andrew?

AG: Jo Lee, Costa Rica is amazing. I found myself doing things I’ve never been able to do without much effort. There is a 13,000-foot mountain called Chirripó Mountain where you can sit and watch the sun rise on the Atlantic and set on the Pacific from one position. Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world and the country is on track for becoming carbon neutral by 2021. It’s a magical mix of high tech and nature, has the largest microchip plant with Intel and IBM’s largest training centre. Costa Rica highly influences other countries world wide in business and green. EARTH U is an amazing, 20-year-old foundation for sustainable agriculture where they are fostering the next Gandhi.

JL: Andrew, EARTH U inspired you. Out of Costa Rica came many ideas. Tell me more?

AG: Jo Lee, let me give you two examples.

I am looking into how, cacao, an ancient super-food currency can be an answer to some of the most pressing socio-economic and ecological issues of today. Cacao was an ancient currency, rainforest candy.

Compu-phone 4-Play is a phone and computer in one that creates its own free wireless ultra high-speed network between the two devices. It uses kinetic energy that is shared wirelessly between the units. It also shares resources by forming a distributed computing grid and storage. The sphere compu-phone is called 4-Play because that’s what kids call it when they get their hands on this really fast, wireless network that has super-computing power.

The wireless transmission will pick frequencies that will heal you instead of causing cancer, etc. Quantum physics feedback from the device will detect the users chakras frequencies. The built-in LED projector is capable of sharing resources like storage and processor cycles. This addresses the need to reduce carbon and e-waste by creating a pocket device that can reduce the need for laptops, desktops and TV cell towers and server farms.

JL: While we are talking about Costa Rica, maybe this is a good time to ask you about your interest in the mysteries of the ancient stone balls.

AG: Jo Lee, the stories about the stone spheres are the inspiration behind the 4-Play project. Many stories: They sit on energy spots. They collect energy and share it between them in a mesh. You can communicate between them. They represent a model of what you see in the night sky, constellations.

Under the Diamante Waterfalls is a wilderness Ashram, The Diamante Verde Spiritual Sanctuary, one of the most powerful healing vortexes on the planet.

There are more ancient stone spheres than you can see with the naked eye; they are representations of heavenly bodies that you can only see once you are in space. The stones date back to somewhere between 400 and 800 BC.

JL: Andrew, you, among a myriad of ventures, are a founding partner in VizzEco and this is what has intrigued Google. Can you tell me about your company and what you’re setting in motion with Google and how THIS will set the world in m-o-t-i-o-n.

AG: VizzEco brings together a unique blend of people, core competencies, agreements with Google and innovative business models to address the problem of scaling in the Small Medium Business (SMB) market.

Three million companies have already gone Google including 60 percent of the Fortune 100 including GE, Virgin, National Geographic, and Land Rover. As Google pushes its solution down market to SMB and geographically toward Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) where SMB represents 90 percent of the economy, VizzEco is positioned to capitalize on the shift from Microsoft to Google in this marketplace.

To date, VizzEco has been delivering 50 to 70% savings on the cost of email for businesses. In order to dominate this market, VizzEco has pulled together a team of seasoned professionals with complimentary backgrounds.

With 15 years of experience in providing IT services to the SMB market and with experience selling Google phones and green computing, VizzEco has the talent and the technical understanding to dominate this market.

Our goal is to provide a utility-like model of computing and communications that is the most cost effective and lowest possible carbon footprint through a franchise opportunity. Imagine paying one monthly fee per employee that includes everything – including hardware!

JL: And is this where your ingenious idea for BRIC comes into play?

AG: Yes, providing a geopolitically neutral and completely open source solution for BRIC. As a Canadian company, we can provide solutions to BRIC that address the needs of keeping their data local and tailored to their cultures. Canada is known as a culture that has successfully provided the world with infrastructure like roads to Blackberries to banking.

JL: Google has been called the most powerful brand in the world. You have suggested Google is “taking over the world”. How do you see that power working?

AG: Google has used open source Linux software and that creates an opportunity for other companies to build on what Google has started. One can highly customize the offerings. Google only intended to create a standard in the market. HTC and many other companies have their own distinct look and feel to their versions of the Google Android smart phone. Google Business is enabling and empowering other companies to build their brands in the new cloud computing market.

