Our first stapps on the road to an open internet for everyone

Zezame is on a journey to help anyone, anywhere get open access to all content, wherever you are.

As a team of enthusiastic internet and security professionals based in the Netherlands, we are obsessively thinking about the future of the internet. In the next 8 years, 4 Billion new people will join the internet for the first time.

What kind of internet will they encounter? Will it be one where thoughts and ideas are shared and discussed openly? Where new innovations can develop, and where lives can be improved?

Increasingly, we are witnessing a ‘Great Concentration’, where big internet companies are increasingly controlling social dynamics and the limitations of free speech.

Censorship, the decline of Net Neutrality, deplatforming, restrictions on the use of apps based on locations or nationality: this was not how the internet was supposed to operate.

So, where do we come from, and where are we now?

In case you didn’t realize it, starting and running a startup, especially one with Big Hairy Goals such as reinventing the internet, is no small undertaking.

Since officially launching in August last year, we have had to make some big decisions that have affected both our roadmap and strategic focus.

For one, our initial thought had been to kick-start Zezame by launching an ICO. It made perfect sense, as this would fit our belief in a community-centric project, where users would both be contributors to the project, and benefactors of its success.

We had pretty much everything ready for launch:

  • We had had numerous discussions with potential ICO platforms and decided on one that seemed to match our DNA the best.
  • We wrote 95% of our whitepaper.
  • We (finally) decided on a tokenomics model (this one took a while, it turns out that creating something akin to the Fed whilst building your product isn’t that easy as it sounds)
  • We built our stellar team, including our team of advisors
  • We had an ICO marketing plan
  • We knew how we would spend our ICO money

And then we had to admit something to ourselves. Something had been gnawing at us for this whole time. It just didn’t feel right any more. The more we kept researching the ICO and tokenomics field, the more we realized that this was NOT how we wanted to start Zezame.

Sure, companies were raising millions, just based on an idea. But we also kept track of how the tokens were performing after the initial ICO. Not so great it turns out: most tokens significantly diminishing in value in the first year after doing an ICO, illustrated by the total cryptocurrency market cap decline in 2018.

This confirmed what we already felt for a while: a lot of ICOs are not done with the customers in mind. From our, purely subjective and partial, view, startups that did a successful ICO tend to stay in the ‘ICO Game’ and ‘Features Game’.  Conversations online tend to revolve about the value of the token, or about specific elements of their blockchain technology.

It turns out, most conversations (and most followers of said companies) are not really the customers and users of their products, but investors in the ICO who are just interested in making a great return on their investments.

 

Focusing on Problem-Product Fit

Where we feel more comfortable, is in solving actual problems people have. We are technology-agnostic. Sure, blockchain technology is great and we are using it, but only because it is the best fit for our customers’ problems.

All this means, we didn’t have the same jumping-off platforms as some other blockchain companies did have. We had to rely on the investment of one informal investor, and are currently in advanced talks with early-stage investment funds to bring us to the next level.

 

The road we are on now

via GIPHY

As we are fond of saying at Zezame, “the strongest connection, is from human to human”. That’s how we believe we can build a decentralized future for the internet. Spurring this belief, it’s essential that we understand the individual nodes in these connections – you.  

We have spent the last months doing a lot of customer testing and validation to get to know you better. In talking to potential users, we have learnt more about what problems you are facing in accessing content online, or protecting yourself online.

We have also learnt a great deal about specific issues you face in your home country. For example, how content restrictions actually work, and how they actually affect you, your relationships and your work on a day-to-day basis. The recent shut-down of parts of the internet in Venezuela have illustrated the need for an open, uncensored internet even more. Our discussions with people in Venezuela and neighbouring countries on the need for an open internet for all, have fuelled our imagination, but also surprised us. Our post was shared more than a thousand times, and has sparked conversations across Facebook (PS more to come on our decisions to stick with Facebook…for now…).


We have also been successful in getting on board a great full-time CTO. Mentor Palokaj is a seasoned VPN entrepreneur, having already started and sold his previous VPN service. He is fully committed to building a decentralized future for the internet, that benefits everyone.

