Acquired: Opera March 2015
Founded: March 2011
SurfEasy is a Toronto-based developer of innovative online security solutions that make it plug and play simple to secure your online privacy and freedom. The SurfEasy key is a password-protected, credit card-sized USB device that makes it plug-and-play simple for users to surf the Internet safely, securely and censorship-free from any web-enabled computer or network. SurfEasy’s patent-pending technology allows users to transport their own secure, personalized browser to and from any computer without the risk of leaving any personal information behind.
Q&A with Chris Houston, Co-Founder & CEO
Where did the inspiration for your company come from and how did you get started?
After 10+ years of working on my own start-ups I made a change and went to work for a very big company. It didn’t take long for me to start to realize that there was no such thing as personal use of the internet at work – everything was recorded and stored. I wanted a way to keep my personal browsing private and just couldn’t find a solution.
When I came up with the idea for SurfEasy I started sharing it with friends and co-workers who loved it. Before I even started thinking about fund raising I sat down with Robin and Duncan to get their opinion on the idea – and we just kept growing it together from there.
What is the most important advice you’d give a first time entrepreneur?
Validate what you’re doing constantly. Don’t get emotionally vested in defending your vision; consistently challenge your assumptions and try to prove why you’re wrong. If you’re wrong change. Being wrong on an assumption is not a problem – continuing to move forward on an assumption you know is wrong is a big problem.
What makes Toronto a great place to found a company?
I’ve started company’s in California and Toronto – I like Toronto better. There’s an amazing start-up ecosystem in Toronto now that was not here 10 years ago. Just look at the MVP Office – great talent, hands on investors, and a community that supports each other. Other than the weather, there’s not much reason to move south anymore.
What do you look for from an investor besides money?
For early stage funding find someone who wants to be in the boat with you. You don’t want an “Us and Them” relationship with your investors. There are going to be some tough times and you need an investor who’s going to see it through with you. Someone who’s going to let you take the risk just a bit further than you’re comfortable with by knowing they’ve got your back.
“If it were easy, everyone would do it”
Favourite Pub in King West?
Absolutely has to be Fynn’s. We should consider buying that place for the amount of business they get from us.