Start-up of the week: InvizBox

16 Jan 2017

The InvizBox team (from left): Vincent Riou, Paul and Elizabeth Canavan, and Chris Monks. Image: Andres Poveda

Our start-up of the week is InvizBox, maker of an innovative personal VPN hardware device.

“We make devices to help people protect themselves online with ease,” explained InvizBox co-founder Paul Canavan.

“We are all becoming increasingly aware of the need to encrypt our internet traffic but many people find protecting themselves technically challenging or time consuming.”

‘Our goal is to become the number one VPN router manufacturer in the marketplace’

Fast-moving InvizBox recently emerged as the winner of annual start-up competition JumpStart at the LINC (Learning and Innovation Centre) at the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown.

“We are actively selling two products that securely encrypt all the traffic on your internet connection,” said Canavan.

“Both the original InvizBox and now the InvizBox Go allow out-of-the-box, easy set-up. The InvizBox Go is also mobile and allows the customer to use insecure public Wi-Fi securely with a fast VPN [virtual private network] connection.”

The market

Canavan explained that the company is aiming its products at people who want better security, more privacy or who currently use VPN software.

“We take the hassle involved in setting up and maintaining VPN software on your individual devices and make it as simple as connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

“There are currently 166m active daily VPN users around the world and a growing number of privacy conscious consumers.

“We’re initially targeting the consumer market and will move into the B2B market in the near future,” he said.

The founders

All of the founders are techies by trade but they are learning the business ropes quickly by necessity and through accelerators like New Frontiers.

Co-founder Elizabeth Canavan previously worked in RTÉ as a software engineer, while Chris Monks and Paul came to InvizBox by way of the cybersecurity company AdaptiveMobile, with eight and 10 years spent there, respectively.

Adaptive have grown to the point that it is currently deployed in nine out of the top 10 mobile operator groups worldwide.

The technology

Start-up of the Week: InvizBox

InvizBox co-founder Paul Canavan with one of the VPN devices. Image: Andres Poveda

“You connect any device over Wi-Fi to your InvizBox or InvizBox Go and we look after the rest,” Canavan explained.

“We primarily use VPNs to ensure your data is secure and encrypted from hackers, identity thieves and prying eyes.

“VPN also allows you to change your location (eg for streaming content where location may be an issue).

“The VPN encrypts your traffic as it’s crossing the internet, so someone looking at your connection will only see encrypted traffic.”

Canavan said that the newly released InvizBox Go offers quite a few advantages over the original InvizBox:

  • Its faster processor and VPN mean download speeds are up to 5 times faster
  • It works easily with any public Wi-Fi to secure your traffic when you’re out and about
  • It is small and discreet – fits in your pocket
  • It protects all of your devices 24/7, when at home and when out and about, with nothing to install
  • It is a portable device that can be used to access your favourite TV, sports and media content that you can’t currently reach without fast, secure, reliable VPN service
  • It blocks ads without installing anything
  • It’s a power bank – you can recharge your portable devices on the go
  • It has Wi-Fi extender mode
  • It ensures secure auto updates

“Our goal is to become the number one VPN router manufacturer in the marketplace.

“We’re already disrupting the VPN market and we have plans to continue doing that. We’re aiming to have our products on shelves in every major tech store around the world.

“We’re also passionate about privacy, so part of our goal is to publicise the need for freedom and privacy on the internet,” Canavan said.

Kick-starting a hardware revolution

Canavan said that InvizBox is making rapid progress.

“We have successfully crowdfunded on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, have shipped thousands of devices to over 60 countries worldwide, and have featured in major news outlets like Forbes and Ars Technica.

“We have just completed the shipment of the InvizBox Go to all our Kickstarter backers and pre-orders, and are shipping worldwide with next-day delivery.

“InvizBox has won several awards for our innovative products and cutting-edge approach to finance raising. These awards include the national enterprise award for innovation, Fingal Enterprise Award overall winner and most recently, the Fingal Dublin Chamber Award for Innovation.

“We are actively seeking investment to fund our growth,” he said.

Canavan echoes the sentiments of hardware gurus like Liam Casey, who has warned that getting a product to manufacture and then to retail is an enormous challenge.

“Without doubt, the single hardest challenge so far has been manufacturing our product to our high-quality standards.

“After several stressful trips back and forth between Shenzhen, China and Dublin, and several months delay, we finally got the product we wanted.

“Learning the different culture and vagaries of doing business in China has been both frustrating and ultimately rewarding,” said Canavan.

Fail fast and hard, but keep on going

In Canavan’s opinion, Ireland is a great place to found a tech start-up.

“The Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland really want you to do well and offer a level of support that isn’t available in other countries.

“Since day one, our DA in Enterprise Ireland has backed us all the way and given us the support we need.

“We have our offices at the LINC in IT Blanchardstown, which is where we did the New Frontiers accelerator, and is home to a lot of start-ups. The enthusiasm here is infectious. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and is willing to help out where they can.

“Apart from the supports that are available, there’s a huge amount of expertise floating around Ireland now. As a nation, we’ve been churning out high-quality tech graduates for a long time now.”

His advice to fellow founders is to learn how to absorb failures and setbacks, and keep moving.

“Learn to fail fast, cheaply and turn around ideas quickly. Plan your timeline well and always double your planned timeline. Be prepared to miss sleeping. It’s like having a newborn for the first two years.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years