Arjun Bhatnagar is the CEO of Cloaked -- a consumer-first privacy startup dedicated to bringing humanity back to the internet. Recently, Arjun, along with his brother Abhijay Bhatnagar, raised $25-million in series A funds to catapult Cloaked to the forefront of consumer trust. Arjun has experienced a lifelong love of technology, people, and innovation.
Over the course of his career, he has successfully started two companies, taught coding at MIT, designed a prosthetic arm for a three-year-old, worked as the 22-year-old partner at a venture firm, and founded a non-profit dedicated to bringing education to underserved communities. In 2016, Arjun and his brother Abhijay sold their first startup – Hey! HeadsUp, and shifted their focus to the world of consumer trust. Arjun has been featured in TechCrunch, CNBC, Fast Company, Built in Boston and a variety of other publications. He understands more than 15 coding languages, and is dedicated to making the world a better place through people-centric innovation.
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Kevin Horek: Welcome back to the show.
Today we have Argen Buter.
He's the c e O of Cloaked.
Arjun Bhatnagar: welcome to the show.
Really excited to be.
Kevin Horek: I'm excited
to have you on the show.
I, I've actually, you guys were
nice enough to let me play with
an early version of, of Cloaked,
Arjun Bhatnagar: and
I've been using it for,
Kevin Horek: for the last, um, little
while, but maybe before we get into
all that, let's get to know you a
little bit better and start off with
Arjun Bhatnagar: where you grew up.
I've, uh, grown up most of my
life in Massachusetts, uh Okay.
And in very cool, uh, public school.
Lost my life and dabbled a little bit in
private school later, later in my life.
Kevin Horek: So you went to university.
Arjun Bhatnagar: What
did you take and why?
Yeah, so I actually, um, went to school
for a business, uh, surprisingly,
even though I've been in computer
science engineering my whole life.
Um, so I went to school
and studied a business.
I also did certification
work in computer science.
Um, so I attended both Babson
College Engineering and did a lot
of work at an Oland college and, uh,
Babson College and, um, did a lot of
work at Oland College Engineering.
Kevin Horek: So what got you
passionate about business early
Arjun Bhatnagar: on?
So, funny enough, I've always been in the
engineering side and, uh, coding building.
I think though I've always taken
a different approach to how to
create things from an early age.
I was always excited to build something
new, trying to add value to people's lives
and see how I could, I could do something.
And so I think I've never been a true
businessman, but someone who's like,
I want to create something on my own.
But I did have some
experiential on business.
I started my first experience
with, uh, selling when I was 11.
Um, I started coding when
I was 10 and when I was 11.
I started my first software business.
I started coding when I was 10, and
then I said, what if I could make
some websites and apps for people?
, well not apps.
Think of today.
Back then, they weren't really mobile
apps, more just kind of computer apps.
But I cold called businesses when I was
11 and saying, Hey, did you need a website
or any software I can make for you?
And I would pretend I'm a lot
older and I got clients that way.
I remember when I was young, um,
sitting on my chair talking to a woman
saying, Hey, um, I, I can help you.
She's like, this would be amazing.
We were discussing prices and
uh, she said, oh, I'm so sorry.
My three year old's running around.
And I told her, no worries.
My three yearold run runs around all the
time as well, , and I was loving, sticking
my, uh, we were sipping my Capri son,
but I remember that was my first time,
uh, trying to like start a business sell
and use my software skills for good.
Uh, but I think I always
went, came back to it.
I wasn't even never in it for the money.
I was always trying to see how can
the work I do create value for others.
And I think that eventually
translated to going to school for
business later on in my career.
. Um, not because I wanted to just
do business, but I wanna see how
can I take my skills and add value?
Cause I spent my whole life in
engineering as that translated
into a bigger opportunity.
What got you coding so early?
Well, uh, I've, when I was really young,
I was always faceted by computers.
Like, I think when I was five spot,
well, I remember when I was three
years old, I used to launch our old
HP Compact to play, uh, a video game.
I couldn't, I didn't know how
to type, so my mom used to
type the inter uh, the website.
I used to play games.
I got a little older.
I used to take apart computers
and figure out how they work.
And then when I had turned 10, I
got introduced to L and that kind
of changed my entire worldview.
