Montreal McGill Students Accepted into Startup Chile’s New Cohort

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Montreal-based encrypted social network startup Syme has been accepted into Startup Chile’s ninth generation, announced the South American startup accelerator recently.

Syme a secure social network for groups that aims to help people and organizations overcome problems of privacy and surveillance when communicating online. The startup claims it’s the only social network that can offer its users complete security in knowing that their communications can only be viewed by the people they choose – not by ad agencies, not by third parties, and “not even by us”.

In a blog post Startup Chile wrote that it with arrival dates in February and March of 2014, “the chosen startups call more than 28 different countries home and represent a myriad of industries.”

Overall, 101 startups were selected. Another startup from Montreal, MissingLINK, is currently participating in the Santiago-based program, its eighth generation of startups. Syme’s cohort will start in March.

Start-Up Chile was created by the Chilean Government to attract early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups in Chile, using it as a platform to go global. The end goal of the accelerator is to turn Chile into the “definitive innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America”. Startups receive up to $40,000 of seed funding and one-year working visas to spend the majority of the year in Santiago, while the government of Chile tries to boost its innovation ecosystem to rival that of world-class nations.

Syme was developed by cofounders Jonathan Hershon, Louis-Antoine Mullie and Christophe Marois, all McGill University students. PC World reported that the trio self-funded the startup while working out of their homes.

Their platform encrypts all the content that comes on its social network, like status updates, photos and files, so that only people invited to a group can view it. It’s a decent alternative to sites like Facebook or Whats App, who’s privacy concerns among users seem to be at the forefront of criticism these days.

The company said that because of its “end-to-end encryption”), it’s able to guarantee an unparalleled level of privacy to its users. End-to- end encryption has previously been used to increase privacy on the Web, but it has yet to emerge in social media because of technical barriers. By exploiting the latest advances in browser technology, and combining these with cryptographic primitives used by banks and the military, Syme is the first company to bring client-side encryption to something as simple and easy to use as a social network. Encryption remains the best way to protect what you share online, but it’s notoriously hard to use. Syme make it as easy as using Facebook or Gmail — that’s where it’s innovation and novelty lies.

Currently the network is accepting beta users.

“The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and easy to use for people who aren’t geeks or aren’t hackers or who aren’t cryptography experts,” Hershon told PC World. ““We wanted to make something that people could easily recognize and feel at home with.”

For any Orwell fans out there, you may remember a character in 1984 by the name of Syme, Winston’s colleague at the Ministry of Truth whom the Party “vaporised” because he was a freely thinking intellectual. Clever name for a startup standing up for individual privacy completely free speech in the age of NSA monitoring.

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is Managing Editor at Betakit. Prior to Betakit Joseph wrote for the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Regina Leader Post, Techvibes and BC Business Online. Joseph often goes crazy on twitter during NHL and NFL games.