Wickr - secure messaging - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2015

Fierce 15

Where it's based: San Francisco
When it was founded: 2011
Website: www.wickr.com

Why it's Fierce: In the post-Edward Snowden age we live in, privacy is paramount when it comes to digital communications. Wickr, a secure messaging application that encrypts data from end to end and lets users destroy messages they receive, hopes to capitalize on those concerns. Further, the company aims to be the platform that powers similar messaging capabilities for other companies.

The app, which is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux, lets users send text, picture, voice and video messages, as well as self-destructing files. Users can also edit photos with filters and graffiti. Messages disappear after six days or users can erase them sooner. In addition, users can delete geolocation and identifying information from media, and clean their devices completely of deleted files. Wickr says user accounts are bound to their devices and, unlike many apps, the company does not upload users' unique device identifiers to its servers because, the company says, if it did so users would no longer be anonymous to the company.

Wickr is used by spies, human rights activists and regular consumers alike, according to co-chair and former CEO Nico Sell. Sell acknowledged that terrorists and other criminals could potentially use Wickr for nefarious ends. "Any good tool is guaranteed to be used by good people and bad people," she said. "And you just have to ask yourself, are we better off as a society for having this tool?"

Sell told TechCrunch in May that there have been 6 million downloads of the app to date, and it has collectively served over 1 billion secret messages. 

Wickr has raised almost $40 million in funding so far. The company has a wide range of investors, including Jim Breyer, the founder and CEO of Breyer Capital and partner at Accel Partners; Gilman Louie, co-founder of Alsop Louie Partners and the founder of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm that worked with the Central Intelligence Agency; former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano; Juniper Networks; Richard Clarke, a former government cyberterrorism adviser; and Jerry Dixon, a former cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security.

What's next: In early May Wickr announced it would split itself into entities: the for-profit company that is still known as Wickr, and a nonprofit unit focused on using the company's technology to empower human rights. Sell is leading the nonprofit Wickr Foundation, while investor and former investment banker Mark Fields is now the CEO of Wickr. The for-profit unit will focus on white-labeling the company's technology for large enterprises and developing the app.

Wickr - secure messaging - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2015