Wickr, which aims to offer a more secure alternative for private mobile messaging, said Monday that it has closed a $9 million Series A funding round, including investments from Alsop Louie, which led the round, as well as Juniper Networks and the Knight Foundation.
Alsop Louie partner Gilman Louie, known for Tetris and In-Q-Tel, is joining Wickr’s board. In addition to the larger investors, a number of other entrepreneurs and hackers have invested both time and money in the company, including former presidential adviser Richard Clarke, Lookout CEO John Hering and Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen.
“I am convinced there is a huge market that will make Wickr successful, but moreover, we need it,” Clarke said in a statement.
Wickr CEO Nico Sell said the company is now delivering more than 1 million secure messages per day in more than 190 countries, with usage doubling every two months.
The service, which works on iOS and Android, is designed to be a “zero knowledge” one in which Wickr neither stores the users messages nor has the keys needed to decrypt the data. Even its find-a-friend feature uses a representation (or hash) of your address book rather than your actual contact information.
Sell said that the investments from Juniper Networks and the Knight Foundation show some of the areas where Wickr hopes to go this year. Partnering with carriers is a focus for 2014, while the Knight Foundation investment shows the potential that Wickr sees for the app to connect reporters and whistleblowers.
“Many human rights activists and whistleblowers across the world depend on Wickr to communicate with major human rights groups,” Halvorssen said. “If people are serious about protecting their data they will need this valuable tool. A side benefit is that every new Wickr account is a check on the surveillance state.”
Building a business against larger, if less secure, messaging networks remains the challenge for Wickr, which still processes a fraction of the volume of services such as WhatsApp, Line, Kakao and others.
“Making money is good, but making a difference at the same time is priceless,” Sell said. “By giving power to the
people we can change the world and make a ton of money to support the cause.”
The company says its core messaging function will remain free, but Sell says eventually she hopes to charge power users — say the top three percent — for additional features such as calling and advanced text messaging features.
Sell also told Re/code earlier this year she is open to licensing portions of the company’s messaging technology to help other services be more secure.
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