6 Years of Boxcryptor – A Look Behind the Scenes
Time goes by so fast. This means it is party time at Boxcryptor again. Last year, we held a fabulous party to celebrate the first half decade of Boxcryptor. This year, we celebrate the 6th birthday of Boxcryptor and the 6th anniversary of the founding of Secomba GmbH.
For this occasion we would like to give you a look behind the scenes of a startup. See who we are and how it all began in this retrospect of the first six years of Boxcryptor.
How it all began
On a beautiful day towards the end of the year 2010, Andrea and Robert who just graduated from the University of Augsburg had a pretty good idea. That is, first they had a good idea: they wanted to start a business. The two had met in a business simulation course at the university and decided to become business partners. She as a specialist for economic law and he as a computer scientist make a good team right from the start. On May 11th 2011, the Acomba UG – today’s Secomba GmbH – was registered officially.
They started to develop a business model. But soon, the first problem came up. Where to store the data generated in the early stage of a startup? Just storing it on the PC is not very flexible and it makes collaboration complicated. The cloud seems like a much better choice: one is flexible, can share data and collaborate easily. But is that really secure?
This is when the pretty good idea comes into play. Robert quickly writes a software to encrypt their own data at Dropbox. As other people might need this solution as well, he shares the prototype of the encryption software in the Dropbox forum. And here our story begins.
From the first week on, there are many people who download Boxcryptor as a guardian of their data in the cloud. Andrea and Robert seize their opportunity, change their initial business idea and send Boxcryptor on its mission in August 2011: to ensure privacy in the cloud.
The First Year: A Good Idea, a Grant and Everything Just Falls Into Place
Earlier on, Robert and Andrea had taken their first business idea to the EXIST Business Startup Grant of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, and beat the competition. With this funding for startups, they are able to work on Boxcryptor full-time: Robert on perfecting the encryption solution, and Andrea on legal details, marketing and PR campaigns.
The EXIST grant also covers the first own office. As most of us have to start small, Robert and Andrea start their successful business in a small two-man/woman office at the Institute for Computer Science of the University of Augsburg.
However, they start growing soo: The first official employee is Boris, a student at the University of Augsburg, who wants to gain experience as a developer during an internship at the young company. And this is something we are really proud of: This first employee is still with Boxcryptor as of today. He is a part of our team right from the beginning and he is still as happy here as on his first day.
The Journey Continues as We Grow More and More
In the beginning of the year, the team still consists of Andrea, Robert and Boris, who contributes to the development of Boxcryptor now as a working student. Back then and today his area of expertise is Android.
In May, the successfully concluded search for investors brings some changes. With the support of our three business angels Jan Hichert, Markus Hennig and Gert Hansen – who recognize the potential of Boxcryptor even before the Snowden disclosures and various cloud affairs – the team can grow significantly. In April, the Boxcryptor team moves into a new office at aiti-Park Augsburg, with more space for the growing number of employees.
By the end of the year, the team has grown from three to twelve members. This is is one of the first team photos, taken at the Christmas Market in Augsburg:
Boxcryptor has already won the attention of the public and several loyal users who trust us with the protection of their cloud. The growth and innovative idea of Boxcryptor are rewarded with second place at the innovation award of the German Telekom in 2012 - where we also win the audience choice - and with first place at the startup competition at the European Pirate Summit.
Significant Change and Explosive Disclosures: An Exciting Year
The year 2013 brings two events that have a big impact on Boxcryptor. One we initiated ourselves, the other was beyond our power.
After two years of working on Boxcryptor, it was time for some fundamental changes. After all, we needed to make Secomba fit for the future, and ensure the functionality and usability of Boxcryptor. The former versions of BoxCryptor become Boxcryptor Classic, while a new Boxcryptor generation with many new features takes their place. Of course, some of our users disliked the idea of a change. However, the success of the new Boxcryptor has confirmed that this decision was necessary.
On December 5th 2013, the release of Boxcryptor for Mac OS X completes the change on all platforms. New features that were not possible previously include group functions, collaboration, sharing files, and advanced features for companies.
The new version brings along a new logo and the first Boxcryptor t-shirts and sweaters.
In June 2013, a previously unknown system administrator turns the world of IT and security as well as politics upside down. Edward Snowden discloses secret documents about the surveillance methods of the NSA and other authorities, and all of a sudden is worldwide known as a whistleblower and becomes a public enemy of the USA. The disclosed documents contain information about large scale surveillance methods used by the US and other states.
What does that have to do with us? Well, the number of Boxcryptor users rises significantly, as more and more people realize that they have to actively and personally take measures if they want to protect their privacy. Understandably enough, they become more sensitive about data stored with US cloud providers. During this summer, we no longer have to explain to people why they should encrypt their data, just how.
Achievements and Milestones
In May 2013, just before the NSA affair, we reach 100,000 downloads of Boxcryptor Classic for Android from the Play Store.