I, with four, I spent four hours learning.
I opened up a notebook, learned h m l from
reading some random websites, and I had
and four hours, got my first website live.
I think I got the bug in me then of
just wanting to create, create, create,
cuz it was cheap, didn't cost a lot of
money to do, to get started and I could
do it from my basic computer at home.
And I think the ease of access is
what made it possible and I just
kind of snowballed from there.
Kevin Horek: It's interesting cuz I
basically have such a similar story.
Like I got introduced to H M L
when I was 12 in like computer
class, in like school, right.
And been doing it basically ever since.
So I totally That's cool man.
That's that's awesome.
Arjun Bhatnagar: Oh, I appreciate it.
Same, same exact story.
I remember, I remember my
first website going live.
It was like, this is, it's such a
cool feeling typing in a website
address and just seeing it, uh, first.
Kevin Horek: A hundred percent.
I still like that actually.
Arjun Bhatnagar: oh, I, um, I do a lot
of, uh, work now as well for nonprofit.
So I actually was, uh, remembered showing
a group of kids, um, in a remote village.
They had one computer and they didn't have
access to the internet, so I said, you
don't need the internet to make a website.
So I fired up Notepad and made
a website for them in front of
them and they were just shocked.
And I said, yeah, this is,
this is what it means to code.
Kevin Horek: That's amazing.
So walk us through your career,
maybe some highlights along the way.
Um, up until what you're
doing today, cuz you're
Arjun Bhatnagar: doing, you're
still doing a ton of stuff.
Oh yeah, it's, uh, doing tough stuff now.
I think talking through my career
is quite a crazy, um, story.
So I'll give some, some
snapshots just to give an idea.
Um, so I got my first job
when I was, uh, 11, 12.
So be beyond the company I was
trying to do or make websites.
I got a job at a company where
I was, uh, fixing computers.
And from there, I actually made,
um, I, I was fixing computers
for about $25 a computer.
And then when, uh, one day I heard
an opportunity where the CEO was
saying, Hey, I, we were having
these issues with our clients.
They weren't coordinating well.
They didn't know how to use
their software effectively.
And I, I remember
overhearing the conversation.
So I said to them, well, what if you
actually could use a social network?
This is back in oh six.
Or I remember how oh 6 0 7 and Facebook
wasn't really that big, but I said,
there's this thing called Facebook.
You could make your own social network.
And he's like, oh, that
sounds really complicated.
You on the bandwidth.
And I said, oh, what if
I, uh, did that for you?
and I had no experience building
a social network or even P H P or,
um, working with full databases.
But I just said yes, and I,
I, I'm like, I can do it.
And then they said, okay,
well why don't you get a shot?
And within the first couple months I
had a site live, and within later that
year, they actually deployed that decline
site and got a $3 million grant or $2
million grant based on the work I did.
Um, and it was, and all I did was really
built a custom version of Facebook and
helped integrate their software into it.
And I think that's what started
kind of propelling my career of
building full scale applications,
like deploying and scaling.
So from there, I eventually worked,
um, on some online programming groups
as one they, part of the early teams
that poured Siri to the iPhone four.
Um, oh wow.
That was one of my, it made me briefly
famous on the internet when I was young.
Um, and then worked a lot of jobs
as an engineer from that point
on while I was still in school.
And, uh, one of my most, uh,
fun and experiences I had.
was that I've worked in the m i t media
lab, um, in the step arcade where we
built a tool called Starlog Nova, which
is, uh, akin to scratch where you could
actually provide tools to help, uh,
professor students learn programming.
And I, I kind of found my way
in there from an intern, uh, to
being one of the lead engineers.
And that's a surreal experience and I
think that really brought a lot of my
confidence in leading teams, leading
engineers, um, and building a product to.
. And so from the experience
there, I got, um, some, I got
a couple more jobs after that.
But uh, in between, I sold my first,
I started, started my first startup,
um, as I entered into college.
And that, that gave me a whole experience.
So of trying to start something, um,
trying to build it out, scale it.
Um, initially I learned, I made
the hard mistake of building it,
building so many features and
not realizing what people want.
And it utterly fails.
And I took a, I took a break next
year, realized that, well, what
if we actually simplified the
product, focused on the core value?
