David Gorodyansky received his first investment for his web-security startup AnchorFree in 2006. The cash flow kept the project running smoothly for two years up until the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Fortunately, despite the ups and downs of the recession, AnchorFree survived and has since raised $62.8 million more from investors, including Goldman Sachs. The service now boasts 400 million users in 200 countries.
In 2011, AnchorFree’s flagship Hotspot Shield was credited for making 2011’s Arab Spring protests possible. It assisted as many as a million Egyptian citizens to organize on Facebook away from local government spies.
Now AnchorFree is taking what Gorodyansky says is its next level: Bringing open internet access to 1b+ people around the world, directly competing with Facebook’s controversial “Free Basics” campaign. See “What is Free Basics” section for more information.
And in light of the ongoing Apple-FBI clash, AnchorFree’s apps have hit the top of the Apple App Store. Why? If Apple develops the technology that the FBI is asking for, which it doesn’t currently have, it will have major ramifications for the cyber world. Once that technology exists, it could easily get into the wrong hands, which could lead to increased cyber-attacks or hacking that will put everyone at risk. People are running scared and jumping to conclusions that their personal information may be easily leaked if the technology is developed.
About Hotspot Shield
In the United States, HotSpot Shield is popularly used to protect your personal information while using public Wi-Fi — at, say, Tim Hortons — while also letting you trick services such as Netflix into thinking you live in Canada or Germany (when in actuality you don’t) to access movies found only in those regions.
The same app that lets users dodge Netflix’s region restrictions also enables users in countries like Venezuela and Egypt to circumvent government censorship.
The secret formula is the creation of a “virtual private network,” also known as VPN. If you subscribe to its $2.49 a month service, Hotspot Shield will trick your phone or PC into securely routing its traffic through AnchorFree’s own servers in the USA, keeping it away from a potential no-good spies.
A More Secure Web Experience
Over the years, AnchorFree has seen a major shift in the way people use Hotspot Shield. At its 2006 founding, Gorodyansky states, 95% of customers were using it on their PCs and Macs. Today, as the iPhone, Windows and Android users grow exponentially, it’s closer to 75% mobile.
With that shift, Gorodyansky says, it made his company rethink privacy on the phone. And there’s no better time than now, especially with Apple putting encryption on everyone’s minds and a huge opportunity for connecting the developing world.
“We want to add privacy and security controls to the things people do on their phones,” he says.
That’s exactly the reason why AnchorFree is working on other apps, including Kaboom Keyboard, a Snapchat picture-messaging clone that you access straight from your iPhone’s keyboard.
What is “Free Basics”
Free Basics Service offered by Facebook provides free access to basic internet services to people who don’t have access to it, especially in third world countries like India. Facebook is purportedly working with partners, including Samsung, Qualcomm, Ericsson and a few other firms, to make this possible. As well, Facebook is partnering with local mobile operators in individual countries.
One argument against Free Basics is that by providing access to some services and not others, it violates the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. Critics also argue that the decision of which services are critical and which are not should be left up to the people themselves and not to Facebook. Read more about the controversy here.