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Amit Bareket, Co-Founder and CEO of personal VPN brand, SaferVPN (now StrongVPN), and business VPN brand, Perimeter 81, shares how he got started in the VPN industry and what it’s like working in the VPN business.
Get to know what sets SaferVPN apart from its competitors, how Bareket stays up to date on the latest security news and what’s next for the company (and industry) in our exclusive interview with Amit.
Can you share your background and why you created SaferVPN?
I studied Computer Science and Economics at Tel Aviv University (Israel) and have extensive experience in system architecture and software development. I founded SaferVPN in 2013 with my college friend, Sagi Gidali. We both dreamed of becoming independent business owners and contributing to society in a meaningful way. While studying at university, Sagi and I developed an app together, submitted it to the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, and won one of the top prizes. Afterward, we began to receive considerable recognition and interest from investors and VCs, and we saw the potential of our working relationship and professional synergy. So, after graduation, we decided to build a business together.
Today, I’m the co-founder and CEO of SaferVPN, a leading virtual private network and cybersecurity SaaS service. SaferVPN provides complete Internet freedom and privacy to hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
What makes SaferVPN stand out from its competitors?
We have a unique patent-pending Automatic WiFi Security feature. Many people today are unaware of the risks associated with public WiFi and only 1 in 3 people can tell the difference between secure and unsecured WiFi networks. For example, at the 2016 Rio Olympics 25% of all the networks were found to be vulnerable to hackers and at the 2018 Russia World Cup over 20% of WiFi hotspots in the host cities had cybersecurity issues. Many WiFi hotspots lack sufficient levels of encryption and are easy targets for hackers.
Unlike other VPN services, which require users to actively connect for WiFi data protection, with SaferVPN the second someone connects to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot, it automatically activates a secure, encrypted VPN connection — even if their phone is in their pocket and in locked mode. This technology, which works across all platforms, solves the huge cybersecurity threat posed by unsecured public WiFi networks today. This type of innovation is what makes us stand out in our industry and is also a strong driver of continuous business development and expansion.
Apart from that, we have a social agenda around freedom of speech and expression; for us, this is not just a business. We are focused on the real benefit our solution offers: helping people exercise their basic human rights and access to an uncensored Internet experience. For some, lack of freedom to Internet access and online privacy can be a critical situation — even a matter of life or death. As Internet freedom fighters, we’ve established #UnblocktheWeb, a ground-breaking partnership with Movements.org, a human rights crowdsourcing platform, to offer free VPN service to dissidents and activists living in closed societies, so they too can access information and express themselves freely and openly online.
What’s the culture like at SaferVPN?
Israel is widely known as the “Start Up Nation” due to its reputation as a global high-tech hub for innovation and startups – with the greatest concentration of tech companies outside Silicon Valley. We have a vibrant and cool culture at our HQ located in the heart of Tel Aviv and the majority of our employees are millennials.
We are very multicultural – our team consists of people from Israel, the United States, Belgium, Russia, Kazakhstan and many other countries. We hire those who have the same values with us, are passionate about what they’re doing and want to grow with the company and be a part of building the next generation of cybersecurity products and solutions.
Any additional tips for people to stay safe online?
There are a few principles you can stick to which will prevent you from becoming an easy victim for cyber criminals. First of all, don’t use an obvious password like your name, your kid’s name or your birthday, and don’t re-use the same password over multiple websites or apps. We recommend using a password manager to generate and store strong passwords (We at SafeSmartLiving recommend Dashlane).
Second, think critically about which links you click on and which emails you open. A phishing email may claim to be from a legitimate company and when you click the link to the website, it may look exactly like the real website. Make it a habit to check the address of the website – a secure website always starts with “https”.
What do you see in the future for the VPN industry?
We think that VPN technology is the future of Internet access — for the everyday netizen and small business owner to the largest corporations and global enterprises. The current demand for VPN solutions is increasing, with one of the major drives of this demand being the rapid growth of unsecured WiFi networks. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, public WiFi hotspots are expected to grow to 432 million by 2020. Meanwhile, a study by Kaspersky revealed that, with the lack of security on public networks, 1 in 5 people and 3 in 10 senior business managers have been hit by cybercrime while on-the-go.
On the personal VPN front, the need for consumers to turn to VPN applications is increasing by the day. Originally, when we began our business, we found that expats were seeking a way to access their favorite content while abroad, but now, with the growing popularity of unsecured WiFi hotspots, and the new regulations regarding Net Neutrality and Internet privacy rights — the need for accessible, easy to use and holistic cybersecurity services is undeniable. Customers are turning to us because their personal accounts have been hacked when they’ve traveled and connected to a WiFi hotspot, or they fear their personal data will be sold by their Internet Service Provider. With the number of public WiFi expected to grow 700 percent by 2020, and the recent regulations stripping consumers of their online browsing privacy, the increasing demand for personal VPN solutions is guaranteed.
How do you stay up-to-date in the security world?
I enjoy reading the main tech and security publications and blog influencers in security field. Also, the cybersecurity landscape in Israel is extremely strong — one quarter of the world’s venture capital-funded cybersecurity startups are Israeli and despite being the size of New Jersey, Israel has the world’s second-largest cyber market, second only to the U.S. I learn a great deal from observing the emerging technology from the thriving cybersecurity ecosystem here and interacting with other cybersecurity startup founders based in Israel.
Who is your mentor and what did you learn from them?
I didn’t have a specific mentor but the person I learned a lot from and continue to learn from is my co-founder and CPO of SaferVPN, Sagi Gidali. A huge advantage in the success of SaferVPN is that we both come from tech backgrounds, having both been in elite intelligence units in the army and then working in corporate tech positions afterwards. I think the reason we decided to found the company together and what allowed us to build a profitable business is that our skills make a really good match. Sagi is from the user experience world, and my background is in infrastructure and storage – we are combining our experience at SaferVPN. From the start of the company I was responsible for the back-end, technical and product side, and Sagi for the front-end user experience, design and marketing.
Also, we’ve been able to gain useful insights from our army colleagues as well as successful CEOs within the Israeli hi-tech and startup ecosystem who we were introduced to as a result of our military service and experience.
What do you like to do for fun?
I really like extreme outdoor activities. Right now I love spending time with my newborn son, Yoav.
What’s next for you?
With the success of our B2C product we have expanded into the B2B market and currently we are focused on growing this arm of the business. Our corporate product Perimeter 81 is a leading cloud VPN solution, and with it, we are dedicated to transforming secure network access for the modern and distributed workforce. We have experienced double-digit growth every month since it was released. Unlike traditional VPN technology, Perimeter 81’s highly scalable, cost-effective and easy-to-use cloud VPN service gives companies of all industries and sizes the power to be confidently cloud-based and completely mobile.
In terms of SaferVPN, we’re continuously working on improving the customer experience, be it via increasing the number of languages available on our website to expanding the payment options to enhancing our customer support services. We know that the VPN space is a crowded one, and will only continuing to grow. To keep our edge over the competition, we are constantly innovating to ensure we continue to offer the best, simplest, and most relevant cybersecurity products in the market.VPN