May 16, 2014 UBJ
Upstate Business Journal published for the Upstate of South Carolina. Designed and created by Community Journals.
>> wireless devices aren’t left out. For instance, Xbox can’t run VPN programs. Our software also encrypts traffic, and we’ve got the only VPN router that has a gateway that lets you also set a device to a local channel to, say, order pizza from down the street. growing volume over product development. I’m much more interested in the business side, working with channel partners and rolling out a reseller program. We’re working on relationships with VPN providers that people don’t have to purchase hardware and service separately, not unlike a cell phone. We do have a long-term vision of getting beyond the VPN space, including programs that make more sense to run on a network level, like virus scanning and Net Nanny. William stepped down to get back to that kind of product development. What is your target market? AS: Expats, military and U.S. State Department folks stationed overseas. These are people thrown into a culture that can be a little overwhelming but they’re enjoying the adventure. But then homesickness settles in, so people are trying to figure out how to connect better to home culture. We believe that when expats go home at the end of the day, they should be “home.” You’re still American wherever you are. We’re also trying to make advanced network technology accessible to average people instead of just super-geeks. Many of our customers could never do the traditional VPN router configuration. They’re just barely at the level of understanding our technology. How did you break out of the techie bubble? WH: For the first six months it was all geeky guys. But then a mom from a U.S. military base said she’d heard that with our device her daughter could watch “Dora the Explorer.” When we had bridged the gap to the normal person, that was a big win – an exciting day when I look back on it now. How did you get Sabai routers into U.S. embassies around the world? WH: It was kind of funny. I was worried that people wouldn’t like what later that I saw how people had a burning need for freedom and power over their Internet connection that I really got the extent of it. Anything else you want people to know? WH: I just want to express our gratitude for the wonderful entrepreneurial support system we have in Greenville. SCRA [South Carolina Research Authority] and NEXT have helped. One of our programmers came from the Iron Yard. And SCORE helped us a lot in the first year. What’s your biggest challenge? Developers at work at Sabai Technology. we were doing or might hassle us, then a month into the business somebody in security at one of the embassies called to ask me about what we were doing. Right after that conversation we started getting a lot of interest from State Department expat folks. You get one call from a person at a base in Germany, and then you suddenly get a bunch of orders from that base because somebody went over to their house and was able to watch the Super Bowl or something. What are some common assumptions people make about your business? AS: They tend to think it’s too good to be true, the idea that you can get American Internet while living in Germany. They just don’t understand what’s happening in the background. What’s next? AS: Right now we’re focusing on AS: There’s so much effort to monitor Internet traffic and lock down content right now that companies like us that believe in freedom of information and the right to privacy are fighting an uphill battle. We’re constantly dodging the efforts of big industry and Internet that want access to your content. Hulu [subscription-based provider of TV content online] just decided they’re not going to allow people to access content over VPN. I’m sure there’s a business reason why they care, but the idea that we’re going to keep up the arbitrary lines of territory is just sort of an antiquated philosophy in my mind. It sounds like you’re on a mission. AS: Yeah, as we’ve spent more time in this space, it seems like a little bit of an injustice. Did Sabai start off that way? WH: It started off in needing a job during the recession and knowing I would have to create it. It wasn’t until EMPLOYEES: 10 full-time, 4 part-time EXPORTS: To more than 120 countries FACT: The Vatican uses Sabai routers ROUTERS SOLD: Over 2000 (to date in 2014) TOP DESTINATIONS: Canada Australia Mexico United Arab Emirates China Germany France ment funds transforming for our investors. 30M + DOLLARS INVESTED 864.642.1647 | Greenville, SC 29607 WW.SERRUS.COM/INVESTNOW LEIGHTON CUBBAGE Cofounder