Interview with Chris Houston, CEO of SurfEasy


I recently interviewed Chris Houston about his experience in the software industry.

Chris Houston is the Founder and CEO of SurfEasy, the simplest way to protect your online privacy. With over 15 years of experience creating innovative products and companies, Chris specializes in Technology innovation through Product and Business Development and results-oriented operational management. He has worked for such successful companies as Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Amp’d Mobile as well as advising several other great startups before launching SurfEasy.

Chris, tell us about your firm.

SurfEasy is a three year old venture-backed tech company based in Toronto. We provide accessible solutions for anyone to take back control over their online privacy. Our products and solutions are sold at over 4,500 retail locations across North America and our mobile application is one of the top security and privacy solutions in the app store. We protect millions of customers around the world by encrypting their internet connection and protecting their online privacy.

Tell us about the challenges facing software companies today.

Like most successful software companies we’ve faced (and overcome) business challenges along the way. One that is particularly exciting is being able to meet the amazing demand that can be driven by today’s mobile app ecosystem.

A great example is a couple weeks ago Turkey made the decision to block access to Twitter and YouTube. SurfEasy VPN lets our customers bypass this type of internet censorship by encrypting all of their data through our Private Network – making it impossible to tell if a user is accessing a service like Twitter. Instantly we were one of the top apps in Turkey with 5,000 users joining within minutes of the block. That number grew to over 250k new users and kept going from there.

As not just a software company, but a network service provider, being able to quickly respond and support this type of exponential growth is both exciting and challenging.

What is your firm doing to overcome these challenges?

SurfEasy is obsessive about the quality of our service – which in large part means the quality of our Private Network. From the beginning we built a system that was capable of scaling to meet customer needs. Very early on we found that our solutions have international appeal and having a solution that allowed us to quickly grow to meet customer demands anywhere in the world was a key part of our design. Combined with an amazing technical and DevOp’s team we are purpose built for large scale exponential growth.

Subscription sales models are becoming more common in the software industry. Do you use a recurring sales model?

SurfEasy VPN service is a monthly subscription service. Customers can use the VPN on up to 5 devices for $4.99 per month, with unlimited usage. Those who wish to try the service can also use the VPN for free, with 500mb per month on us and the ability to earn more free data too.

What do you consider to be software industry best practices?

Security solutions are only as good as how often they get used.  Best practices have to make usability as important as the hard-core technology behind it.

Traditionally companies in our space have been very utilitarian and used almost exclusively by geeks like myself. Over the last few years as concerns over online privacy has grown in the mass market there’s been a real void in the industry in providing hard-core data encryption solutions that are accessible and easy to use for everyone. While I’m obviously biased I think our customers would agree that SurfEasy has solved this problem by providing personal privacy solutions that are not only powerful but work easily, reliably and as expected.