Korean file-sending app rivals Dropbox

Korean file-sending app rivals Dropbox
Estmob CSO Kang Su-hyuk (left) and CEO Oh Yoon-sik pose at the company's Seoul office.
PHOTO: The Korea Herald

Seoul-based start-up Estmob has created a file-transfer app that allows users to send files of any size for free. The makers believe the software, dubbed Send Anywhere, is so fast and convenient that it could rival current market champions Dropbox and Google Drive in file sharing.

But how is a little Korean start-up going to take on the Silicon Valley giants?

"Our biggest asset might be our users. They kind of love our product and they show their passion, and they always say wow," Estmob chief strategy officer Kang Su-hyuk said in an interview with The Korea Herald. "It's fast and it's very simple, so people love that point."

The makers tout Send Anywhere's practicality, as the service lets users send files of any size or type, well, anywhere. The app works on every mobile and desktop platform from iOS phones to Windows PCs and even a browser app. The sender chooses the file, gets a six-digit code and tells it to the recipient, who must enter it within 10 minutes to begin the transfer.

Sharing through the app is faster than Dropbox, especially for large files, because the transfer goes directly from the sender to recipient, bypassing the cloud entirely. For a video file that takes 20 minutes to upload, sync and share through a cloud service, transferring it would take five or six minutes peer-to-peer.

CEO Oh Yoon-sik came up with the idea as an engineer at Korean software company ESTsoft, where Send Anywhere was born as an in-house project. He spun off the idea into a separate company in 2012, and Kang joined in 2013.

The service is a throwback to the PC era, when FTP and peer-to-peer connections were all possible via wired LAN cables. But in the mobile era, when each device has a different network, firewall and connection speed, the old, simple technologies failed to keep up.

But Kang acknowledges that most people would not give up Dropbox, which offers cloud storage on top of file sharing.

"As for now that's true, and we know we cannot replace Dropbox. But in some cases, it's better to choose Send Anywhere, so maybe smarter users choose both," he said.

The service has proven popular enough to garner over 1 million monthly active users in over 190 countries, many of whom are multimedia users like artists and musicians who are sending files between their own devices, the creators said.

But that self-to-self usage tendency is probably what's hindering the service from catching on with the masses, Kang said, as users don't need to refer others to the app in such cases. He added that the biggest challenge to growth is attracting average users who don't really care what service they're using, even if the conventional way is slower.

Still, the makers admit the simplicity comes at the sacrifice of security. Even though each six-digit code is randomly generated and expires in 10 minutes, there is a chance of the wrong recipient entering it, either by random error or through a hacking botnet.

"Usually, it is a trade-off between security and convenience," Kang said. "We are currently focusing more on convenience than security. We can easily increase the code complexity, but we believe that it might hurt the simplicity of the user experience in the majority of cases."

Users also need to take responsibility for the files they receive, as there is no built-in antivirus protection and the company does not monitor for illegal content transfers.

While the company has yet to earn revenue, it aims to start monetizing the app in 2018 when it hopes to reach 10 million monthly active users, through business-to-business solutions, ads and freemium user options.

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