Building our team, our product, and our understanding of our future customers have been our most important milestones over the past half year.  

And now…?

Today we are launching 3 brand-new Android apps in the Google Play store.

Why 3 apps, instead of one?

Because we want to test our assumptions that we have formulated based on our discussions with you. We asked a variety of questions, and tested a range of ad copies which are intended to give us a better understanding of your needs and problems-to-be-solved.

We have built 3 different versions of a VPN app, aimed at specific use cases that we have identified as the most relevant ones.

Specifically, we are launching the following VPN apps:

  • Zezame Protect – a simple-to-use privacy centric VPN app. Enabling the security mode in the app will encrypt your connection, shielding you from people trying to snoop in on your connection.
  • Zezame Unblock – a simple-to-use VPN app that unblocks services that are commonly blocked. By enabling the unblock mode many restricted websites and apps will become available.
  • Zezame Travel – allows you to view content restricted to specific countries. The app allows you to select the country you wish to connect to, and you will be able to view the geo-restricted content.

What do they do?

The three apps that will be launching today (Zezame Protect, Zezame Unblock and Zezame Travel) are what we call ‘Traction Apps’. Whereas ‘Alpha’ or ‘Beta’ apps are focused on testing features and finding and squashing bugs towards the finalization of the final product, our Traction Apps should be seen at an even earlier stage, aimed at validating our assumptions, getting to know you (our customer) better, and using those insights to develop our Alpha P2P product.

A Traction App is very limited in scope and the number of features, which is exactly the thought behind it. We do not (yet) want you to go too deep into technical solutions, we first want to better understand and validate the various ways to solve your problems. And, which of the use cases are most ‘popular’ or persistent.

With the user data these stats provide (naturally, as a privacy-focused company we take yours very seriously, and we never collect individual user data), plus your comments, we will be one step further on our road to building a decentralized VPN, based on the strongest connection there is: from human to human.

 

What don’t they do?

These Traction Apps are not intended to give you a full view of the direction the P2P Zezame platform will go to. For one and most importantly, the new apps use corporate VPN servers of our B2B launching customer — a cybersecurity scale-up in Amsterdam. The number of locations is therefore limited, we are currently offering 7 geo-switching locations.

So these apps are not leveraging residential IPs, which is our ultimate aim in our P2P dVPN marketplace on our roadmap for 2020.

As a consequence, some of the biggest advantages that our dVPN platform will offer, such as fully bypassing government or content provider restrictions, are limited by the inherent restrictions these servers allow.

It goes without saying, that a big chunk of our ultimate value will be in the advantages that decentralization offers: full anonymity, full access to all content.

Also, these apps are by design fully dressed down. We want to be able to validate the most popular use cases, which is why we have segmented them into three distinct apps, which we will also niche-target our audiences for.

Other than that, we are using the highest security and encryption protocols that are available. Your data is secured using highest-grade AES-256 encryption with SHA384 crytpographic hashing.

All apps use the OpenVPN protocol. OpenVPN is a open-source commercial software that leverages virtual private network techniques to create secure point-to-point connections in routed configurations. It also uses a security protocol that utilizes SSL/TLS for key exchange.

The future of Zezame

With the launch of the 3 VPN ‘Traction Apps’, we will receive the data required to test and validate our assumptions, and demonstrate traction and the viability of our idea.

This will be used to build and iterate, eventually culminating in the release of our first public beta in the first quarter of 2020 that leverages the full decentralized network effects of the dVPN ecosystem.

Over the next couple of months, we will keep you informed on the progress and will share more details of our upcoming products.

How you can get involved

From today, you can download any of the apps for free – depending on your particular need you download the one that best matches what you want to do.

From this point, we want to involve the community in the development of the product(s). This means we will also be uploading our development code on Github, and will actively seek your participation and comments.

For now, the quickest and best way to reach us is to send us an email at info@zezame.io with your comments, suggestions and feedback.

 

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