Gareth Owen is the owner and creator of the Redkey USB business and product line. A specialist with a career background in technology and electronics - Gareth is both a businessman and technology enthusiast with an eye towards design. Gareth states:
"The future of technology lies in simplicity."
It is this perspective that would form the basis of what would be his brainchild: An affordable and easy to use data erasure solution, widely available on the open market for homes and businesses alike. This idea would eventually become realized as the Redkey USB Company and its excellent product line.
Long before Redkey was a glimmer in his eye, Gareth was building a career in the U.K. Cellphone repairs industry. Starting as a Repair Technician and eventually progressing up to Technical Manager, Gareth has worked closely with several prestigious companies such as Apple, Blackberry, and Sony Ericsson.
"I learned a great deal in particular while working in conjunction with the Canadian Firm Research in Motion - now known simply as Blackberry. The quality of their products & processes was unrivaled at the time."
It was however during these years as a technical leader that Gareth would take notice of how consumers of other brands would present damaged or faulty devices that still contained personal data and information.
"Blackberry was a smart company. The process they had in place ensured all devices were data-wiped upon arrival to the Repair Centre before any repair was even attempted."
Other manufacturers were not so vigilant. Digging deeper, Gareth took note of how this disparity between manufacturers was concerning since repairs staff would effectively be privy to customer data once a repair had been made, and he recognized that this situation posed a security issue.
"Even after reformatting or resetting device storage, sufficient fragments of information can and do remain recoverable using even the most basic data recovery techniques. Fragments of data can potentially be recovered by the unscrupulous which compromises a consumer’s privacy and may even reveal personal and sensitive information."
Knowing this, Gareth would go on to make further research and eventually concluded that the principle of data retention applies to nearly every gadget with storage ranging from Cellphones and Tablets to Computers, Laptops, and even Memory Cards.
At first, Gareth decided to go it alone and establish his own company that recycled and resold old computers and phones - but with a difference: It would provide an additional free service of wiping the old data upon arrival as part of the process. Upon further study, Gareth would soon discover a niche market within the digital landscape that dealt with data erasure and data destruction.
However, he also discovered that there was only one major player in the data erasure market. Not only that, but this one player was doing business by funneling their customers through an old, complicated and outdated system (DBAN). Having purchased the rights to this free software and system, the player in question had halted any further development of DBAN, instead of promoting their paid commercial product which is expensive and sold on a subscription + pay per use basis.
"Because DBAN was no longer being developed, the business that bought the rights to it effectively cornered the market of data erasure for some time, thus causing the market to stagnate.”
Gareth decided this was an unfair consumer situation that needed to be addressed out of necessity:
"Data privacy and cyber-security should be an affordable and readily available option to all."
To this end, Gareth had the brainchild of offering a product that provided a simple, easy to use and cost-effective solution for data destruction which would be equally available to both regular consumers and business enterprises.
Gareth would look at the possibility of developing proprietary software that accomplished full data destruction. After research & developing a software prototype for the personal computer platform that worked effectively, he decided to pursue creating and marketing this as a product for the mass market.
Crowdfunding through Kickstarter
Gareth made plans and preparations to establish what would be the Redkey USB product line. He surmised that a USB device platform would be the best option for simplicity and accessibility that most consumers could grasp. After initial programming and testing proved successful, Gareth launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Version 1 of the "World’s first Easy to Use Computer Data Wipe Tool" on 22 March 2018.
"Software development is an expensive process, so I needed to raise funding. I had heard about crowdfunding and decided to try my luck with it rather than take out a traditional loan. The first backer donations came in within minutes of posting the project, which both humbled me and filled me with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to deliver my promise. I had to draw upon almost every technical skill I have ever learned during my former career to ensure the project was delivered successfully. I became a manufacturer, solely responsible for my own production processes. It tried to apply the best practices that I had already learned working in big business. The first campaign was an unexpected success yet extremely stressful. I felt my reputation was on the line. There was a steep learning curve but with a great deal of time and effort, everything turned out well. It was a worthwhile and personally rewarding experience."
