Companies need to make money to survive, obviously, and I get asked a lot how they do that if they offer an app for free. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t pay anything for the services, the company actually monetizes the tracking, scanning, and profiling of you and your data.
At its base Ekko is a central hub for messaging and content. That is, it provides a strong UX for people who want all of their messaging platforms in one, easy to use solution. The team went way beyond that though and decided to couple those features with the best possible data security they could provide.
Together, the three cofounders believe that internet services can be innovative, feature rich, and powerful without compromising individual data, privacy, and security. I sat down with Rick Peters to talk more about this philosophy and how they’ve built Ekko to embody it.
Where did you get the initial idea for Ekko?
My partners and I are serial entrepreneurs who have long dealt with communications. Obviously people are always using chat, text, voicemail, and emails, but there’s also a strong desire and market need for people to send messages on those platforms securely.
We couldn’t find that in any other products on the market, so we decided to put it together ourselves. We built a hub for messaging that encompasses all your message types and built in the ability to send secure messages on top of it. We thought it would be easy, but as we found out it wasn’t.
The biggest challenge was the integration aspect. We needed to hook up to Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not to mention we have to deal with third party issues and the changing landscape about who will choose to share what and allow us to do what we want with it.
Specifically, what are you protecting?
Personal privacy is something we have a right to and something we need to preserve. If you use our app we don’t make any money off of you or your data. We use industry standard practices for encryption and to protect our physical servers. We’re not trying to go overboard saying we’re NSA secure, and we’re not trying to protect people from the NSA. All we want to do is protect users’ data from profiling, stealing secrets, and things like that.
What’s your model and how do your users feel about it?
Everybody gives their app away for free – the concept is that you give things away, you grab market share, and then figure out how to monetize. Now, often the only way to monetize is through peoples’ data. We believe that there are enough people out there who would be willing to have their data protected. To that end we charge monthly or annual fees for our users to ensure that protection.
So far they’re enjoying it even though we’ve been taking our time growing. Currently, we have a few thousand users, and I’d say 98 percent of them are paying. Every six to eight weeks we try to iterate a new release and learn from peoples’ feedback. They’re great at telling us what they like and don’t. You can sit in a vacuum but until you get out into the real world you don’t know anything.
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