“IP Ghoster – Be Anywhere. Unrestricted. Undetected. While Overcoming Adversity”

"IP Ghoster – Be Anywhere. Unrestricted. Undetected.  While Overcoming Adversity"Our Story

IP Ghoster is a communication security company focused on creating Next Generation products for online privacy and safety. Our software will become as indispensable to people as virus protection is today. But our path to building such revolutionary tools has been fraught with obstacles and challenges. We hope our story will help others avoid some of the struggles and tests we had to face, while inspiring others to continue fighting for their own success.

In 2008, founder Ken Tola – CEO of the internet group Bi3 – was developing a large client website with a group in Argentina. While in the midst of working on that project, Ken suddenly lost the ability to connect to his partner group’s servers. The Argentinian company was a reputable one that has done business in the US for decades, and the website they were building together was a standard ecommerce site. With no reason for the access to have been denied, Ken contacted his local Internet Service Provider to find out what happened. All he heard back from the ISP was that they had shut down access to all of Argentina for “internal reasons” that they would not expand on, and that there was nothing Ken could do about it.

Never one to accept “no,” as an answer, Ken started exploring other options. He knew about proxy servers and understood that finding the right proxy – in a region not being blocked – could circumvent the problem and allow him to regain access to Argentina. But during his proxy server search, Ken discovered that many of the hundreds of proxies he encountered either did not work or, worse, were set up to hack his computer, load malicious scripts or promote his locations to dangerous third parties. Even after locating a few proxy service providers that were safer, Ken found that these companies offered a very small set of servers, typically in only one location, and that he was again blocked within a matter of days. Ken knew there had to be a better way.

Utilizing his decades of experience and knowledge in the IT world, Ken set out initially to just create a means of separating the dangerous proxies from the safer ones. But this grew into a much more complex system for eliminating any hostile proxies and continuously verifying the ones that appeared safe. Understanding that he represented a world of internet users facing challenges and censorship all over the world, Ken’s process became the backbone of IP Ghoster, a company he created as the solution to these problems. Currently being patented, this revolutionary process is responsible for the verified set of proxies at the core of IP Ghoster’s data.

The next steps for IP Ghoster included building a means of automating access to the safe proxies, since even the verified proxies can fail or be blocked from time to time. Trying to manually utilize the proxies when they are down is extremely time-consuming and technically challenging. So Ken turned to a colleague & friend who works as a deep developer, in the hopes of teaming up to build out this system. Unfortunately, this was when IP Ghoster first stumbled.

Since Ken had turned to a friend to help him develop this piece of his innovative product, he overlooked important steps in vetting his skills and failed to consider if this colleague was prepared to tackle the work of a startup venture. It takes a special person to be invested in and motivated by an exciting company at its inception, and a special set of circumstances for that person to be able to stay focused when working for equity and not just pay. It was a hard lesson to learn and accept, but ultimately Ken had to take the work – and equity – back from his colleague, and regroup.

Knowing that IP Ghoster had a unique and almost limitless value, Ken stepped back to reconsider the direction of the product & company, and to find exactly the right people who could help realize the vision. At this point, though, Ken also made the decision to retain his ownership and grow the company completely out of his own pocket. He knew this would help him avoid some of the pitfalls of trying to find immediate funding, but he also knew that the work would develop much more slowly & he dealt with the frustration of having to work on IP Ghoster every night and every weekend while supporting his family with his full-time job. Similarly, he had to fight with the reality that his new team similarly had full-time jobs and were committing to his project because of its potential. He had given them stake in the company and this time had found the right people who were skilled and committed. But working for “no pay” meant that a project that could be completed in just a couple of days sometimes took weeks or months to get done.

The technology progressed, but it took a great deal of time and constant push on Ken’s part to keep his team focused and moving forward. He knew they were invested in the company, but also understood that their other work and lives kept stalling the process. Still, even though it took so much longer to develop, Ken was thrilled at the outcome: for the first time ever, he and his team had provided the world with safe, secure access to the internet AND the ability to choose the location of that access. This system that IP Ghoster created, which has generated two patents and counting, offers people truly private, anonymous online browsing unlike anything that has been offered before.

Essentially, Ken and his team studied the way Internet Service Providers (ISPs) run all communications through proxy servers, affording the government the ability to track any user at any time. Similarly, they understood how proxy service providers, including VPN providers, force users to register and then pass the communications through their own, trackable servers. With IP Ghoster, Ken and his team turned this process on its ear and found a way to offer customers a downloadable desktop application, with access to a random set of proxies not owned or monitored by IP Ghoster, which affords users a completely private and untraceable browsing experience. To further protect customer anonymity, IP Ghoster even built in a system of randomly switching proxies for users.

This new, cutting-edge technology not only offers privacy to users, but actually is built in this way to make it impossible for tracking to happen. In other words, even if an ISP lives up to its promise to not track its users, it still has the ability to do so and would use that power immediately if forced to by the government or if hacked by unscrupulous individuals. With IP Ghoster, the only traceable step is that first one of a user downloading a copy of the software – after that, there is no means of tracking since the proxies being utilized by users are not owned by IP Ghoster. In the world of communications security, this is a game-changer.