The first Redkey USB crowdfunding campaign generated Approx. $12,000 from around 250 individual valued Kickstarter backers and supporters. Although the project exceeded the funding target, the actual costs of manufacturing & delivering the product were significantly higher than the amount raised. Gareth funded the difference himself because of his fervent belief in the goal of providing an affordable alternative to consumers and businesses for their data erasure needs.
“Yes, I was somewhat out of pocket after the first project. I put it down to unfamiliarity with the Crowdfunding model, but I did have something to show for it at the end and knew that there was continued demand. I wanted to develop the product further."
Gareth’s perseverance would pay off. After the Redkey USB products produced from this initial Kickstarter campaign were given glowingly favorable reviews from tech. experts like the crew from the popular Linus Tech Tips on YouTube, he followed up with a second Kickstarter campaign commencing 08 December 2018 for the Version 2 of the Redkey system. This second crowdfunding campaign combined with the fantastic recommendation by Linus Tech Tips helped bring in the support of another 1,800+ backers and generated development funds of over $120,000.
Present and Future
Today, having delivered the Redkey Version 2 during August 2019, Gareth is successfully operating and promoting Redkey USB LTD with the current version available directly from his company’s home site. Not resting on the laurels of the growing success of his business, Gareth is currently proceeding to provide continued product support and updates to Redkey USB customers and clients.
“Redkey has had a lot of support and is certainly a growing success. Thousands of private individuals and businesses worldwide are now using the Redkey to meet their data privacy needs. The feedback has been great and there is a Redkey in most countries in the world now."
Beyond this, Gareth is currently in the final stages of making preparations for the Redkey system to be available for Cellphones and other devices (initially Android platforms, with iPhone and other formats to follow). A third crowdfunding campaign is in the works and targeted for 2020 to release and develop RedKey Mobile.
"The development of the Redkey Software has now been ongoing for almost a couple of years now - even between projects. I have something really special in the pipeline. Redkey is getting smarter."
Ultimately, the goal is to make RedKey available for any platform that uses computers and / or data storage: This includes devices such as Smart TVs, game consoles like Xbox and PlayStation. Other smart devices such as satellite navigation, routers, or even “smart” cars like the Tesla are fair game eventually.
“Even some cars now contain complex computer systems. I hope one day Redkey will become synonymous with consumers when it comes time to repurpose our used technology - even with things like used vehicles. Maybe I will get the opportunity to speak with Elon about the prospect of a partnership deal sometime.”
Gareth believes that no one should be denied the opportunity of protecting their data and information easily and effectively. His company RedKey LTD is dedicated to showing the way to do it.
Message from Gareth:
“Hi! I’m Gareth Owen, founder, and CEO of Redkey Ltd. I am a Tech specialist, entrepreneur, computer enthusiast and gamer. My passion for technology and design is part of what fuels my desire to provide the Redkey Technology solution to everyone around the world. I believe no one should be denied the opportunity to cover up their digital footprint - whether it’s a large business or the average person on the street. This ethos is at the core of the vision of Redkey - to provide a simple, effective and affordable way to wipe data storage devices of the information that one would not want strangers or criminals to get a hold of. Our motto is "Data Gone Forever!" The digital age I have grown up in has opened up a world of great opportunities for everyone. Sadly, that also includes unethical people who seek to take advantage of the unwary. Redkey LTD is dedicated to providing the means of protection against the unethical and for this protection to be widely available to all at a reasonable cost. No more expensive pay per use services for data erasure. No more need for complicated instructions nor trial and error. I want everyone to be capable of using Redkey regardless of prior technical expertise. The Redkey data wipe product line is specifically designed to be easy to use. I would like to take this opportunity to thank RedKeys fervent supporters and crowdfunding backers who believed in me and the vision for the Redkey project. The project is ongoing and the product is continuously improving. Your trust and faith in the goals of this project is what sparks my fuel. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all!”