And from that point on,
the product, uh, exploded.
We went, um, it was growingly
rapidly I how to make money.
We eventually pivoted a b2b and
then eventually we were acquired.
So I had the experience of
starting scaling, getting acquired.
And then from that perspective, I
wanted to start my next startup.
Uh, and then my first startup
was actually with my brother.
So we always joke from Legos to startups.
My brothers and I have been
working together our whole lives.
Um, I did my first startup.
Did my second startup,
which went decently well.
But then that failed, so I experienced
having some success, some failure.
Took a break and became
a venture capitalist.
So I helped close, uh, and,
uh, start investing from a
20 million fund in Boston.
Um, we, we were early stage
pre-seed making writing checks
into right from the very beginning
before people even had a product.
Um, so that was a great experience.
And then I had the big aha moment
for cloaked that jumped into cloaked.
So along the journey, I've had
a lot of different jobs, worked
with a lot of different companies,
either as an engineer, working as,
uh, from a product chief product
officer, helping in operations.
I've worn a lot of different hats.
Um, I've led full design team,
so I've always loved trying to
pick up knowledge as I could.
So I've been a designer, engineer,
um, worked in operations generally,
whatever I can to kind of add.
. And then the only other fun thing that
people might enjoy is that when I was
younger I also dabbled, uh, especially
cuz you were in the design world.
I did 3D printing and 3D design.
So I helped sign a prosthetic hand for
a three-year-old child when I was 17.
And that was a new experience.
I appreciate it.
It's what really shaped my, kind
of, my whole view on the rest
of my life that when I made that
product, I made that, that product.
When I made the prosthetic hand,
I realized that it made a real
difference in someone's life.
And I knew from that point forward
that everything I wanted to do,
it should make a difference.
I'm not trying to go make a quick cash
grab or trying to make some fans, make
some exit to make some, uh, make some
earnings and just have a nice life.
From that perspective, I always wanted
to do something that added value
and I think that cemented it if when
I saw it in his, like him actually
using it, that this is something
that would change his life forever.
And that's me in a nutshell.
Kevin Horek: No, that's,
It just, The more and more you talk,
like we have a pretty kind of similar
story with some things, but, but
I'm curious to dive into cloaked.
How did you come up with the idea and
Arjun Bhatnagar: what exactly is it?
Yeah, so cloaked, I'll start with what
it is and turn how we came up with it.
Um, so Cloak is a consumer privacy,
uh, platform app that puts you in
control of your identity and your data.
And what it really boils down to is
that we have no control over how we
put ourselves out there, how people
interact with us and our information.
People like to exploit us, use
us, and my goal is to really put
you in control of all of that.
What we're starting off with is a password
manager, like experience that not just
saves your information but creates
unlimited identities wherever you.
, an identity can be an email
phone number, and now soon a
credit card unique to Amazon.
Email a phone number, unique to
Uber, uh, a phone number, unique to
a cute guy at the bar, or an email
phone number for every realtor you're
talking to or maybe a C v s coupon.
Rewards the ideas that never giving
your information everywhere you go
without breaking that connection.
So what we would managed to do is actually
make sure that text calls, emails, and
soon transactions route to your real
phone number, real email and your even
your real, real credit card without
you having to change your behavior.
So that's a lot what we're doing.
I can talk about more and more
about it, but it's interesting how
it all started was because back
in 2020 I was curious about my own
data and how could my data help me?
So I, um, what I did was I bought
a Mac Mini and I'd put it in my
apartment, and I decided to write
integrations into everything about.
From basic stuff like my Google calendar,
my Facebook data to more complex things.
I hacked iMessage.
I got my workout data, my g p s data,
my healthcare data, eating data,
financial data, everything about me.
I put in this box and very quick, I
also have background machine learning.
So I wrote some really basic
models to analyze my life.
And so it started telling me things.
It said, Hey, you missed your workout
yesterday, do 15 pushups between these
two meetings based on my spending
habits, it said, Hey, let's cut back on
the, uh, alcohol and Chinese food this
week, . And uh, I was like, oh, okay.
And then it hit me in the face
one day, which is when I put my
phone down at lunch with somebody.
