As consumers become more tech savvy and privacy conscious, it’s not surprising to see VCs begin to pay more attention to startups who are focusing on privacy in all its various permutations. Enter ZenMate, a Virtual Private Network (VPN)-style service that encrypts your browsing and hides your IP address/location from the sites you visit and anyone else trying to snoop on your connection.
The Berlin-based company has closed a $3.2 million Series A round led by Holtzbrinck Ventures, with participation from existing investor Project A Ventures, and new investors Shortcut Ventures and T-Venture. The latter two venture funds are noteworthy as they potentially provide further inroads into the mobile space via being connected to German telcos E-Plus and Deutsche Telekom, respectively. Prior to today’s funding, the company had raised $1.3 million in October 2013.
Available for desktop browsers Chrome, Opera and (as of today) Firefox, in addition to mobile apps for iOS and Android, ZenMate’s privacy and security suite provides a VPN-style service, including encrypting your web browsing and routing its through its own network of servers in order to hide your personal IP address. The advantage is potentially greater privacy and security, as well as being able to visit sites and services that may be blocked in the country you reside in.
A popular use for these kind of consumer VPNs is accessing video streaming services that employ geo-filtering due to the wishes of rights holders, such as watching Netflix in the U.S. when you are actually located in the UK. Or, with regards to BBC iPlayer, vice versa.
Launched 18 months ago, I’m told ZenMate has garnered 5 million users (up from 1 million in 6 months) and counts the U.S., UK and Germany as key markets. Right now, the product desktop version is free for unlimited browsing, while the company’s mobile app employ freemium model, capped at 500mb of browsing for free users, and unlimited browsing plus additional features, such as data compression and harmful site blocking, for those that pay a subscription.
The startup is not without competitors, either. Companies like Privax (Hide My Ass), AnchorFree (Hotspot Shield), TunnelBear, and CyberGhost offer a similar proposition for consumers.