Photo: Leszek.Leszczynski

Entrepreneurs often talk about when lightning strikes, that special a-ha moment when inspiration hits. But for former Microsoft engineer Kory Gill lightning struck literally at his Woodinville home during a winter storm in 2007.

“We heard it hit, and it was loud,” recalled Gill, noting that it knocked out the sprinkler system, cable modem and the motherboards of all of his computers.

Gill was lucky since most of the data was backed up. But for the 18-year veteran of Microsoft it was a “wake up call” of sorts, serving as a reminder of the vulnerabilities of digital data. “I realized that if a disaster had destroyed my house that my data and my backups would have both been gone forever, including all of my digital photos,” he said.

Frustrated by other backup services on the market, Gill partnered with former Microsoftie Marius Nita to develop Newline Software. We chatted with Gill to find out more about Newline’s backup service and what sets it apart from other services like Box.net and Mozy.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Newline is the maker of Exact, which protects your files by backing them up to the cloud. It is unique because it encrypts everything before it leaves your computer which is why we call it The Fort Knox of online backup.”

Inspiration hit us when: “Lightning struck my house, and destroyed all of my computers. This prompted a search for an online backup product. I found existing products lacked security, privacy and surprisingly corrupted my files when I restored them.”

Kory Gill

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Newline Software has been funded by its founders and from angel investors through 504D “friends and family” investment rounds. We chose this route because, first and foremost, we wanted to share our future success with our friends and family via ownership of stock. We also wanted to create an efficient company, deliver a world-class product, and stay focused on our original vision.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “OPTIC. Newline Software set out on the “impossible” mission of encrypting everything it stored in the cloud. We worked tirelessly to solve this problem, and ultimately discovered a solution called OPTIC (Online Privacy Technology In the Cloud) that has the potential to set a new standard for how data is stored in the cloud. OPTIC ensures 100 percent privacy of data in the cloud which could eliminate all instances of data breaches on cloud-based servers since hackers would no longer see value in attacking any server protected by OPTIC.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Remaining focused on our initial vision while constantly making adjustments to our strategy and execution as we learned from our experiences. We have never second-guessed ourselves, but rather have looked at every obstacle, problem, and success as a learning experience. Having a good advisory team right from the start and hiring for key positions came close to be the smartest move.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “So far there has been a lot of learning, and we have not made any mistakes in the literal sense. However, reflecting back, we should have trusted our instincts sooner and made certain decisions quicker. Back in 2010, we spent too much time in our initial website design before getting user feedback. Ultimately, our users and customers guided us to solutions that are intuitive and simple.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Mr. Bezos. Amazon is a fantastic company and Mr. Bezos has shown how remaining focused on the customer and offering compelling products leads to success. Amazon’s cloud infrastructure and our product could take current cloud computing to the next level in terms of privacy and security.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: Newline’s discovery of OPTIC and how OPTIC can be used to create 100 percent secure and private applications is a game changer. Now that this technology exists, every privacy-conscious consumer and every business should demand their cloud-based applications encrypt all data in the cloud.

Rivals should fear us because: “Exact demonstrates that applications that store data in the cloud can keep server-side data private and secure, and still remain totally functional. Applications that do not rise to this new standard in storing data in the cloud will have little chance to succeed in the marketplace.”

We are truly unique because: “We are the only company with an online backup product that has 100 percent data privacy. We are also the only company with a technology platform that allows developers to create cloud applications that can query, read, and write encrypted data in the cloud without needing to decrypt the data to perform search operations.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Successfully raising the capital. There were a lot of factors stacked up against us. We have remained steadfast to our vision, mission, goals, and the belief that failure is not an option, and that we will persevere and succeed.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Have a good co-founder or founding team. Ensure everyone agrees on goals, milestones, and vision. When one is just starting out, it is critical to be tenacious, humble; and willing to change. This is important because great challenges are just around the corner. Nothing will ever go exactly as planned, but in the end it’s the results that matter.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send a couple photos of the founder(s) and company logo to tips@geekwire.com. Past profiles can be found here.

Comments

  • Guest

    Interesting concept, but not the only company providing “truly secure” client-side encryption of cloud backup. SpiderOak also / already does this. Hopefully their differentiating feature will be the developer API for other applications to have encrypted cloud storage.

    • http://www.redwireservices.com Nick Webb

      Agreed, they are not the only one that is “truly secure”.  Maybe they are taking it one step further than the rest, but we have to ask if that’s needed?  Many backup products encrypt data at the source before it leaves your network, which seems all encompassing in my book.

      OPTIC sounds interesting, though, and maybe the real play.

  • Steve Jensen

    Amen to that. As Nick mentioned, pretty much all the online backup companies, including ours, Mozy, provide “truly secure” encryption. It’s industry standard. The more important question might be: Can you prove your security with any audits or certifications? Mozy can. We’re the only one who is both SAS 70 Type II audited and ISO 27001 certified.
     

  • http://www.binfire.com Project Collaboration

    I am not sure what is unique here. Encrypting at the user’s computer is not a novel or new idea! Data backup is just a very small part of complete content management and project collaboration we do at http://www.binfire.com.

  • http://www.redwireservices.com Nick Webb

    Looks like Newline just got 1.3 million in funding, but the deeper you read you find out it’s 1.3 million total, and raised from family and friends.  Still adds a little to their story:
    http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2011/10/07/seattle-startup-raises-1-3-million-to-encrypt-the-cloud/

    • johnhcook

      Thanks. Yeah, the Reuters story is confusing whether it is $1.3 million in new cash of if that’s just total raised to date, so I’ve reached out to Newline to clarify.

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