At the end of lunch, I picked
my phone and realized my really
crude ai, had a full conversation.
My then girlfriend, it said,
I love you, sent her memes.
And it went back and forth and
the conversation was over By
the time I picked up my phone.
. So at that moment it hit me.
I was like, wow, what just happened?
I was just staring at this thing.
But I realized that, one, I
don't own any of my own data.
And two, even as someone like
myself who loves technology, I would
never trust Facebook, Amazon on
Google to make something like this.
And so I said, I wanna solve the privacy
problem, give people more control of
their lives and make their lives better.
Kevin Horek: No, uh, that's
what really fascinated me about
the product originally, right?
Is you're right, like traditionally,
the only thing that I've seen, and
you can correct me if I'm wrong,
that's done this is basically, uh,
like Apple Pay as it gives like
a unique ID to that transaction.
But outside of
Arjun Bhatnagar: literally paying
Kevin Horek: for stuff,
you can't really do this.
Or there's like maybe kind of one thing
that does one thing in one vertical, but.
Cloaks, the first app that I've
seen that it kind of does it
everywhere across so many different
information sharing sites and
Arjun Bhatnagar: you
know, in-person online.
Is that fair to say?
I, that's absolutely the
way we're thinking about it.
I think it comes down to people think
of privacy as a nebulous concept or
really this complicated technical
thing in individual piece of software,
individual verticals, but it has to
be an experience that's convenient,
easy, and can still promote privacy.
And I think that has to
be an all in one solution.
So that's what we thought of from a
cloak perspective, is that there's just
one thing between you and everybody
else, and you are in control of that.
What are that layer in between?
And you have a say in
how all that stuff works.
Kevin Horek: So, but how did you make,
because obviously the app that you built
could be a product on its own, and you
could probably sell that to a ton of
people would be interested in that itself.
So how did you make the transition from
that to actually deciding to come up
with the first version of Cloaked and
Arjun Bhatnagar: how has
it evolved over time?
Yeah, that's a great question.
From that, uh, from, from my view,
it's, that's how ideation begins.
I consider that the, we call it
data box was the original name.
Um, as my, my way of thinking,
exploring in this space, I could
absolutely go and sell and work on that.
But I think that's a, that's a vision and
a future I'd like, but that's not possible
to go and, or even extend to go work on
right away because to enable a future
like that, you have to actually solve the
bigger problem of privacy and really even
the underlying question of control first.
So as I was thinking about this, I said,
, well, I want this box experience, but
there's so many hurdles and trust issues
that would require to make this possible.
How would you solve these trust issues?
And I thought about, well,
what if we change businesses?
We change the way they store data,
they interact with customers.
But I was like, well, that's,
that's gonna take forever.
Trying to change every business one
at a time is not gonna go so well.
And some of our competition has done that.
They tried to work on securing
businesses, databases or try to
rethink how they're interfacing with
data, but they don't do so well.
And that's a forever problem.
But if you start with consumers,
that would be a much better way.
But I didn't know how to start with it.
Um, I remember I was running, I
was on a run that summer and it hit
me as like, I was so frustrated.
I was like, I wanna figure this problem
out, but I don't know how to start.
And I was like, what if I
could start with consumers?
And then it hit me.
I was like, well, I can.
And it came up with me and I was
like, well, , how could I do this?
And I first realized, well, do
people care about this problem?
I found out, yeah, 79% of America
is upset to outright angry that
data is collected so and misused.
When I doing the research, the problem
was that there's nothing they can do
about it besides finding it creepy
because you can delete an app, but half
time anyway, they're angry data about
you anyway without you're realizing it.
But that's also not a good solution.
Just deleting apps.
And so I was like, well,
what do people actually want?
What I realized is people like the
idea of feeling known, not surveilled.
They like the customization, they
like the personalization, but
they don't wanna feel compromised.
So I said, okay, well then why is the
industry, what are they doing wrong?
And it led me to this, this concept.
I was like, well, if you look at
security and privacy as words, people
mix these two up all over the place.
So I broke it up into
three distinct layers.
I said the outermost layer
is what I define as security.
Encryption, fraud, fingerprinting.
What is my overall vector of attack?
The second layer I defined is privacy.
Where's my data live?
Who has access to it?
