Christmas holidays was just around the corner and I was really looking forward having some time off with my family, and certainly watching some nice movies in the evenings with my wife. Oh, I wished so much we had Netflix available in Hungary (it has been actually available since yesterday, but with restrictions re the availability of movies and series). Then suddenly I remembered I knew someone working on a VPN something – I checked, found him, and the same evening I became a happy subscriber of Netflix. Since then I have realized there is much more I can do using the internet being independent from local IP addresses.
I grew up in a rather large family in upstate New York. As one of ten children I had to be the loudest to make sure my voice was heard. I quickly learned how to negotiate with my siblings and parents to get my way.
It’s safe to say I was a bit of a trouble maker. I had the tendency to do the opposite of what I was told. This led to a lot of frustration from my parents and teachers.
My father did a great job at teaching me the value of a dollar. I was never given much of an allowance. If I wanted some money I had to do work to earn it. This led me to create lemonade stands and start hustling with summer businesses to earn money. I did everything from scooping dog poop in my neighbors yards to shoveling driveways in the winter. I did whatever I had to do to earn money.
Where do you come from? Why did you end up in Budapest? Why Budapest?
I came to Budapest in the fall of 2011 for a job in the FMCG industry. I worked for a distribution company here. The work was okay but I had a bit of a panic attack. I think you could call it “the quarter life crisis.” I knew I was wasting time working in an office. Budapest is an amazing city with a very low cost of living. In my opinion it’s one of the best places int he world to start a bootstrapped business because you can live cheaply and the the internet is super fast (not true in other parts of the world I’ve lived like southeast Asia).
What is buffered.com all about? How would you define the service?
Buffered.com is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service provider. We started the company to provide an insanely easy to use and straightforward service to our customers. Many of our users struggle to access geo restricted content or are forced to deal with restricted access to the internet. We built our service for these people.
What makes you unique / different from your competitors?
Our service is different in that we set out to really simply the service offering. Most of our users are simply looking to mask their internet traffic and gain access to geo restricted content. We set to build a software that even our grandmothers could use. We keep this in mind when shipping new iterations of our product.
The VPN space has grown in the last couple years. Several big companies operate out of Hong Kong and the UK. We prefer to ignore these players as much as possible and focus on providing our customers with the best service possible.
Can you tell me about the team?
Sure, our team is comprised of 3 founders (2 Hungarians and Me) and 7 more awesome people that help us deliver our service. Our business was originally conceived in Budapest but we now operate out of Gibraltar for privacy reasons.
Who are your co-founders? What are their roles within the company? What is yours?
My cofounders are incredibly brilliant individuals. Buffered never would have been created had we all not agreed to work together in launching this company. Peter was the first to join and share my vision of launching a more competitive service than what already existed in the market. Today Pete is focused on customer acquisition and marketing in the company. Gergely joined shortly after and became CTO focusing on building out our MVP (minimal viable product). As CEO of an early stage company my focus is on making sure everyone has the tools and resources to do their jobs so that the company can operate. On any give day that might mean spending time on hiring, employee management, finance, project leading, customer acquisition, business admin, legal and anything else that pops up.
How did you get the idea? What did inspire you?
I moved to Budapest in the fall of 2011. It was one of the best decisions I ever could make. I’m completely comfortable in Hungary and love the city and the country I know call home. The only major complaint I had was that I missed my US IP address. I know it seems like a funny thing to say but a big pain point of being an Expat and living abroad is losing access to all the web applications and services I grew to love. I still hold on to my American identity and I’m very proud to be an American.
After getting settled I quickly looked for a way to get access to things like Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu that were blocked in Budapest. I learned that a VPN was the best way to gain access to these services and quickly started doing more research. It wasn’t long before I decided to launch a VPN of my own. In hindsight I’m certainly glad I moved abroad or I may have otherwise been able to do what I’m doing now.
Where are you now with users? How quickly are you growing?
We do not publicly share user numbers and growth at this time. I can say that we are pleased with the thousands of users we do have and we are growing. As a bootstrapped company that has taken on no outside funding we are very pleased and have no plans to raise money.
Are you planning to raise money in the close future? If so, for what?
As I mentioned we are bootstrapped and do not have plans to raise money. We have been approached by several investors but we’ve declined outside funding up until this point. We would consider money if it came from the right investors who could positively contribute to our growth.
Where are you going? What is your long-term vision?
Our goal with Buffered is to serve as many people as possible with our service. We feel the privacy space is still in its infancy and we’re well positioned to keep educating internet users about the importance of protecting their privacy online. VPN is here to stay and we plan to become a household name and the largest VPN provider online.
Who is your typical market (age, professional, geographical location, etc)?
Our typical market is semi-internet savvy users who travel extensively or live abroad. Many of our customers are expats or are looking to access content from abroad. We serve a lot of higher education students and working professionals
What channels do you use for marketing?
We focus on working with affiliates who run price comparison websites and the rest has been word of mouth. luckily many of our users speak highly of us in forums around the world and this has led to steady growth.
And finally: How do you see the CEE region for startups?
I’m biased because I live here in the CEE region but I’m extremely bullish on what will happen here going forward. I see tremendous talent amount young people in this part of the world. Many young people are still very risk adverse which I think greatly hinders growth in the startup space. Slowly this is changing and the idea for a young person to take a risk and start a business is being seen as a lot less risky.
In the last four years I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of coworking facilities, incubators, and investors in Budapest. I’ve noticed the same in Vienna and other parts of the region. Bottom line is I don’t think you need to be in silicon valley to start the next great business. We’re living in such an incredible period of time where you can identify a problem like not having a US IP address and take your solution to market. This can be done from anywhere in the world. As Gary Vee says “Your country is not the variable of your hustle…Your drive is not predicated on your zip code.”
I’m proud to be based here in the CEE region and I expect big things in the coming years.