How the Great Recession helped these Chicago founders find success

by Andreas Rekdal
June 8, 2016

Most people are familiar with the basic best practices for cybersecurity: use strong passwords with upper- and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers and don’t use the same password for more than one site. But plenty of us settle for less-than-secure passwords, and how many people do you actually know who never, ever reuse them?

Of course, there’s a reason why people don’t follow best practices. Memorizing a strong password is no walk in the park — and many of us use dozens of logins a day. Keeping all of those passwords straight would be practically impossible.

Originally launched as a free iPhone app in the App Store in 2009, Keeper Security addresses this problem by helping consumers and businesses generate and manage strong passwords for the sites and applications they use. And in addition to passwords, Keeper’s cloud-based encrypted vault also holds onto sensitive documents — sort of like a fireproof safe for your entire digital life.

The idea to start Keeper came about on a business trip to China in 2008. At the time, co-founders Darren Guccione (pictured above left) and Craig Lurey (above right) were in the hardware business, making mobile device chargers and Bluetooth accessories.

“We were on the plane, and [Lurey] was tinkering with the first software development kit that Apple had put out for iOS devices,” said Guccione. “I said ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ and he showed me this app that he was creating.”

That app was the beginning of what would eventually become the first Keeper password manager. Still only a year after the first iPhone’s launch, encryption companies were still focusing primarily on desktop applications, leaving the mobile market virtually untouched.

“When I started my research, it was a market that I knew was going to be gigantic,” said Guccione. “We looked at each other, and we were like, ‘Oh my God! What’s about to happen with mobile apps is going to be like what happened with the Internet in the 90s.’”

In 2010, after the app started taking off in popularity — and with their hardware business still struggling in the wake of the recession — the co-founders decided to take a gamble on the future of mobile computing. They started focusing their full-time efforts on building a business around the password manager, expanding over time into encrypted data storage, as well.

The gamble paid off. Today, Keeper works with companies like Orange, HTC, Samsung and AT&T to preload its app on new devices. The company employs 60 people split between its Chicago headquarters and offices in California and the Philippines — all without any outside funding.

With the growth of its flagship enterprise solution, which lets administrators manage passwords and sensitive files across an entire organization, Keeper expects to add 35 new employees this year in its Chicago offices alone.

Though the company is well-positioned today, Guccione makes no secret of the fact that the journey there has been long and difficult.

"It took me 18 months to climb one company out of a hole and start Keeper at the same time," he said. "It was a pretty unreal experience — and one that I do not want to repeat."

Image via Keeper Security.

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Jobs at Keeper Security, Inc.

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