2020 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Exidio, Babson College (Olin)


MBA Program: Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

Industry: Computer Software

Founding Student Name(s): Dan Edlebeck

Brief Description of Solution: A leader in transparent, end-to-end encrypted VPN technology, Exidio builds beautiful applications empowering consumers and businesses to reclaim their digital privacy and security. Leveraging open-source code and decentralized networks, Exidio brings a new paradigm of transparency to the VPN space.

Funding Dollars: $0 – we’ve bootstrapped thus far.

What led you to launch this venture?

I’ve always had a fascination with how we can apply new technology to our lives. In high school, my friends made fun of me for owning the Panasonic D-Snap—a device I still claim was ahead of its time! Over the past five years, I have become much more concerned with our individual rights to privacy and security, especially online. In 2017, I founded an online community that was interested in reshaping online privacy. From Telegram chats, the Sentinel network was formed. After continued network growth, our CTO Srinivas Baride and I decided it was time to create Exidio, a company that provides software services to interact with the Sentinel network and other distributed networks.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Our biggest accomplishment to date is responding to the feedback we’ve received from our Android, PC, Linux, and Mac dVPN clients. We have created separate online Telegram communities for our Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Iranian, Vietnamese, Node, and main networks. With over 9,000 members across these active groups, we are receiving constant feedback on its features. We have continuously iterated on the clients and are about to launch our v3 client with direct fiat (credit card) in-app purchase capability. We crossed 75,000 downloads across our apps and are seeing record usage with over 1TB in average daily data consumed.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? We were lucky enough to be accepted this summer into Babson’s Summer Catalyst Program, which is a ten week virtual accelerator program for student ventures. From expert speakers to individualized mentorship, we have learned from leaders in the technology space, as well as from fellow peers on how to best position our venture in its next stage of growth. We’ve also gained an incredible advisor in Matt Caulfield – check out his startup Oort!

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or
she prove motivational to you?
There are so many entrepreneurs who inspired me. From the How I Built This Podcast to The Profile newsletter to Babson’s Entrepreneurs Of All Kinds, I cannot get enough of hearing about the vision, tenacity, and paths that founders of all types have blazed.

I’ll pick three: Blake Macleod, Angie Dalton, and Alexis Ohanian. Blake, an avid outdoorsman with a dislike of losing sunglasses to the bottom of the lake, founded Waves floating sunglasses and Kawartha Oudoor. After six years of operating, he sold the businesses shortly before joining our Babson MBA class. Blake’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met; I’m lucky to have him as a role model and friend. Angie spent 15 years of her career in capital markets before falling down the video game and blockchain technology rabbit hole. Becoming an expert in the intersection of blockchain, gaming, and the emerging nonfungible tokens space, she recently founded Signum Growth Capital, a broker dealer providing merger and acquisition advisory services for blockchain-based projects in digital gaming. Alexis Ohanian has had quite the journey as an entrepreneur, beginning by being denied by Paul Graham for Y Combinator. Paul then called back Alexis and Steve Huffman and they went on to found Reddit. At age 23, just 16 months after founding, they were pressured to sell the company too early. He went on to leave Reddit (and come back and leave again) and has since founded Initialized Capital, a successful early stage VC fund. Their diverse experiences and unique career paths are so cool. Goals.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it?Digital Transformation taught by Professor Ruben Mancha was really valuable. As we moved from in-person to virtual courses due to the pandemic, we, as a class, had to make a digital transformation. The process of transitioning to virtual lectures, group projects, breakout discussions, case study analysis, and guest presenters was completely seamless. Not only did we gain deep insights as to how small business and corporates have pivoted to being digitally native, we lived the experience in real-time within higher education.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Steve Derezinski has helped me to conceptualize how Exidio can evaluate and integrate distributed networks to develop a more robust and secure product. In Blockchain Ventures, we dug deep into the benefits and drawbacks of blockchain. Professor Derezinski and I spoke one-on-one to parse out how we can leverage the technology. Instead of using a centralized server for querying available nodes on the network, we realized that we could actually have nodes input their availability and connection paths on the blockchain. This allows users to identify which nodes are available and connect to them by communicating with the blockchain, instead of a centrally hosted server.

How did the pandemic impact your startup plans? Since the rise of COVID-19, we’ve seen increasing measures threatening our digital privacy and security. Contact tracing allows for greater surveillance at a time where the tracing of individuals could help to mitigate health risks. However, we must be vigilant to understand what data is being traced, by whom, in what manner is it collected, how it is stored, and for how long. When Americans’ digital rights were peeled away in the USA PATRIOT Act, we saw the government renew unprecedented surveillance policies beyond their initial proposed end date. The demand for stronger online privacy and security measures is bigger than ever.

Fortunately, as a digitally-native and global team, we haven’t had any change in our operations. We will always operate remotely taking advantage of the best tools to do so. For our internal notes, technical documentation, project management, stakeholder database, and CRM, we use Coda.io. We also leverage lots of other collaboration and communication tools, though we would love to work in-person alongside the other awesome startups in the Babson Summer Catalyst Program.

What is your long-term goal with your startup?  I hope to inspire a systemic shift in concern and advocacy for digital privacy while bringing a tangible, easy to use, and transparent VPN application as a part of the solution. Our individual rights to data privacy and security have been abused by corporate and government interests. Exidio exists to reclaim that power by building transparent, open-sourced, encrypted VPN solutions to empower us once again.


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