Tech Talk with Proton CMO Varun Kabra

“One of the unique things about our business model is that users are ready to pay for privacy.”

Journalists are among Proton's user base, says CMO Varun Kabra.
Journalists are among Proton's user base, says CMO Varun Kabra.

What is Proton Technologies and ProtonMail?
In 2014, scientists who met and worked at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research), a large physics research facility in Switzerland, started Proton Technologies. They were concerned about the lack of privacy online and wanted to build tools to make it easy and possible for everyone to take control of their data.

The founder and CEO, Andy Yen, has a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard and an economics degree from Caltech. The CTO and lead engineer, Bart Butler, has a Ph.D. in particle physics from Stanford and was a postdoc fellow at Harvard. 

Proton Technologies created ProtonMail, an encrypted email platform that allows users to communicate privately and to decide with whom they want to share their personal data information. 

High-profile ransomware attacks on Kaseya, Colonial Pipeline and JBS U.S.A. have heightened the need for cybersecurity. How do you distinguish your security from other popular email services?  

We encrypt everything, which means even we can’t scan, collect or monetize user data. With our products, privacy is the default. Many ransomware attacks depend on the ability to access and understand data. When your data is as thoroughly protected and encrypted as it is with Proton, criminals don’t have very much to threaten you with.

Gmail and Yahoo don't use end-to-end encryption, which means they can scan and access information, which helps them sell ads on the internet. With our end-to-end encryption, we have no access to this data. 

We have 50 million users around the world, and they are doubling each year. Revenue is growing. We’ve been profitable for the last couple of years. Proton employs more than 300 people worldwide and intends to double that number this year. We’re in a massive scale-up mode because there is a huge demand for our products. One of the unique things about our business model is that users are ready to pay for privacy.

We offer free accounts, but there are also subscriptions which cost slightly over $4 a month. Many businesses sign up for our professional company plans for approximately $7 a month. 

Our revenue is subscription-based. We don’t sell ads because that’s contrary to our business model.

Who are some ProtonMail users and how would PR professionals use your products?
Journalists and brands communicate confidential information. Today, there are concerns that the tech companies have too much control over user data, and people are looking for alternatives to the established players.

Individuals writing for The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bloomberg, The Atlantic and Wired use our platform.   

PR agencies have client communications with very sensitive information, whether it's new launches or confidential financial data. Proton’s encryption offers an additional layer of security. 

What other developments are on Proton’s horizon?
ProtonMail was our first product. We launched Proton VPN about three and a half years ago. We made a calendar product publicly available this year, and will roll out cloud storage, a drive where users can store photos and documents, with end-to-end encryption.

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