What does it look like?
But there's an innermost layer.
That's what led me to the starting
of cloaked, is this layer that
no one talks about and slay.
I call comfort.
And that's where we're starting.
And comfort means it's that point where
everybody understands the problem.
Cuz privacy is so confusing.
It's not a bunch of toggles on Twitter
or settings you turn off in Google.
Like it's a confusing word that
people don't know what it could
actually mean as a solution.
So I said it start with the comfort part
and it's where everybody understands it
and it starts with that singular moment.
When you're asked for your name,
email, phone number, or credit
card address, everybody gets it.
Whether you're VP of
engineering or my own.
, everybody kind of gets that problem.
So I started there and we want to
grow into everything about your data,
putting control of all of it, but
starting with the simplest part where
people can actually get the problem.
And it starts with you sharing
your number with somebody.
If you ask for her number today, I don't
know how I would be giving my actual
number, but I could give you a number.
Now that's a personal
number between just us two.
And you can text call like normal, but
it's now our personal relationship.
And so click CLO creates those
identities for every single relationship.
And so that's my whole mental thinking
of how I jumped from the box to a
solution of how we could get started.
Kevin Horek: Interesting.
So say in that scenario where you give me
a number, do I, is there any way for me to
know that it's like a cloak number and not
Arjun Bhatnagar: just a regular number?
So, no, it works like a regular number.
There's no difference for you to
call or text if I give it to you.
You also don't even need the app.
So if I give it to you, it just, it
just looks like a regular number.
And that's the beauty of the beauty of
we think about cloaking, is that you
should be keeping the experience the same.
I give you an email address,
it's a regular email address.
You can email it, uh,
and I can respond to it.
You can CC bcc.
My, my real email will never be exposed.
But the experience is
identical to how it is today.
You can interact with cl
directly from your native Gmail.
You don't even have to use our
app, but that's the way we're
thinking about that experience.
Kevin Horek: it.
So can you maybe give us some
other examples of how people
can actually use the app?
Because you quickly mention
it, but I, I think I
Arjun Bhatnagar: wanna dive a
little bit deeper into that.
Yeah, so we've had customers use
Cloak for a lot of different things.
It's been exciting to get feedback from
users telling us that cloaking has been
exciting experience as we've been going
and going, going from alpha to beta,
and as we get out of beta, um, and
seeing how this even evolves further.
It's exciting to see.
But from customers side,
we've had people use cloaked.
Um, an all these case that comes
in all the time is purchases.
Um, people want, don't wanna put
information online where they're making
purchases, not even on just like websites
that are one off, even trusted websites.
People just don't feel comfortable
giving their information.
Um, so we've seen cloaked a big
aspect from their purchasing behavior.
We have people actually never, who had
never bought on Facebook, Instagram
before, um, used cloaked, and they
felt comfortable actually buying,
um, buying from these websites.
Uh, not just, um, like these random
websites, but even well known.
But then it comes into
all sorts of things.
We had people.
open up bank accounts with cloak.
People have actually gone ahead and
traveled to different countries.
One user planned your
entire wedding, UNC cloaked.
You gave every single vendor Wow.
Unique email, phone number.
So not just the idea of privacy
becomes control, organizing these
different vendors, giving that
information, we've had people use it
for dating was an interesting case.
It seems really
interesting for, uh, women.
It makes a lot of sense.
We've had men actually use it from their
perspective, um, around dating everyday
uses when you're going out, giving
information for networking, um, going
for rewards, rewards on their big piece.
When you're standing from c b s,
they ask for a number of giving, CLO
number just for c b s or Starbucks.
Um, and then just everyday account
behavior when you're browsing online,
trying apps, signups, people, we
see cloaked used all over the place.
We've built cloaked as a browser
extension web app, and a mobile app,
which makes it really easy for users
that whenever you either see that email
field, whether it's a newsletter or
an account or somebody asks for your
phone number when you're signing up for.
um, your internet service provider like
Comcast or Verizon, we've seen people
give cloak numbers and these experiences
that it makes us, that they can give a
number that works, they can call them, but
because it's right when they're browsing,
cloak fills in right then and there.
They don't have to go think about
switching into a different app, opening a
new tab, or trying to go to the website.
