2. July 2013–
Hamburg startup Protonet will on Thursday start shipping a little orange box billed as the world's first private cloud server with built-in social network. The company is also announcing $1.2m in funding from crowd investors, business angels and a local innovation fund.
The Protonet box – priced between €2,749 and €4,099 (excl sales tax) – is a personal server system with up to 16TB of storage, wireless capability and built-in team collaboration software. It's aimed firmly at SMEs. Other companies including Buffalo and Synology also offer private cloud-based data storage and there are plenty of communication tools out there but the company says it's the first to offer both together.
The software part of the product – Protonet Soul OS – runs as a browser app and combines file-sharing, communication and task management. "Think of it like a mix of Dropbox, Skype and Yammer," company spokesman Philipp Baumgaertel told us today – and not only encrypted but actually hosted in the customer's office. "It's for people who like the cloud but don't want to put their data out there."
The box itself just needs to be plugged into power and network cables and switched on to start running. So far, the company has about 75 pre-orders for the July 4 launch. Customers who've signed up so far include Jimdo – also based in Hamburg – and German privacy lawyer Stephan Hansen-Oest.
Next steps including expanding to new markets in Europe, developing an API and licensing software to other hardware manufacturers. "By 2015, we want to sell 25,000 of these not counting licenses," Protonet founder Ali Jelveh (right) said during last January's Hy! Berlin startup pitch competition.
Jelveh came up with the idea while working as one of the first developers at "German LinkedIn" Xing. He founded Protonet with Christopher Blum in November 2012 after three years of R&D and $265,000 of equity-based crowdfunding raised in under an hour on Seedmatch.
That, plus undisclosed sums from Tarek Müller, Stefan Kolle, Stephan Rebbe and the Hamburg Innovation Fund, brings the company's total investment so far to $1.2m.
With Germany and the European Commission up in arms about revelations of the extent of US spy agency NSA's internet-based snooping, the timing for Protonet's launch is spot-on. Will small business owners see enough value to fork out a few thousand for a private cloud? At the very least, they've now got one more option.