By December 2010, Ken’s team took a prototype to Shanghai for two weeks, and with IP Ghoster installed on a laptop was able to continuously surf blocked sites. China was a perfect test market, because of its infamous “Great (fire)Wall of China” which is one of the best in the world at shutting down proxy and privacy services. IP Ghoster’s laptop was never traced or blocked, making the product an instant hit. At that point, Ken knew it was time to take on investors to build a bigger development team and make the product mainstream-ready. With investors, though, came the next obstacle.

Ken understood that the nature of business meant that investors were out to evaluate risk and find ways to maximize investment. He looked for the right investors who he could work with for the long-term, given that the best partnership bonds entrepreneur and investor together to grow the product the best way possible and maximize profits for everyone. What Ken did not expect, however, was the type of self-serving investor who would try to prey on his company’s massive potential. He would receive calls, requests and meetings from ruthless businesses claiming to be ready and excited to invest in IP Ghoster. In actuality, though, these groups were trying to ride on IP Ghoster’s coattails by trying to get Ken and his team to agree to purchase services, hire individuals or “pay-to-play” with investors (pay money to be part of a network in the hopes that it leads to interested investors.) Being new to this “game,” Ken had to learn the hard way that while some of the logic presented to him from these “investment firms” seemed legit, none was directing him to the type of real investors he was seeking.

After a time-consuming cycle of trade shows, symposiums and forums that had invited IP Ghoster to present (promising access to investors, but ultimately trying to draw money out first), Ken fortunately was able to discern who the true, vetted, experienced investors were. The real investors requested business plans, asked pointed questions about IP Ghoster, followed up with the issues and challenges they pinpointed in the company’s future, and then offered their valuations of IP Ghoster. Lessons learned, Ken was able to find the right investors and, ultimately, enter true negotiations and come to terms with the perfect investor for his company.

To give perspective, though, it took Ken a full year (January 2011-January 2012) before he was able to land that investment money, a year of exhausting different options presented to him that turned out to be wastes of time and effort. Along the way, he learned not just large lessons about the investment community and the host of companies designed to prey on naive entrepreneurs, he even learned smaller lessons such as spending money on things like printing. When Ken agreed to present at his first investor event, he was told to prepare for up to 1,000 people. So he spent a great deal of his own money to create 1,000 information packages complete with glossy summaries, company sheets and plans – and then gave out approximately 25 in total at the event. Soon after, as IP Ghoster continued to develop and the executive summaries and information sheets needed to be updated, all the money spent to build the other hundreds and hundreds of packages was essentially poured down the drain.

"IP Ghoster – Be Anywhere. Unrestricted. Undetected.  While Overcoming Adversity"With money in hand, Ken was finally able to move from nights and weekends to what he thought would be a true workforce. The deep developers Ken had worked with for the past few years also ran a driver development company for over 15 years. They portended to have the expertise and technical range to build what was needed for IP Ghoster’s first product. Ken had vetted the people running that company for over two years and had no reason to believe that they would not deliver. And yet it was not the failure of these people to complete what they had proved to Ken in the past but their complete lack of ability to complete more than what they personally worked on that provide to be too much.

This last issue was the most crushing as IP Ghoster was generating significant potential user momentum at a time when Ken thought they were weeks from launch. The failure in this case was not performing the properly diligence on this company’s overall performance across their other clients. When a detailed project management review did finally happen it became clear that this group was exceptionally good at building deep technology but had little to no experience building products despite their claims to the contrary.

Fortunately Ken was able to remove those aspects of the product development that this group could not handle which helped those developers focus in on their expertise. Ken was then able to bring in a true product development group that is now driving forth on our first exciting product – IP Ghoster Local.

Ultimately, along a journey that started just as a means of providing himself with a better way to utilize proxies, Ken discovered the answers to many current communication issues. With IP Ghoster Local, users will be able to overcome online restrictions and be in any virtual location they want at any time. Soon thereafter IP Ghoster Social will provide truly secured, encrypted communications that will leap-frog VPN, SSL and other such technologies. After that IP Ghoster Universal will truly make people virtual ghosts by hiding every aspects of their online identity.

"IP Ghoster – Be Anywhere. Unrestricted. Undetected.  While Overcoming Adversity"Perhaps best of all will be the expected final part of the IP Ghoster suite, IP Ghoster Mobile, which will provide the whole suite of amazing services on mobile devices. Imagine no more international calls, no local blackouts and nobody following you without permission. This is the future IP Ghoster will bring to the world.

As IP Ghoster morphed from its initial goal of being a better proxy service provider into a communications security innovator, the team found that the platform had expanded. And like many companies with cutting edge technologies, Ken and the team were trying to work simultaneously on several products and new possibilities that kept presenting themselves. But IP Ghoster is still not out to market, which is the last major lesson that Ken and his team learned. It is critical to focus on one product and get it out the door, before attempting to build out the many other solutions that can be developed from this initial software. To that end, IP Ghoster is now solely focused on completing IP Ghoster Local and going live with that product in late June 2012. At that point, millions of people will instantly be able to browse online safely and anonymously without facing restrictions. After achieving this exciting goal, IP Ghoster will be well-equipped to move forward with IP Ghoster Social/Universal/Mobile products that will revolutionize the secured communication and private identity world.

IP Ghoster will absolutely change how people connect online and to provide online freedom to everyone, regardless of where they live. Are you ready to start Ghosting?


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