Industry: Information technology, security hardware and software
Founders: Priscilla Elora Sharuk, Antoine Jebara
Project launch: 2013
Employees at time of interview: None
Board of directors: No, four-member board of advisors
Ki is a password storage device that will activate computers and open programs on proximity when the device user authenticates right of access by fingerprint impression on their Ki. The device, which has been prototyped in several iterations, is designed to offer a time saving and easy to install solution to the problems that legitimate users face in accessing password protected computers and programs, and in securely managing and updating complex passwords. Cofounders Priscilla Elora Sharuk and Antoine Jebara have been developing the concept as a software and hardware solution and are preparing to roll out Ki in a two phase project. Release of the software as a mobile app is scheduled for November 2014 and production of the hardware solution is planned to “ideally” commence later this year, using a contract manufacturer in China. Sharuk and Jebara, who bootstrapped the project at the seed stage, are setting a fundraising target of $100,000 for the software product and are endeavoring to raise $500,000 to start production of the device, which is known technically as a hardware authentication token.
The business plan for Ki started taking shape in May 2013 and underwent frequent changes until a pivot this summer, when the cofounders decided to shift focus to finalizing and delivering the software solution to provide prospective corporate clients with proof of concept and hopefully motivate them to place orders for the hardware device. Their initial target market are IT and security companies in the EMEA region, Sharuk and Jebara say, and the intended first users of the device are executives of these companies — because at a $200 sales price per unit, the Ki hardware token will not come cheap. Reaching an order volume of 7,000 tokens is an important aim for the cofounders because it will reduce manufacturing cost per unit and increase their gross margin on the device from 50 to 70 percent. While building toward hardware production with the help of an advisory board of four local and foreign experts, the cofounders will release the software version as a freemium app during Slush, a large meeting for tech entrepreneurs in Finland. Sharuk will attend this program. She and Jebara plan for the formal establishment of a company, most likely as a Lebanese offshore with a Delaware, US, branch holding their intellectual property rights and patents, at the latest possible moment. They have yet to reach a valuation of the intended company and decide on shareholding distribution among themselves and share offerings to investors.
As Sharuk and Jebara note, they represent a “very cross functional team with different skill sets and backgrounds,” with Jebara being tech oriented and Sharuk showing her strength in design and business. The team has a vision to take their project to commercial reality, even if it requires adapting narratives and redefining markets.