Sher.ly is an alternative to public cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, Apple Cloud Drive or Google Drive because it does not require files to be sent to a cloud. It works within a closed network environment which means the files are shared directly from a computer.
Błażej Marciniak, CEO at Sher.ly, spoke to Justyna Wróbel, about how both the app and Sherlybox were developed and about how his team is currently improving the solution as well as where he sees his company being in ten years’ time.
Tell me what you are up to at the moment.
Well, right now, we are working on Sher.ly 2.0 app continuously and we are devoting all of our time to the further development of the product. We are focussing on scaling the sales of Sherlybox, the SaaS model and hiring new employees. Recently Sher.ly has also established a cooperation with The Kościuszko Institute and thereby we have become a participant in the CyberSec Accelerator Programme.
How will that help you grow?
We are planning to scale the business to a global level.
But you also managed to raise funds on Kickstarter and then you found investors — how did this influence the development of your project?
I would say we didn’t initially perceive Kickstarter as a method to raise the funds. When you run a campaign on Kickstarter, it’s easy for you to underestimate the costs and thereby end up with a negative financial result. We saw it more as a platform where we could verify the assumptions we had made about our product. If the product was good, it would sell itself.
Sher.ly reached its goal in just five days and after a month we had gathered $154,000. The financial target was met at 223 per cent and Sherlybox was backed by 900 Kickstarter backers who ordered over 650 devices.
However the investments that we had acquired, before the Kickstarter campaign, had the biggest impact on the development of our product. Then, right after the Kickstarter campaign had finished we managed to find a strategic investor, with whom we cooperate to this day.
I believe you also invested your own funds, didn’t you?
Yes, we did.
As for every each start-up, I guess. Let’s go back to the very beginning; how did you come up with the idea for the company?
No one downloads all the data from the internet to their hard drive or to the flash memory of a mobile device while they are accessing resources on the Internet such as a web page, an image, a movie or a simple song. So, we asked ourselves why the situation is different when you are synchronising files on your laptop, desktop and mobile platforms such as tablets and smart phones. Why do you need to accept the automatic transfer of files, often of a few gigabytes in size that slow down your system and that often make your work inefficient? This is where the core of the Sher.ly concept was born.
So you set up the business. How long did it take you to realise that you were going in the right direction?
I would actually say that I still don’t know whether we are going in the right direction. We are still trying to find the best solutions here.
Please walk me through how Sher.ly works.
Sher.ly works as a virtual drive that allows you to share confidential data with a selected group of users who are invited to join a private network that is created on demand. You simply create a folder and invite friends or co-workers to safely share an unlimited number of files anywhere in the world.
Sher.ly works like a cloud solution, however, all of the data always remains in your own storage and is not sent anywhere outside the service. The files are immediately visible in the cloud thanks to intelligent metadata synchronisation, which allows you to set your access preferences depending on the type of project, the device, the file name, the file size and/or the modification date.
Sher.ly helps you achieve the ultimate goal of having all the right data on the right device and in the right time.
When did you come up with the idea of the sherlybox and what is it actually?
We published the first Sher.ly beta at the end of 2013, and that was when the Raspberry solution first appeared on the market.
As you probably know, when you use Sher.ly your data isn’t sent to any external servers, so you need the physical storage to retain it. When user’s device goes offline, such as the laptop sleeping to conserve power, it’s vital for the data availability to have always-on networked storage with Sher.ly software on it.
This is why we invented Sherlybox device. It enables your files to be accessible even when you turn off your computer. Sherlybox embodies the vision of your own secure cloud for files, available 24 hours a day.
Is it safe to use the app and the device?
Of course, the major, and most important advantage of these solutions, is security and confidentiality of the shared data, as well as the ability to store and share large files among strictly defined recipients. The application uses the latest secure encryption protocols for file transfer and allows you to track the full history of file sharing with individual users. With this solution, the owner of the file has full control of the data’s confidentiality and can control the identity of the recipients right away.
Who are your basic users: individuals, businesses?
Sher.ly and Sherlybox are solutions that are designed for extensive business use. For this reason, we’ve decided to implement a B2B strategy.
What is your competition like and how do you show your users that you are better than them?
There are some start-ups on the market and some SMEs which are going in the same direction. They are active in the area, but they are working in a rather fragmented way.
Sher.ly tries to approach the subject more comprehensively and to fold everything together. Our advantage is the technology we’ve used in Sher.ly — the intelligent metadata synchronisation which enables a convenient and safe transmission of large amounts of data.
You kicked this off in Poland: Which markets are you already in?
The crowd funding Kickstarter campaign set us on the world map. The backers who supported us are spread all around the world (mostly North America, Europe, Australia and East Asia). From the very beginning Sher.ly has focussed on the global client, without any country specification.
How many people were there when you started? Was Marek Cieśla your only partner?
When we started there were five people on board, including Marek Cieśla who was my only partner at the time being.
How do you share your tasks? What is each of you responsible for?
Currently we have a development, marketing and sales team. We don’t have a strict division of our responsibilities, they usually overlap each other. We work on a common goal and focus on the effectiveness of our actions. If necessary, each team member can count on a helping hand.
So how big is the team now and where is the largest portion of your team based?
Sher.ly employs a team of ten individuals and largest group of them is located in our headquarters in Krakow, Poland.
What advice would you give to companies from the region who would like to start a company and to expand to other markets?
The most important thing is to make sure that your product solves a global problem and not just a local one. It should be just as relevant for the inhabitant of Tokyo, Warsaw and New York City.
How do you see the company developing over the next few years and where will the company be in ten years’ time?
That’s a really hard question to ask a start-up owner. I foresee Sher.ly as a well-known and worldwide spread technology company. The company will still be developing great and innovative solutions for the ICT sector which will be widely used by the producers of other storage devices.
Click here to read more about the company and try the app.