In November, we win the founders’ award of the German economy magazine Wirtschaftswoche worth 300,000€. Other startup businesses that won the award in previous years are Armedangels, Chocri and Avocado Store.
New Office and More Team Growth
This year we move again, into a bigger office in the same building.
By the end of the year the team has grown to 14 employees, and of course we visit the Christmas Market again, to warm up for the Christmas party:
This year, there is no actual relocation, but we rent additional adjoining office space. At the time, the software has been downloaded 1 million times already and is available on all platforms. In order to maintain the software and to develop new features, we need even more skilled people. Over the year, the team continues to grow and some of the working students become fulltime employees.
The Boxcryptor team in 2014
With Caipi, another important security officer joins the Boxcryptor team.
The year 2014 is quite an exciting one because we win the German Founders’ Award in the category startup. After that, TV stops by for a report about our company and our daily work. They discuss cloud security and the challenges of a successful startup with us, and catch a glimpse of our developers at work.
For the award ceremony, Robert actually wears a suit instead of the usual hoodie or FC Augsburg fan jersey.
It is for the first time in the history of the young Secomba that the focus is not only on Boxcryptor alone.
We have noticed that Boxcryptor was missing an important feature, which however is an essential factor for many people to use the cloud in the first place. In the cloud, you can share data with anyone who has a connection to the Internet. You create a link, send it to the recipient, and even without access to the cloud he can see and receive the files. Previously, to perform this action while keeping the data protected with Boxcryptor, both sender and recipient had to be Boxcryptor users. Our solution to this was developing a new, free product: the data transfer service Whisply, which can be used either directly in Boxcryptor or independently in the browser. From now on, sensitive files can be securely encrypted and shared with anyone who has Internet access. In 2015, we release a beta version of Whisply.
Boxcryptor sees the world
This year is the first time we attend the RSA Conference in San Francisco, one of the most important international conferences for IT security. There, we meet many security experts and large companies and talked to them about our encryption solution.
The team has grown to 20 employees. But so far, we all still fit on one beer table, as for this well earned beer after the team event at the forest climbing park in Scherneck.
2016 is the year of new and exciting partnerships. For Whisply, things get serious as well.
New Partnerships for Boxcryptor
Boxcryptor is chosen by the pioneer cloud provider Dropbox to become its premier technology partner for encryption. When Dropbox Business customers approach Dropbox with high privacy regulations or concerns for privacy, Dropbox recommends Boxcryptor as a go to encryption solution for them. We are very happy and proud to have been chosen as technology partner and we are thankful for the trust they have in us.
Another partnership is especially interesting for cloud users in Germany. After the German Telecom renewed and rebranded their cloud service as MagentaCLOUD, they chose us as the tool to recommend to their customers, in case they want more privacy and security for their cloud. On their website, they recommend Boxcryptor to their customers.
Official Whisply Release
Whisply officially leaves the beta in 2016 and is fully functional. To encrypt communication is still an important topic. The messenger app WhatsApp encrypts chats per default by now, and email programs that offer end-to-end encryption, such as ProtonMail, are gaining more and more popularity. The only problem with these systems is that users can only share files or messages securely and simply, when both parties use the same system. We had exactly the same restriction at Boxcryptor. Whisply solves this problem since users can now send files and data to people who do not use the cloud or Boxcryptor. If someone does not use Boxcryptor on a regular basis, they can still share files with Whisply directly in their browser, just like with WeTransfer or Transfer XL, but more secure.
At the end of the year we grew to a team of 27 and many working students turned into fulltime employees.
And what are we up to when we are not busy saving the (cloud)-world with bullet-proof encryption?
We solve long forgotten crimes in Augsburg’s historic Textilviertel and work on our creative side during a crime-themed city tour.
We successfully fight through the pouring rain during the yearly Augsburg Company Run…
… and of course we have legendary parties every now and then, for example last year around this time, celebrating the fifth birthday of the company and Boxcryptor.
All New on Our Website and Forbes
The year of 2017 is still young, but nonetheless a lot has happened so far. Boxcryptor is in the black for the third year in a row and more and more companies use our software to protect their data. To be able to inform our personal and business users about us in a better and timelier fashion, we started the project New Website. You probably already know the result. Anyhow, we are over the moon and really proud of the outcome.
And we have more reason to be proud: Andrea made it on the Forbes list 30 under 30 Europe in the category technology. There, she is in good company, with other great entrepeneurs and success stories, such as the founder of HelloFresh or a security engineer at Signal.
Additionally, we are very happy about our new and by far smallest team member. Since January, Andrea is not only one of the 30 under 30 in Europe, she is also the proud new mum of a cute, little Boxcryptor babygirl.
What we are up to in 2017
Team size: 27 employees
Our focus is still on new features, higher usability and innovation. In detail, this means that we are working on a solution for Single Sign On for our enterprise users and that we also want to implement two-factor-authentication for our single users. For the rest, stay tuned and just wait and see. Thank you very much for all your support and loyalty over the last years. We hope that you will stay with us for many more years to come.
All the best,
Your Boxcryptor Team