Online privacy is a big issue for many web users. With the increasing amount of information being asked for and collected from various services, consumers are looking for solutions to help them protect their privacy.
A high profile start-up, abine.com, recently crossed 1.5 million downloads of its Do Not Track product. In an exclusive interview with the CEO of Abine, Bill Kerrigan, we get an idea of how Abine started and what vision they have for protecting consumers.
Hi Bill, how did Abine start? What did the founding team see in the marketplace that made them compelled to start Abine? More importantly, what did you see in Abine that made you join as CEO?
Abine was founded by MIT engineers who saw an opportunity: the next big challenge for web users would be controlling their own data and privacy online. They knew that it would require innovative technology solutions, and they began testing in 2008. The privacy space emerged, and it became more clear that consumers were ready to take action. We debuted the business and received $5.2 million in our A round in June 2011.
I started to see privacy issues on the front page of the newspapers every day, and it began to feel like anti-virus did a decade ago. I believe that we have a huge opportunity in front of us, and that ultimately hundreds of millions of people will use privacy tools to protect and manage their personal data.
Abine raised over $5m from high profile VCs (Atlas and General Catalyst), what did they see in Abine that separated you from the all the other companies in the space?
I think they saw the same things that I saw when I joined as CEO. We have a great team and technology and we’re addressing the problems posed by a new industry: online privacy and personal data management. The reality is that things are changing and people are becoming more aware of how their data is collected, stored, shared, and sold online. People are ready to take action, and Abine tools can be the solution.
You were once the head of McAfee’s worldwide consumer business, and grew it from 1.8m customers to over 23m customers and $400 million in revenue during that time. Do you think Abine could get that big?
This opportunity has the same feeling I had a decade ago working in Internet security. Before AVG and McAfee had hundreds of millions of users, you could feel the industry was onto something big. Privacy feels the same way, and I expect it to be similar market size. We do believe this is a multi-billion dollar global opportunity:
– We recently surpassed more than 1.5 million downloads of our DNT product, which blocks ad and social networks from collecting data about web users;
– We have thousands of subscribers to one of our premium products, DeleteMe, which removes personal data from the web.
– And we’re seeing huge growth in the space. We expect that 28.1 million people in North America will be using anti-tracking tools and services by the end of 2012.
Like the security space, we think the privacy space is a huge market. 90% of people care at least somewhat about companies using and selling their data without their permission, and 70% say they worry tremendously.
Abine recently passed 1.5 million downloads of its DoNoTrack product. How many consumers do you think will use a product like DoNotTrack within the next 5 years?
Privacy concerns for users will continue to evolve alongside web technology and regulation, so we plan to expand to tools and products well beyond DNT+. Our goal is to be beside people whenever their data is being collected and used online. This will mean providing tools that prevent behind-the-scenes data collection, which is what DNT+ does; making tools that protect against information we knowingly give out, like our social media posts and credit card numbers when we make a purchase; and helping people remove the personal data that’s already out there online.
If you consider this full privacy ecosystem, we expect tens of millions of people in the US will be using privacy tools as well as tens of millions more internationally.
What are some of the products that Abine is looking to launch in the future? What is Abine’s long-term objective as a company?
Right now, we’re very focused on delivering premiere products in the space that improve users’ privacy and web experience. We have several products in beta, including GoogleSharing, a tool that stops Google from storing people’s search data. Ultimately, we want to be alongside users whenever their data is being shared or collected, so you can look for Abine to offer products that will help guide web users across web, mobile, social, and other areas.