Cloak fills it in right then and there.
So it makes it a lot easier.
And so we've seen from a user that when,
as long as cloaked, uh, there's no bugs
or issues that day, which we're all
resolving, getting a lot better about.
But we've seen users a hundred percent
of the time choose to give cloaked
information rather than not as long as
there's no kinks or issues along the way.
But that's been the exciting part.
It's not about when to use cloaked,
it's about that people want to use
cloaked as much as they possibly can.
That makes a lot of sense.
Kevin Horek: So I'm, I'm curious
because you guys are still a bit early.
, obviously Secur, you probably
get the security question a ton.
And, and then guess the follow up to
that is like, because you're early,
like are people worried that like, if
this doesn't work out right, so like how
have you kind of managed all of those?
Cuz they're all kind of
related or does it not really
Arjun Bhatnagar: matter?
So absolutely does matter.
Um, I think they're all related questions.
I'll try to go through one by one, but
the, uh, interesting part is security was
the most, uh, fundamental, what we do.
From the first piece of code I
wrote about cloaked was security.
It was not, um, the phone
number, email stuff.
The very first code is around security.
Um, even architecture.
The way we set up cloaked, what we've
done from the very beginning was that
when you make your account a cloak,
just like you have right now, well
when you sign up, we actually spin up
a brand new database for every single
user and we're separating out user data
and storing it, that information there.
So it teases some of our vision where
we want people to be in control of
that data and our system doesn't
actually care where the data lives.
It could be online, um, hosting the cloud.
One day could be even in your own home.
But the idea is that you
are in control of your data.
And we separate that from
beginning, pretty control of that.
So that's been, and making sure that
information, encrypted transit, encrypted
rest, and making sure that you have
the keys to your information's been
what we've always been focused on.
We're still working through,
as we get out of beta to zero
knowledge, our system throughout.
We're not fully zero knowledge
everywhere, but that's something
that we wanna make sure is possible,
which gives us that even internal
cloaked employees can't see anything.
Um, right now in Gmail, for
example, anyone and the Gmail admin
team could see anybody's email.
We wanna work towards that, even
our perspective that everything is a
zero knowledge architecture, but it's
paramount to what we do around security.
But one of the questions we always get as
well is that what about, um, uh, how can
I trust cloaked around these perspectives?
One, we're also working on white paper.
I know it's big in it's fundamental.
What we do, we're companies
trying to build around trust.
We're all about.
But I think from that perspective,
it's, it's the way we think about our
business that you, we wanna offer a
product that you ultimately pay for.
This is not a free product that we're
gonna secretly sell your data because
that's, that can't be what we do.
It's operating controls.
This is gonna be a paid product.
People worried that, oh, how's it free?
Are you ly selling your data?
It's like, no, no, this is
why we have VC fund funding.
So that way we can get, we can work on the
features, get, get the kinks out so that
we can go to GA and start charging it.
So that's why it's free for now as
we begin to beta, but it's gonna
be a paid part if we get out there.
And I think, um, just the longevity
of cloaked, I think that's why
we've, we're backed by some of the
biggest names in the industry, uh,
really supporting what we're doing.
And I think that's what gives a really
strong shot at making cloak to reality.
I think ultimately we, we think that in
this space of privacy control identity,
there's going to be a big player one day.
. Um, there's a lot of players who
are kind of all over the place.
I think we've got a really strong
offering, and that's backed by the
fact that we've got the biggest name
investors supporting what we're doing.
I think that's what gives
us a really strong shot.
But I think we're knowing that this space
is gonna evolve and if it's not cloaked,
somebody will succeed in this space.
But I think we're, we're really poised
and equipped to make a big dent in this.
So I, I wanna cover like
Kevin Horek: the in-person, like we're
at a networking event or something
and we just meet and like I give, is
it weird or what's your experience
where if I'm generating a phone number
using the app to give to somebody?
Like have you had that experience?
Arjun Bhatnagar: Or, or that's,
is that been a hurdle or, or
what's your thoughts around that?
Yeah, so we've had, I, I
give clock numbers every day.
We've had users, I remember one funny
story before we even had her mobile app.
Um, one user she's standing in front
of, um, In a grocery store, and the lady
asked for the information and she launched
our crude website and was zooming in and
generating a phone number, and she said,
wait, let me give you a phone number.
