Confide CEO Jon Brod on the White House, bad press, and whats next for his secure messaging app

Thursday night, at a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco, I sat down with Confide cofounder and director Jon Brod to talk with him about his decidedly topsy turvy 2017. Though his three-year-old messaging app was the belle of the chunk at the start of the year Wired, the Washington Post, and Axios were among others to memorandum it was a hit with forestalled White House staffers itspositive momentum was abruptly thwartedby insurance investigates whopublished a report mentioning the appwasnt living up to its declares.

It was subsequentlyreported that Confide had swiftly addressed those vulnerabilities .Yet approximately one month afterwards, a separate lawsuit followed, claiming that another of its features isnt foolproof.

Brod and Idiscussed thatongoing action. He also talked about the apps future, which is very likely to includevideo( premising Confidecan shake off that suit firstly ). More from our chitchat below, edited for length.

TC: Youd worked for the NBA, for AskJeeves, for IAC, then you deplete four years at AOL, including as the cofounder of AOL Ventures. How did you wind uprunning a assure messaging app companionship ?

JB: Id invested four years at AOL in various exec situates. I was going to leave and, serendipitously, Howard Lerman, whos also the founder and CEO of[ thenewly publiccompany] Yext, emailed me about wanting to hire someone who used to work with me at AOL. It made countless missed telephone calls and traded emails before we connected six weeks later[ because we didnt want to discuss anything sensitive online ], and that was sort of the aha moment for Confide. So we reaped up some engineers, prototyped Confide, and started the company.

TC: How much funding have you promoted?

JB: We first developed only less than $ two million, including from SV Angel,[ investor] David Tisch, GV,[ Yelp CEO] Jeremy Stoppelman, WTI, and First Round Capital, amongst other. A years ago, we closed a $1.5 million grain propagation round, so[ its] $3.4 million all in.

TC: How countless people use Confide ?

JB: You know Im not going to tell you that.[ Laughs .] We dont give out user lists but also, as a confidential messenger work, we actually cant road a ton of substance. Almost everything we track is in aggregate and anonymous.

TC: I loveConfide, but I turn toit for very concrete call cases. On median, how often do people open the app ?

JB: Theres this cohort for whom[ Confide] is what they use as their daily[ messaging service] and the[ daily and monthly active useds] on that is fantastic. Then there are people, I approximate like you, that, when there are confidential sensitive situations, you use Confide, and you use other messenger platforms and email[ for further communications ]. I use iMessenger all the time, butwhen it comes to sensitive information, I symbolize, youre preposterou if youre still consuming regular textbook and email.

TC: Speaking of holes, you had some amazing press earlier this year, with a number of details about all the unhappy White House staffers who use Confide. Were you aware that it had taken off in Washington or did you see it in the news ?

JB: Heres how that went down: I got a Confide theme in December from aformer high school classmate, and he answered, Did you know a lot of Trumps transition team is working Confide? And I answered, No, how do you know? And he answered, Theyre contacting me on Confide.

Not long after, Axios contacted out to me and answered, Were on Confide and were noticing a torrent of GOP political operatives coming on to the system and united love to talk with you about it. So I do that interview,[ Axios cofounder] Mike Allen guides it in his daily newsletter, and everyone starts announcing us.

Not long after, Im sitting at home one weekendand watching the numbers as all CEOs do, and I watch we get to the next stratosphere[ in terms of users ]. Something going on here. SoI start searching for Confide and should be noted that Politico has written a storey that[ White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer had called a gratify at the White House with all of his lawyers and all the White House staff and it was a phone check meeting. And he apparently answered, Everyone, take out of your phones and if “youve had” Confide on your phone, thats a problem. And he answered, Just soknow this is a widespread policy, Im even going to delete Confide from my phone. So that was the number one storey on CNN and Google News and that was pretty extraordinarily.

TC: Ibelieve Spicer also counselled them that receding text contents involvinganything government referred amounts to a violation of theFederal Records Act. Did you hear from the White House about this ?

JB: No, we havent been contacted by the White House, butyou create an interesting point that also receives a lot of press notice, which is the legality of this. My arrangement is pretty straightforward: There are certain people in certain industries for whom specific communications are adjusted maybeFINRA in financial services or the FederalRecords Act if youre a member of the executive branch of the government.

If youre governed, delight use Confide in a way that complies with that regulation, just as you would any other communication device.

