SaaScribe recently caught up with Daniel Arthursson, CEO of CloudMe, a leading European sync / storage company founded in 2011. Arthursson, a savvy serial Entrepreneur from Sweden, sold the iCloud domain to Apple for a reputed $4.5million dollars and secured $10million funding for his SaaS start-up CloudMe.
Topic of the day was the Balkanisation of the internet and devices. Here’s what Daniel had to say on it:
Out of the Snowden/NSA Furore, came a lot of hype about the balkanisation of the internet. Do you see this as a threat? Or even an opportunity maybe?
Most definitely an opportunity, especially for Cloudme as we are trying to bridge the balkanisation of the internet, predominantly through providing a bridge in the balkanisation of vendor ecosystems, and the privacy issue adds another layer.
What were are seeing is the build out of strong ecoystems like, Apple, Microsoft and Google, where the user is getting tied in to an ecosystem and being silo’d against using particular hardware products they favor like iPhones or Android phones, within that locked down ecosystem.
What we strongly believe is that there is a need for an independent ecosystem that bridges all the different devices and makes integration of services better by being open. I also think it is important that such service is placed outside the US, giving users a choice to use any device without being under surveillance.
The consumerisation of IT and BYOD is working as a force against the vendor balkanisation and I think our technology and our vision for our technology is to fill that void in the market and to be a technology that is 100% European based and an alternative to US based services for everyone outside the US. Secondly, trying to make all kinds of different hardware work together. We are making it possible, to have your files synced across all your devices and work through different apps like Keynote or Word.
The future we see is to make all data that is connected and associated with silos like Icloud or Google, part of what you can sync with Cloudme. Where Cloudme replaces your Google identity or Icloud identity on the different type of device. So its going to give the freedom and privacy back to the consumers.
The consumers and the Enterprises would benefit from this approach then?
Yes, it will enable a Company to not say to its employees that we have standardised on Android or Apple, but will allow them to use whatever hardware/software.
If your using an Iphone at work but have an Android tablet at home, today its not easy to get what you have on your Iphone to your Android tablet. It creates the balkanisation between the ecosystems that we don’t like, and Cloudme as a service, most certainly in 2015 will break this balkanisation and make everything seemless.
The Cloudme service is run from a data center in Sweden. As a European cloud service, do you see it as a public cloud service or private cloud offering?
Most definitely a public cloud offering. Its important to note that although we are based in Europe, its not a service for Europeans only. It’s a service for everyone in the world. The service is based in Europe, under European data protection laws and does not fall under US laws. We have 40% of our user base coming out of Europe and we have about 20% coming out of North America, with the rest spread out across the world. We have 1.2 million users today in 221 countries. it is a truly global, public cloud service.
What is the use case for a US company to use a European cloud storage service?
I think some of the US companies are using us as a kind of offshore ‘data’ bank account, where they have sensitive data that they are afraid would be snooped around by the NSA if stored in the US. But most of our users that come from the US actually come to us because of the strength of our functionality over and above some of the other US based services.
We are for example the only cloud storage company in the world with any apps for Samsung smart TV, WD TV and Google TV and no one else is on these smart TV devices. If you want to move your movies from your Android device onto your smart TV, the only service you can use is CloudMe.
Do you think the cloud which is a global offering, but actually seen by many people as US centric, could see a shift from the fallout of the NSA revelations, to becoming more European centric?
It’s a really hard question. If you think long term, its necessary that cloud services get spread out across the world and are not centered around the US. Its important for any company or any region in the world to not be 100% dependent on a single country. Especially in the light of all the surveillance that’s been going on in the US, its important to realize that even though we’re being given great services from the US and being spoiled by the US, there is a price to it and we are basically paying with our privacy. I know that the European commission is strongly working into this field and they are trying to build and incentive SaaS companies within Europe, so that eventually Europe will be self-sustaining in that field and there is a long term goal to make that happen. If you think about how large many of the US players are it’s a pipe dream to think that its going to happen any time soon. Its enormous investment being done. I don’t think we will see something that really will compete with Google or with Amazon in Europe in the near term. But I think its necessary that those type of services surface in Europe. Out of all cloud storage providers outside of the US, its only one that is at the level of Dropbox and its Cloudme. That highlights the problem that its such huge investment and it takes so much time to build something that could begin to compete with the services that we see in the US and just putting up another service in Europe, that is just a bad imitation of a service in the US, I don’t think that will really cut it. So, even though there is a huge privacy issue, the services in Europe should have to be better for people to move providers. Companies and consumers also need to become more educated about the privacy issues.
Do you see CloudMe as an alternative to Dropbox or the number two to Dropbox within Europe?
Yes, we are clearly an alternative. From a user experience perspective and from how our service works in comparison to Dropbox we are one of very few alternatives outside the US that delivers at the same level. From a legal perspective, in order to meet the needs of European companies and allow them to have all their data stored in Europe, there is one more condition that needs to be met by SaaS providers, and that is you cant use any infrastructure provider that is owned or controlled by an American company. For instance there are other companies in Europe, that provide cloud storage services, but many of them are built on Amazon and even though they have a data center in Ireland, it is as bad as storing your files in a US data center. It will still be subject to potential surveillance, since US companies naturally has to abide US laws like the Patriot Act, regardless of where in the world they conduct their business. That means that any of the SaaS providers that are built on top of Amazon are kind of poisoned by being on a US controlled cloud infrastructure service. I realize that for a normal consumer or company it is not easy to know if a SaaS company that for example is providing email, calendar, or sales automation, are using a US controlled infrastructure provider. Many companies has also been fooled by the false safety of the Safe Harbor Principles, which are civil law agreements between two companies, rendered void and meaningless in relation to the Patriot Act that has precedence, and regardless of what is agreed, forces a US company to secretly disclose information. It’s a complex situation. The European Union is working on new data protection laws that hopefully will address this issue and require full disclosure of where your data is stored. It is natural since the Safe Harbor Principles has become meaningless after the Snowden disclosures. This will likely end the use of many US based services throughout Europe and strike them as alternatives for businesses and privacy conscious consumers. It has the potential to create a very exciting future for European SaaS companies.
by Alex Theuma @alextheuma