Now, we've made the experience a lot
faster and smoother, especially with our
latest mobile app update, but it's not
been a huge issue from a lot of users
to say, Hey, I'm giving click number.
It's an initial hurdle to do the first
time or second time, but we know that
the magic number of like four, when
you start using cloaked, both online
and in person towards four accounts,
it starts to become a bit more natural
because like, this makes sense to me.
Um, so that's where we kind of push
towards the, when you start using cloaked
a few times online and you do it once
in person, the the mental model clicks,
uh, the way you do it, how you share.
And now some people are uncomfortable
saying, Hey, here's my number.
Some people give them
their information first.
So our app does both.
So you can someone give you their
real number, you input that in the
cloak, and then cloak, then maps
that to a cloak number, and then
you can reach them via cloak only.
You don't have to give
your actual number to then.
Kevin Horek: even better, . Very cool.
So I'm curious, and you don't have
to give anything away, but how do
you decide which services to add?
Or because of the nature of just
like giving them an email or
phone number, people can basically
add whatever service they want.
Arjun Bhatnagar: that correct?
Yeah, you can use cloak.
Uh, we, we have not integrated with
any of the businesses that you can
try to collect information for, cuz
we know that the moment we try to
go to the integration route, yeah,
let's just slow everything down.
So we've done a lot of work, um,
for even making sure our phone
numbers can work on websites, make
sure email addresses get approved.
Funny enough, Apple's new email function.
Copied, not copied, but they've
came the same answer I came
to a year and a half ago.
If you look at a cloaked email,
it's um, if you make a regular CLO
email, it's three random words.
Um, and that's because that makes,
uh, a lot of websites okay with it.
But Apple used to generate a bunch
of random numbers and letters
and they skip off all the time.
And so now they cop they do
the same thing, they copied it.
They also do three random words.
So I think it's that we're made sure
that people can really accept cloaked.
And one thing that's really important
to what we do is we're not trying
to make fake or burner accounts.
It's meant to be your real
account of the website.
So if they email you, we wanna make sure
that email does come to the actual person.
It's just making sure that the, their
information is not shared in the process.
Kevin Horek: So you covered this quickly,
Arjun Bhatnagar: but, so
in that email example Yeah.
Kevin Horek: I have a
cloaked email, and I give it
Arjun Bhatnagar: to, I dunno, the
grocery store or whatever, and they
Kevin Horek: email me.
It goes to my regular like Gmail account
or whatever email I account I have.
Like I don't have a separate
cloaked email app or is
Arjun Bhatnagar: Correct.
So you choose, you can go right, you
can choose, it goes right to your
Gmail and that's a lot of people's
choices to just go right to your Gmail.
Some people like to selectively, well
we've now seen the default behavior
is that by default people like to
have emails go to their cloaked inbox.
And then for important things like
um, hotel bookings, bank accounts,
um, major purchases, insurance, they
choose for those to go to their Gmail.
So we give people that choice
about do you want to live in
cloaked or live in your Gmail?
Either way, when you apply or respond
or connect, your information is
still, isn't, is never exposed.
And it's the same with phone then, right?
Same with phone.
Kevin Horek: So, I'm curious how,
as you mentioned, credit card,
how are you going to do that?
Is it similar to kind of like how
Apple does it or do you have your
own kind of take on that or, or
Arjun Bhatnagar: walk us through that?
Yeah, I have a lot of stuff, uh,
coming up, uh, from my sleeve.
I can give it a little preview.
Is that okay?
It's all different take than the
Apple approach, but it's the same
cloak model is that we wanna make it
so that for everywhere you have to
enter or give your credit card number,
we can make a unique card number for
that website or that merchant alone.
And it's locked.
That merchant, you can set spending
controls, it's merchant locked.
You can be in control of that
information and your actual credit
card doesn't actually get exposed.
But we wanna have the same idea of
choice where that transaction is
like a proper card or is it route to
your own, uh, regular real credit.
And so we've, we've got some
stuff coming in the works.
We've got some major partnerships
with some big names and a lot of
opportunities that make this possible.