TC: So theres all this commotion around Confide. But as your profile is lift, insurance investigates are following you more closelyand by mid February, youre slammed in the press by one teamthat says there are openings in the app. Inlaymans expressions, what exactly happened, and how did you resolve it ?

JB: A insurance investigate conglomerate derives and tries to find vulnerabilities in Confide. Were able to spy them find and are able to fix the majority of members of their issues in real experience. There are some that we cant, and they apprise us, and then through a responsible disclosure which is generally how these work with insurance conglomerates they return us a little time to fix their own problems. We specify them incredibly swiftly. Then they go out and circulate their research paper.

Importantly , no Confide user was affected throughout any of this. We made all the changes, and thats what happened.

TC: One fear of a collaborator of mine at TechCrunch, oursecurity reporter, Kate, is your call of the label armed grade in selling the app. What does that symbolize ?

JB: Its hard to describe encryption and security, so we call expressions that give people a general feel[ of what it symbolizes ], and armed grade is one of those expressions that we use. Basically, this is end-to-end encryption, and what that necessitates is that as soon as you touch send on a theme, it gets encrypted, and the only event that they are able decrypt that theme is a unique key that is generated on and never leaves the invention of the recipient. Then once the theme sort of spies that key, it gets decrypted. Thats what we mean by end-to-end, or armed grade, encryption.

But then after we decrypt something, we go another step. Ater we decrypt a theme, theres an fleeting factor. So formerly you read a theme, you touch close or reply, and the theme is depart eternally. We remove it from our servers and mop it from the phone. We also have screenshot armour; weve gone to great lengths to prevent screenshots, because theyre the enemy of the disappearing. So essentially, were just trying to take the privacy of the spoken word and were just trying to port that to the availability of digital communication.

TC :< strong> Before we get into this screenshot armour, another peculiarity of your technology that anxieties Kateis why youve created your own system, rather than call tried-and-tested protocols. Relatedly, she mentioned that because Confides encryption protocol hasnt been publicly measured and spoofed and examined to ensure that its strong, it could be hard for you to sell to endeavors. Wickr led public with its own system in February for that same reason .

JB: So open source is kind of a double-edged sword. In one respect, you employ the playbook out there, which gives people increased confidence. On the other side, it creates vulnerabilities, peculiarly around the ephemerality and the screenshot armour. So to this spot, weve elected not to open source our system; its the same logic that someother end-to-end encrypted messengers have, like iMessage. But its something we continuously discuss and well continue to evaluate.

TC :< strong> Do you want to go after initiatives eventually? Is that where the money is ?

JB: Our business is really good right now and its focused on “consumers interests”; its a freemium sit. In-app dues is the greatest business sit that I dont conceive enough entrepreneurs fully understand orappreciate. So thats where our focus is. We do have an enterprise solution. After the Sony hacks, we received a number of inbound research from organizations; we constructed a solution for them. We have purchasers. But the freemium sit is genuinely our focus.

TC :< strong> Youve mentioned your screenshot armour a couple of times. But youre facing a recently registered class action litigation that alleges it doesnt piece as advertised, and the former purchaser who is suing you is represented by a law conglomerate known for its scorched-earth tricks. In reality, Y Combinator President Sam Altman has stamped the firmsfounder asa leech tarted up as a freedom fighter .

JB: I cant provide comments on the lawsuit other than to say its totally spurious and meritless. Its equivalent to that given to a shakedown. This is what this[ law conglomerate] does; it travels after high-flying and other tech fellowships. This will get thrown out of courtrather quickly, and I look forward to that day.

TC: Whats on the roadmap? You communicated me a textbook so early with an emoji, which is the first time Ive seen that on Confide .

JB: We do have stickers as part of Confide plus, which also includes boundless components and photos and all of that. Were was just about to open an iPad app, which is going to be great; its one of the top situations our purchasers are expecting us for.

Were also playing around with video, which is something else weve been asked for a lot. We think its super curiou, and were playing around with screenshot armour on video and be expected to do something inventive and fascinating there.

TC: Isillicit material being sent over your stage a matter of concern ?

JB: Thats certainly touchy. The short answer is that anything illegal and illegal is obviously against our expressions of service and privacy program. The request isthatthese are encrypted contents; we couldnt read them if we are trying to. So thats not something weve encountered; it would present an interesting request for us.

Photos by Dani Padgett .

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