Encrypted communications firm Silent Circle is riding an unexpected wave of attention and success following a spate of recent high-profile cyber attacks to have hit the tech industry.
In an interview last night in London, CMO Rob Smith (pictured) told Mobile World Live that the growth of the Blackphone maker, whose clients include “30 to 40 per cent of Fortune 100 companies”, has taken the firm by surprise.
The original Blackphone was launched last year and the company has notched up around $750 million worth of orders since June from Silent Circle’s broad portfolio – which stretches across ‘privacy first’ devices, software and services.
Expected to be out in the second half of this year, Smith said its new Blackphone 2 will be more sophisticated than its predecessor and will be a “high-end, premium priced” product with a Qualcomm chip and a 5.5-inch screen, compared to the “mid-range” hardware of the first phone.
The device is based on the ZRTP mobile architecture and follows the first-generation Blackphone, designed to address enterprise concerns about the use of mobile devices following headline-grabbing cyber attacks. ZRTP is a cryptographic key-agreement protocol to negotiate encryption keys required to establish an end-to-end secured VoIP call.
The company believes it has created a differentiated product that taps into a market that didn’t exist before, spurred on by the need for a “different type of mobile protection architecture”.
Not all customers use the Blackphone models, however. Some prefer to use the Silent Circle app for iOS and Android. The company, which says its motto is privacy without compromise, is looking to create an entire ecosystem around its software, devices and services, such as a calling plan to make encrypted calls around the world without roaming charges, as well as an app store, which will curate apps that help protect security.
“We are working through partnerships on exactly how to build it and it is set to launch in the next three to six months,” said Smith, adding that it will serve as a “third vector into the apps store world where apps will be rated for security rather than, say, popularity.”
In addition to the Blackphone 2 and its software and services strategy, Silent Circle will also launch its first tablet later this year, the Blackphone+.
The company recently raised $50 million to support future growth but Smith said it is not not looking to raise more, and would rely on private investment rather than VC funding.
He feels they have a “pretty good handle on where we are as a business” in terms of product development and orders. “Now it’s just about execution.”
Silent Circle started off when a Navy SEAL asked Phil Zimmermann, creator of a popular email encryption software and co-founder of the company, to find a way for armed forces abroad to be able to call home, as Skype wasn’t allowed.
Zimmermann thought the idea could attract the government and consumers as well. But high profile hacks like Target and Sony that attacked businesses and exposed people’s personal data “accelerated the trajectory of the brand” towards the enterprise market, commented Smith.
Silent Circle’s CEO Bill Conner recently claimed the company should be seen as a “kind of next-generation Apple”.
“Apple brought usability to end-users, but we’re bringing security as well as usability… You can’t have privacy without security and the policy around that,” he told Mobile World Live during Mobile World Congress last month.