When it comes to choosing between ease of use and security on a website, consumers often go for the former. After all, what are the chances that the site will get hacked, or have their information stolen?

But Singapore-based photo, video and chat app company Keygo thinks that these web and mobile users should not have to choose between an intuitive user experience and having their data secured safely. The beauty of the Internet is that you should be able to have your cake and eat it too.

e27 spoke to the company’s Chief Evangelist and Co-founder, Jamey Merkel, over email, to find out more about Keygo ahead of its participation as the only Singapore-based startup at the upcoming Security Startup Challenge 2015. The competition will be held on August 10-14 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.

Can you tell us more about Keygo?

Keygo is an app that takes privacy very seriously. While many social apps have privacy as an afterthought, we built it in right from the beginning. Many of the large tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., all compile your data in order to advertise. We do not and will never support advertising and massive data retention. We believe that privacy is often abused in the digital world and we want to empower users to take some of that privacy back.


Our platform does a few things differently. First of all, we use an end-to-end encryption that is unique to every user based on a password. All messages and media are encrypted on the device before being sent to the server. This prevents broad-based attacks by making each account have its own encryption key. We also keep data on the server fully encrypted. We cannot read it, as we do not store the decryption key anywhere on our servers. Our mission is to make your data as safe as possible.

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We use the tagline ‘Freedom to be Yourself’, with photo, video and chat built right into the app. You can take and store private photos and videos as well as share them with close friends. We see this product as a micro-social network based on trusted friends. You can snap, secure and share with Keygo.

We do, however, leave the control in the hands of the user, features such as auto destructing messages, two-sided deletion in chats and no forwarding. You get to decide what you share, with whom and for how long.

We are available on both Android and iOS.

When did you come up with the idea?

The idea grew out of a technology developed by Thomas Dao, CTO and Co-founder, which allowed for secure backup of mobile phones under full encryption. It has been under development for the last 10 months.

How big is your team?

Our team is currently two people — Dao and myself.


L-R: Jamey Merkel and Thomas Dao

What is its business/revenue model?

Our product uses a freemium model. We are fully functional at the free level, meaning to say we don’t restrict security features to prompt an upgrade to premium. We offer 50 photos and videos for free with the opportunity to upgrade for more storage. The cost is US$0.99 per month or US$11.00 per year.

Has Keygo received any funding so far? If so, how much and from whom?

We have an undisclosed seed funding round led by Hatcher Pte Ltd, with some other angel investors contributing to the round.

What’s the biggest challenge faced since you started the company?

We have faced many challenges over the last few months with many more to come. Our technology is complex and our biggest challenge has been to find the right balance between security and ease of use.

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What are your plans in the next six months?

The next six months are critical. We are tweaking our product/market fit, in order to get ready to scale. We are also looking at developing or implementing other complementary technologies to integrate with our product. Beyond that, I can’t say much.