Skycryptor: Providing Security For Cloud Storage

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Working as a team often implies working with cloud based storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive. To secure working with these tools Skycryptor has found an innovative solution. Co-founder Aram Jivanyan explains more:

Describe Skycryptor in 50 words or less.

Skycryptor is an innovative security solution for cloud storage and collaboration tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive and alike. It helps the user to encrypt files before uploading them to the entrusted cloud application and allows to easily search, share and collaborate over the encrypted data.

Skycryptor: Providing Security For Cloud StorageHow did you discover the need for the encryption service? What problem are you solving?

Back in 2014 our team at American University of Armenia was doing a cryptography research for Samsung. We were developing proprietary cryptographic algorithms and code for the company, and using Dropbox or Google Drive for collaborating was prohibited since the cloud storage providers have access to all the stored sensible information.

We had to follow the commonly used, but time-consuming and cumbersome process for secure document sharing. First, we had to archive and secure the data with password protection, then the password and the data had to be shared separately via different communication channels. Now imagine going through this process for all versions of the code or scientific articles. It is very annoying and you miss the real-time collaboration and version controlling functionalities provided by modern cloud collaboration tools.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

No challenge seems big after you overcome it, and I am sure the big challenges for Skycryptor are still ahead. But so far in addition to hard technical challenges, we went through phases when top employees left the team (they were very good leaves actually). You feel broken with no team behind. For a long time, we could not recruit the required talent in Yerevan, we constantly missed our deadlines. Eventually, we hired a brilliant guy from Poland and are very lucky to have him as part of our team now.

When applying to the security acceleration program of Kaspersky Lab, the main reason we were rejected was their concern that we wouldn’t be able to build the file system driver-based encryption. This was not a task for a small team of 4. However, we have built and launched it already 🙂

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

At this moment our success is all about the number of people we help to stay secure and privately collaborate in the cloud.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We won several startup competitions in Armenia and then the first Armenian VC firm Granatus Ventures injected a small amount of cash in our startup development. At that time we were at the idea stage having only a couple of algorithms and concepts on the paper. Now, having a proven technology wrapped around the product and existing users, we plan to raise capital later this year.

What is the most important thing for successful fundraising?

The only thing investors really care about is the return of their investment. So instead of wasting time telling them how cool your idea or product is, how experienced your team is or how your startup could change the world you should convince them that they will get return on their investment. This sounds elementary but such a mindset changes a lot.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Our patent-pending technology solves problems that have persisted for years. The innovation is twofold:

First, we have developed an encryption key management technique allowing to share encrypted data in cloud applications without worrying about the password or certificate management. This will make the end-to-end encrypted file sharing via Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive or WebEx a very straightforward process for everybody.

Secondly, based on our proprietary searchable encryption algorithm we developed a platform allowing users to search in encrypted cloud data, keeping it secure and accessible at the same time. We are a pioneer company bringing such functionality to the industry. And we believe its usage is not limited to cloud only. For example, the search in email is imperative and thus encrypted search is imperative in secure email solutions. I believe one of the main reasons that so far no secure mail solution has found a wide adoption is the lack of search functionality in encrypted emails.

What do you look for in team members?

Persistence and sense of humor.

Why would a talent join your team?

I believe the most important thing for attracting top talent is not to give up on hiring the best people. Strong people prefer working with strong people and this should be the core of the hiring philosophy. At this moment we are a bit far from offering free lunches or gym subscriptions 😉 But we are generous in providing hard technical and scientific problems along with our vision of making the world (or rather the Internet) a more secure place. And this has proven to be enough. Regarding gym subscriptions, I am always happy to stand up and do push ups whenever a teammate wants to.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

Seeing our product work in reality was the most exciting and memorable moment. It still seems magnificent to me seeing how the search works in encrypted cloud stored files or how we allow sharing encrypted Dropbox folders simply via the Dropbox native sharing methods.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

It is assumed that there is a big tradeoff between security and usability, and that those who prefer usability deserve to be hacked. We will change this status quo by proving that security and usability should not compromise one another. If we quantify the Snowden effect, we will see that about 60% of internet users have heard about his revelations and of those aware of Edward Snowden (39%) have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security afterwards. Put this fact inline with making a functional and user-friendly encryption and we will see how many people will find peace of mind due to our product in the next 7 years.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

When your innovation does not work or you f*ck up, you can create an even more innovative product or service again. When the team you built is falling apart, you still can build a stronger and better one. Stay calm and do not underestimate the learning process.



Featured Image: Co-founders Azat Manukyan & Aram Jivanyan

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