At the beach in the South Pacific’s Dominical, Costa Rica.

JL: And the power of the Internet? Without question, your genius is using this to further your quest for a planet with “clean air, clean food, clean water”?

AG: Jo Lee, what is it we can do at this moment to affect the most positive change {increase prosperity} with the least effort as quickly as possible in a sustainable, eco friendly way for all life on this planet?

We need decentralization and dissemination of information, giving everyone a voice on an independent, decentralized, shared wireless network with the devices themselves forming the network and user devices for communications and computing that is also the infrastructure. Think of having applications that teach you to become self sufficient, pointing a phone at water and taking a picture that analyses it and tells you if it’s drinkable and if not, how to make it drinkable. Or, even how to get water where you are; same for food and shelter and health. Basically, taking indigenous wisdom and making it into an experimental game you play with your phone so people can live off the land and be healthy.

JL: You are so optimistic that technological innovation and social networking can reduce such massive challenges as world poverty and our burgeoning carbon footprint. You have said it is the job of the younger generation now. Are they living up to your expectations?

AG: Yes. We have to create new world leaders. The use of social networking in the Middle East events earlier this year proves that. The youth are waking up to the new influence they have – access to money at a much earlier age, borderless social events, the ability to change the way things are run on a global scale in a heart beat! We have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

JL: Wael Ghonim, Google’s 31-year-old Head of Marketing for Google Middle East and North America, took Egypt by storm almost single handedly. You have a distinct theory, don’t you, as to how Wael should have continued to embrace the fold?

AG: Social networking has empowered the youth to effect rapid and huge change in government. But this leaves a vacuum. In many countries, the military are left in charge. We need a platform for crowd-sourcing new leaders who can be thrust into positions of leadership and not pause midway through.

JL: Andrew, what is the #1 most important philanthropic goal to you at this moment in time?

AG: Human potential. For people to socially and economically uplift themselves through fostering an environment that will increase their self-esteem.

JL: What’s going to set the world: talking?

Muhammad Yunun, founder of Gangladesh’s Grameen Bank, and Andrew at
EARTH University in Costa Rica.

AG: The youth are terraforming our global culture, changing the present agreement with the universe. It’s known as the emotional buy in. By being hyper connected they become one. Simply sit in on a kindergarten class and you will get a peek at our future. Social teaching, crowd sourced learning, on a global scale. Look at Wikipedia: learning is now interactive and you’re part of the course. We are shifting from the knowledge and networking culture to the age of the knowing. Just look at what a kid knows today compared to five years ago. You Tube is only five years old.

JL: Andrew, are you extremely complicated to appear so simple? You lead with vision and an uncanny ability to create order from chaos. You’re constantly challenging the status quo. You make no apologies for your voracious appetite for the kinds of change that propel humanity toward a healthier, greener future.

AG: Yes. And no apologies, Jo Lee. I’m enlightened in ways that are well beyond teachings.

JL: So, you make the impossible possible and the possible impossible. You tell me Andrew that peace is a by-product of sharing; anything centralized becomes a poison; there is no such thing as free advice – out of contrast comes clarity – you must PAY attention. I love it. Can you explain?

AG: There are certain truths that I have learned that serve the higher good. You cannot create or destroy anything in the universe. Only change its form. That’s the magic! As we shift our energy with the planet, we realize humans are much more advanced than a DNA gives credit for.

JL: Where are you, at this moment, in body and mind?

AG: Let’s just say that laughter, yoga and meditation is amazing, Jo Lee. Sometimes I feel like a fire hose of energy and information. I like to create order from chaos; challenge the status quo. I have a voracious appetite for the kinds of change that propel humanity towards a healthier, greener future for all.

JL: You know, one of the most touching things you’ve shared with me, is how your mom had this magnificent way of diffusing your energy – she would aggressively chase you, put you on the ground and tickle you. What an incredible human being!

AG: The best! What an exciting time this has been, Jo Lee! Thank you for this opportunity and for being such an inspiring role model.

JL: A great pleasure, Andrew, all wrapped into continued intrigue.

One Response to “Jo Lee Talks To Andrew Greig: Mr. Intrigue!”

  1. Callum Turner | 03.15.13 at 1:47 PM said…

    Andrew is the man.