In today’s digital world, privacy should be top priority for companies of every size – not only because it protects customers, but because it’s good for business.
According to Cisco research, 97% of companies have experienced enhanced competitive advantage and investor interest after investing in privacy, and for more than 40% of those companies, the realised benefits were at least twice that of their privacy spend. Consumers want three things from their tech; privacy, security and control, and those pillars were top of mind for YEO Messaging co-founder Alan Jones when deciding to build the privacy-first communication app.
We sat down with him to find out why after successfully exiting three previous businesses, it was finally time to disrupt the data privacy market.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into the world of entrepreneurship?
I started my first business at the age of 26 after working with a US magnetic tape manufacturer. The business was acquired by an aggressive competitor and many of the staff were terminated. I had recently won business from them at Olivetti and was told to replace the product with the competitor’s product, I refused, so they let me go and paid me six months compensation. With my wife we set up a company called Memory Technology, supplying data storage solutions to the UK corporate market and developing our own range of portable storage devices under the brand name Shuttle. Following this we founded Shuttle Technology Group and the rest is history, we have been unemployable since!
When did the idea for YEO Messaging first come to you?
In 2008, I really began to notice the vulnerability that people faced when sending personal stuff across social media and messaging platforms. We were all losing control of our data the moment we hit send. I had an idea to create a messaging platform that would dissolve the message (Mission Impossible style) while it was being read. I never followed it through as I was in the middle of preparing Atrium Innovation for sale to Sumitomo Chemical. After Snapchat successfully launched in 2012, I realised I had definitely missed the boat on that one! A few years later however, I realised we could protect people in a different way so we wrote the IP for YEO.
That was the easy part. I had been working with YEO Co-Founder and Chief Security Officer Luca Rognoni in a couple of companies I invested in. He is a genius with digital rights management so he and I worked on the technical idea. I then next took the idea to my daughter Sarah, who was running her own branding agency at the time and was an experienced digital marketeer, and her now husband Keith Bone an award-winning creative designer. Together we worked the design and the use cases and Keith did a brilliant job on the app design and branding. Then in 2019, we met Alan Wilson who just loved the product and wanted to get involved, Alan rounded the team with his technical and corporate systems experience.
What was the first order of business in getting the startup off the ground?
My experience taught me to produce a proper schematic of the product you wanted to build, so you could walk through the design and the user experience, and then to write down what you think is unique that might enable you to patent-protect the idea. So that’s exactly what we did.
What does YEO Messaging provide that other messaging services providers don’t?
YEO Messaging provides absolute trust and control over everything you send. It’s one of the only products available which guarantees that only the human being you choose to send your message to can see it.
Many companies now have hopped on the “privacy” bandwagon. Most of them focus on limited retention of user data. They then add additional security through encryption which prohibits governments or others from intercepting messages and spying. Few really appreciate that privacy goes far beyond this. It includes ownership of your data and ensuring that the integrity of it is maintained.
How did you go about building your tech?
We built the minimum viable product through a third party team in the Ukraine, then employed a team here in the UK as the core development team who have taken the idea through to release.
How does your patented facial recognition technology work?
Very simply! To view a given message you just look at the device (the majority of smartphones have a front camera so we use this to sample your facial features while you’re reading the message) and provided it is a positive recognition, the message displays.
It took quite a bit of technical development to ensure that the face recognition was not intrusive and to marry the security and control features into the product without compromising intuitive use. As a result, it’s quite natural and does not require any behavioural change.
How do you plan to use the proceeds from this round to grow the business?
We have already started hiring more developers, in fact I just finished a final interview with a great new developer. We also plan to accelerate the introduction of the YEO-Pro and YEO Business products.
As the founder of a business that puts privacy first, how do you protect your own privacy in today’s digital world?
I use YEO, I limit my exposure on any Facebook product and I ensure that I set all the privacy settings I can on my devices. I consciously restrict personal information or personal posts online and try to keep my head down. I also religiously clear my cookies and any other legacy spyware from websites.
What would your advice be to aspiring founders in the tech space?
Research your idea thoroughly, write down why your idea is unique, always remember in the tech space you need a “painkiller” to succeed, not a “vitamin”.
When you’re not running YEO, what are you doing?
I am always running YEO, that’s what it takes to succeed, there is no off switch. However, I play as much tennis as time allows on the weekends and love gardening (it’s amazing what new ideas you can think of for YEO while gardening).
Featured on Seedrs Blog – https://www.seedrs.com/learn/blog/investing/meet-the-founder-of-yeo-messaging