Following three years of research and development, Sher.ly is launching its local cloud system, aiming to change the way we store and share information. Our innovative software solution integrates your existing hard drives into a private, tightly controlled cloud network. Rather than have to send out open links to files or share copies across a public cloud, organizations and individuals alike can now count on the security of invite-only, limited-access file-sharing that keeps data where it belongs: on the devices that produced it.
Who is your startup aimed at?
For businesses collaborating on sensitive information, Sher.ly means robust reporting, simple access management controls, and easy-to-use auditing tools, integrated into a secure space that allows for all the dynamic, collaborative work of the traditional cloud without the blaring privacy risks.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
Sher.ly is faster, safer, simpler and more efficient than protocols used in traditional cloud software platforms. It’s an entirely new way to think about data storage. The principle is still the same, but the foundation is radically different.
Sher.ly is not just local storage, our software links devices together, enabling access and secure sharing to all of your files from any connected device without actually moving your data anywhere outside company infrastructure: we separate control from data.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
After three years of research, Sher.ly was developed to be the next thing after sync. We aim to apply the concept of content delivery networks onto a local scale, bridging mobile file systems and desktops. We don’t want users to be concerned about syncing files. Some people put their entire drives into the cloud, which is just wrong and a waste of time and bandwidth. Our intelligence file system is creating a better system. It anticipates which files to present, and where and when to access them. Five years ago sync was magical, however, today it is not enough for a mobile and connected world. We are building the next thing after sync.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
Well, there are always big risks when starting something, especially if it’s new. The technology may not work, you may not find good people for the team, you may run out of money, you may lose interest; you have to be able to operate in environments of extreme uncertainty. We experienced it all. We deal with these risks every day. “Startup” is actually translated into “I don’t know,” but you have to make decisions and move forward.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I’m a network guy who specialized in network data transmission technologies and security. I’m the inventor of GatelessVPN and Sher.ly secure connectivity technology. I have been managing corporate IT projects for over 15 years, delivering custom infrastructure and mobile solutions for banks and ISPs across Europe. The Sher.ly project is my second startup after PrivacyProtector.
I really have a dream job. I’m working with best people on a project we are all passionate about. Hot coffee during long discussions with my team and white boards with new ideas – these are my moments.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
We started with bootstrapping resources, but quickly realized we needed a lot more to see this idea through. We applied for a European Union grant for young companies and got $130,000. That lasted us for a year and we ran out of money with the technology 90 percent complete. We finished it with a lot of personal effort and got funded by FZKPT Accelerator two years later. Then we moved to Satus VC, and Innovation Nest joined the investors as well. We closed a Kickstarter campaign recently with $154,000 for our shareable private storage device: Sherlybox and we are now talking with several funds and Angels about further company funding for business development.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Business-wise, definitely when my team demoed our first Beta of our Sher.ly protocol and we saw a 943Mb/s score on my network speed counter. I wish I could have seen my face at that moment … my jaw was on the floor!
How have you kept your business relevant, and engaged with your audience over the last three years?
That can be attributed to my co-funder, Marek Cesla. His marketing skill set complements my network and security background. Marek has a sense for how people follow news and he is really good at it.
How long has your startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
The team has worked together since 2009 and we’ve been through a lot, but all of us are very committed to this project – it’s our mission.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner?
As CEO, you are responsible for everything and your needs come last – you need to make peace with that. In many cases you need to put aside your ego and be the one that brings people together even at your own expense. You cannot give up, because the whole team will crumble.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
This year is crucial for us. We will soon launch our Sher.ly software to the public, followed by our shareable storage device, Sherlybox, that we successfully crowd-funded on Kickstarter. It’s beyond excitement to observe your visions and ideas taking physical form and being accepted by customers. We have several other business goals planned, but I cannot discuss them yet.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Side projects will give you side results; focus and commitment are the groundwork for the possibility of success. Of course you can try to hack your way up, but the chances you make it are like winning the lottery and placing a bet is far less work. An idea’s worth is $1 plus tax – the rest is the execution.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Sell it before you build it. I know first hand how tough it is. The days of investors throwing money at ideas are over and the only decisive argument is, “I have paying users.” The more tangible results you can show an investor, the more real you look.