Move over Gmail. The team behind Telios believes they have an answer to all of our email woes and have created a safer, more robust email service that is better equipped to help us communicate on future iterations of the Internet.
Taking on the likes of Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and other major players in the email service space is an “admittedly bold statement” for a startup out of Wilmington, North Carolina, said co-founder Youri Nelson. But Telios saw the need for a decentralized, encrypted version of email to help users better communicate while keeping their data safe.
Email is a primary form of communication, identity, and verification, but it really hasn’t changed much over the decades. The traditional email model is prone to spam, hacks, and other cybersecurity risks, co-founder Gareth Harte explained to Hypepotamus. Harte started thinking about the idea while he was working as a software engineer at Live Oak Bank, a leading SMB lender in the country headquartered in Wilmington. While it was a side project for years, Harte was dedicated to building a platform in which users could own their data and have access to an email service that wasn’t just “mining for data and selling ads.”
Email has other inherent problems we are all familiar with: It’s not great for sharing sensitive information and there is a limit on how much data a user can actually send. It’s a pain point Nelson experienced working as VP of Analytics at Live Oak Bank. “Whether it was internally or even with customers, we’d have to set up another service with many steps to get people to connect with secure files. It was always a very lengthy and annoying process…and quite frankly, it was a time suck.”
Telios’ decentralized model not only solves email’s security flaws, but it also gives users the ability to send “unlimited” amounts of data. The only limitation is the user’s own bandwidth and hard drive.
Harte saw the pandemic as a turning point for consumer privacy and security concerns, making it the right time to jump into the startup full-time.
Telios launched its beta in October 2021 and initially gained traction through the privacy and security-focused communities on Reddit. It started as a desktop application, but advances in mobile peer-to-peer network capabilities have expanded the startup’s roadmap plans for the coming months.
Telios works off a subscription model with backup options to ensure you don’t lose all your email data if you lose your device.
The team has also built the platform to be open-sourced, which Nelson said is about showcasing trust and allowing users to verify security claims.
Harte said that Telios stands apart from other major players in the email space because “unlike a traditional email server that keeps all your emails in the cloud, we give you all of your data and you keep it all on your device where it’s encrypted. If you wanted to send an email to me…our devices would connect to each other through a peer-to-peer network without an intermediary.”
The Telios Team
There are two different meanings behind the name Telios.
As Harte told Hypepotamus, it is both a riff of the word telecommunications and is — as he found out after the fact — a Greek word that roughly translates to ‘complete solution’. The team believes this decentralized, encrypted version of email is a natural progression and ultimately the solution for how we will communicate in the decentralized model of the Internet coming with Web 3.0.
Alongside Harte and Nelson is co-founder Stephen Hayes, previous SVP of Analytics at Live Oak Bank.
Live Oak Bank, alongside FinTech powerhouses like nCino, Apiture, and Canapi Ventures, have spurred a unique and budding startup community in the coastal North Carolina city.
Nelson describes the current moment in the Wilmington startup scene as “effervescent.”
“It’s hard to be in the Web3 space in downtown Wilmington right now because it’s still so new. But I can see in a couple of years there could be some significant traction here, which is exciting for us,” he added.
While Web 3.0 startups are just hitting the mainstream, the Telios team said they were pleasantly surprised at the number of startups in that vertical that took part at last week’s DIG SOUTH tech conference in Charleston, where Telios took the stage to present their idea and vision.
The team raised a $275,000 round late last year that coincided with its beta launch, but will look for further investment to build out its development team in the near future as it looks to improve the very way we all communicate online.
Feature photo provided by Jim Roberts. Other photos courtesy of Telios.