Here is a fact that you need to know: the more Internet-connected wearable devices we use, the greater the chance that we expose our privacy to prying eyes. First founded in March 2015, a new startup company, Revealo, creates a small tracking device that can be used to find lost valuables, pets, and people while still keeping its users’ locations safe.
Chief executive officer of Revealo, Piotr Oleszkiewicz, 36, is an entrepreneurial expert in information technology security. Originally from Wrocław, Poland, he was the senior security consultant of Surfland Systemy Komputerowe, S.A., the biggest IT integrator in his country. He is also the founder of the cybersecurity company SentiNode, a public speaker, and a Mensa member. Just like other young tech guys from all over the world, Oleszkiewicz came to the Bay Area to try and make it in Silicon Valley’s startup scene.
On July 15th at RocketSpace, the technology campus and networking space for startups in San Francisco, Oleszkiewicz discussed his latest development, Revealo technology. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Marisa Tania: Tell us more about yourself, what have you done in the past?
Piotr Oleszkiewicz: I created my first company, Inter-Pi, when I was 15-years-old. It was a personal computer sales company, and my high school was my first customer. As time passes, the margin on PC sales is growing smaller and smaller, and I wanted things that required more knowledge.
Then I created another company, SentiNode when I was 26. SentiNode is an IT security company, but it also has equipment sales, integration, and application developments. We are partners with Xerox, Adobe, and many more. And now I’ve created a management team to take care of SentiNode back in Poland while I am here in San Francisco focusing on my latest project, Revealo.
Tania: You have a strong cybersecurity background. How did you get involved in the IT security industry in the first place?
Oleszkiewicz: My first Internet access was when I was 10 years old in a university where my parents worked. This was three years before the telephone cable Internet, the time when probably there were only 100 world-web-servers in the world. When I was bored, I just used the university computer. I learned a lot about Internet security and how easy it is to break it. Now I want to use the knowledge in a good way and make money out of it.
Tania: Are you saying that you were a hacker?
Oleszkiewicz: You said that (laughing)
Tania: In your own words, can you explain what Revealo is?
Oleszkiewicz: With Revealo tracking technology, it is possible to track people or items on a citywide scale while keeping full privacy. Our patent pending technology allows us to scramble the wireless digital fingerprint using encryption systems, and limit the tracking capability only to the users’ encryption keys. So, no one unauthorized can track you unless you want them to.
Currently, we have ready prototypes. We are working on funding right now, and we are hoping to introduce Revealo to the public at the end of this year.
Tania: What technology does Reavealo use?
Oleszkiewicz: Revealo technology is different from the GPS and GSM solutions that are very power hungry. It is important for tracking products to work a pretty long time, and a GPS tracker that is lightweight and doesn’t have a big battery won’t work that long. If you want to protect your children or the elderly, they won’t remember to charge it every day. This is the first problem, and our technology allows the tracker to work for half a year to a year on a single coin cell battery. We are modifying Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE for privacy and two different wireless technologies for long-range tracking so that we can achieve 1.5 to 3 miles range in the city.
Tania: What does it look like in the tangible form?
Oleszkiewicz: The prototype is a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) at a fingernail size. For tracking people, it will be in a bracelet form or integrated with shoes. For tracking items, instead of having it as an attachment, the best way to use it is to integrate it directly into the product by the manufacturer so it would be impossible for a thief to remove it.
Tania: How about the patent? Is it a United States patent?
Oleszkiewicz: We already filed for a patent for our core intellectual property cryptographic system at the beginning of October 2015, and we will be extending our coverage internationally and adding more protection for different functions. The U.S. patent gives us a yearlong priority right for a worldwide patent from the first filing date.
Tania: Who is your target market?
Oleszkiewicz: We will probably be going the way of B2B2C (business to business to consumer), so we will interact directly with businesses that provide the service to the end customer.
Tania: Who do you think needs Revealo?
Oleszkiewicz: If you use a fitness tracker, smart watch or a simple “find me” type tag, then most probably you are at risk. The real problem with the existing tracking technology devices, like Tile or TRACKER, is that anyone can locate them. And this means it is easy to be tracked by criminals, simply a privacy disaster. For example, with pet trackers, Whistle, we want to protect our dogs, but at the same time we put them at risk by exposing their locations to others.
Criminals have access to a very basic and cheap tool set that can put people on their map. Our real-time location data can now be bought on the dark web (the black market of the internet) for as little as $13.30 per person per day.
Tania: But most people like me are not under a threat of being hacked, so why should we be aware of this?
Oleszkiewicz: You may not feel it, but it is happening regardless. And criminals are doing it on a massive scale. But of course it also depends on the level of risk you can accept, and also how interesting a target you are for the criminal.
Tania: What do you think about the future of wearable devices and cybersecurity?
Oleszkiewicz: Cybersecurity is becoming very important since more data is being exposed online. Wearables will grow smaller; probably they will be integrated into everyday devices. Imagine the functionality of Fitbit in your garments. And this could go bad if those products don’t have technology like ours.
Tania: You are originally from Poland. When and why did you move to San Francisco?
Oleszkiewicz: I first came here in February 2015. San Francisco is the world capital for startups, more of 50 percent of global funding happens here; it is the place to be.
Tania: What do you think about the startup culture in San Francisco?
Oleszkiewicz: Compared to other places, people have ‘the give it forward’ attitude here. People are really open; they are willing to share their experience and expertise. Some people will help you to achieve what you want without expecting something in return. But they will expect you to help someone else in the future, which is very nice.
Tania: Many high-profile startups ended up shuttering their doors. What is your opinion on this?
Oleszkiewicz: Most new startups have close to zero business experience or don’t have a real idea. If you try to create a startup that would be, let’s say, Uber for single moms, it doesn’t make sense because there is already Uber, and single moms can use it. The approach of taking an existing model that succeeded and trying to take compete in big markets is why a lot of these startups are dying.
Tania: How are you confident that Revealo will survive?
Oleszkiewicz: We are ahead of our competitors because Revealo is both safe and battery friendly. It is possible for distinct products to upgrade their current products with Revealo technology. Our goal is to become the biggest item tracking platform in the world.
I’ve run businesses for 20 years now; I am a technical person, but I am also a businessperson. It is also very important to understand that no one knows everything. When I don’t know what I am doing, it’s a wise thing to ask people who have been there for guidance.
Tania: So, you are a member of Mensa, and your IQ even surpasses above the maximum a test could measure. How does it feel to be a genius?
Oleszkiewicz: I would not trade my brain for anything else. It is super fun to be able to analyze complex issues in the blink of an eye, and it definitely helps my success.