SurfEasy

Get to know a Toronto startup: SurfEasy

In today's world of WiFi hot spots and public networks, protecting your privacy online has become vital. Browsers can store your history, internet providers can monitor your activity, and websites can track your data. Working out of King and Spadina, however, Toronto's SurfEasy is providing low cost privacy protection, online freedom, and identity protection to consumers around the globe.

With a USB key that slips into your wallet, you can carry your own private web browser in your pocket. Need to use another computer to check Facebook? Plug in your SurfEasy key and do it securely. When you're done, just pull it out and your data is never left behind.

Further, Canadian customers get an added benefit: SurfEasy allows you to choose your location, allowing you to access sites like Pandora and Hulu that often are only available from within the US. Say goodbye to the dreaded "This content is not available in your country" message the next time you try to play a song or watch a video.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Houston, SurfEasy's founder and CEO. A former VP at Virgin Mobile, he outlined his product, company, and vision for online privacy. Here is what he had to say:

What is SurfEasy and how does it work?

Fundamentally, SurfEasy is the simplest way to protect your privacy online. We believe that issues around who can see what you are doing online and whether or not a website is tracking you have become really relevant. Our product is a USB key - a portable private web browser that can be plugged into any computer. You have access to your bookmarks, passwords, and history, but we never store any information on the computer. All of the data in and out of the browser is wrapped in bank grade encryption and when you remove your key, nothing is left behind.

How many users do you have?

We have tens of thousands of customers in 50 different countries around the world. We are now on the shelves in Staples and have just shot our first TV commercial that will be on the air in the US in March.

Who are your competitors? How are you different?

In the enterprise space, there are a lot of companies doing VPN (such as Cisco), but we are trying to take that technology and make it accessible to a mainstream target audience. While proxy solutions exist, they are very technical and often targeted towards people who are comfortable re-programming their browser.

In terms of our current product, a portable USB encrypted browser, and there really is nothing else out there like that. There is a real opportunity in taking these solutions and making them consumer-friendly.

And in terms of pricing, how much does it cost?

It is $69.99 and it is a one-time fee. There is no bandwidth cost and nothing else to pay ever again.

You first launched the product on KickStarter, how would describe that experience?

It was great - we were one of the top ten projects on there at the time. The sales were good, but it also allowed us to engage with customers. Input from KickStarter users influenced our privacy policy, our product, and our features.

You also work very closely with Mantella Venture Partners, how has that impacted your company?

It has been really good. I have done a few startups with a lot of different VCs and Mantella differentiates themselves by being much more hands on. They get heavily involved in the companies they invest in and being able to leverage that is a really big plus. They are also really well respected in the Canadian and US startup community and it has really helped us open up a lot of doors.

And finally, what are your next steps?

The biggest question we get from our customers is 'Can we get it on my iPad?' and we are launching the mobile version of our solution in the very near future!

Writing by Vasant Kumar


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