Um, so that's why it's been taking
some time cuz that takes a lot of,
a lot of work to get a lot of people
coordinated to make this possible.
Especially dealing anything
banking is not quick.
But I'm excited.
And it shouldn't be Exactly.
There's a lot of due diligence.
Um, but it's been exciting.
A lot of, um, big names are supportive
of what we're trying to do and making
not just a cloak card possible,
but the idea that cloaking is a
concept, um, people are behind.
Cuz I think that gives a lot more
control and say to a user who ultimately
then for financial side spends more
when they're, when they feel trust or
when totally they interact more with
an app or website when they feel that
that business respects them, their
privacy, respect to their choice.
No, that, that makes a lot of sense.
Kevin Horek: So I'm, I'm curious.
Because you come from, you've done
startups in the past, you've obviously are
doing in, you're an investor currently.
What advice do you give
to people starting out?
Because, and you can correct me if I'm
wrong here, is y you guys at, you know,
rally cry ventures invest very early,
and so what advice do you give to people
when they're, when they're starting
and maybe looking for money because
it, it seems like we're in this kind of
doom and gloom right now, and I don't
know if that's a hundred percent true.
So just kind of like, what are your
thoughts on, what advice do you give
to people right now with kind of
what's going on right now in the.
Arjun Bhatnagar: Yeah.
So one at the early stages is a
lot of investment has definitely
become a lot more difficult to get.
I think the later stages become
a, it's a little easier for
some bigger name companies.
The early stages have been a
lot harder, but I think there's
still a lot of people who want to
invest in early stage startups.
The advice I always give both from the
non, the non-human gloom times and even
more important now, is showing, showing
the value of what you're trying to
do when you're, when you're writing a
first check we wanna see is the entre.
You're often betting on
the entrepreneur, right?
And you get a good sense of the way they
see the world, their background, the way
they approach tough problems, their grit.
They're also, um, and you feel
like this is someone who can
really get through thick and thin.
And I think the one way also someone
can show that value that I give
us advice is the idea of a manual.
a lot of products, a lot of software
can optimize, make things faster,
make things more integrated.
But you could start a business
with Squarespace, Zapier, a Google
Sheets or air table, and literally
running outside and doing something.
Um, and Slack all kind
of integrate together.
Um, like you can make a business on
a box with just some simple software
glue together to prove the value.
And I think the idea that you're solving
a real problem and you're seeing the
value the customers getting from the
solution you're providing is a really
good indicator to an early stage investor,
especially in the doom and gloom stage.
Where I think previously, especially
when we were, uh, investing in B
before Doom and gloom is like with,
um, a really strong idea and approach.
You could get some easy, you
could get some investment.
Now I have to show a little
bit more of the value creation.
And then you can do that by
showing the early stage mvp.
And people often say, oh, I
don't have an engineering team
or any technical co-founder.
Or if they're technical, I'm not sure
about the business economics of it.
And I think the easiest ways to
show the value, and I think I
always just start with an M manual
MVP and do it really crude way.
And then when you get funding and you use
that to prove and say, Hey, I did this.
People liked it as a small sample
size, but people really love what
I'm trying to do, then you can raise
funding and actually span the team.
So I think that's been, especially for
an early stage or even pre-seed founder,
is that you gotta show value fast.
Don't worry about getting it perfect.
That's, uh, fools there.
And at the early stage, get something
quick and I don't say quick and dirty,
but can cleanly show the value and the
simplest way you could possibly do it.
No, I think
Kevin Horek: that's really good advice.
And I think like, just to echo that point,
like I discovered like bubble.io, the no
code solution, it'd be like a, yeah, well
it's not really like an air table, but
air table would be a no code solution.
Um, but that's changed my life.
For like astronomically, right?
I think as somebody that can like
kind of code but isn't very good at
it, being able to use like a no-code
Arjun Bhatnagar: solution
to build an M V P
Kevin Horek: in within like days
or weeks or even like months
has been game changing, right?
And you can start for free on
some of these no-code platforms.
So there's really no reason you can't
build a, you know, a crude v p with
Arjun Bhatnagar: one
Kevin Horek: of these very
inexpensive or you know, free just to
Arjun Bhatnagar: gauge
some interest, right?
Some, the harder exception is when
you're trying to build literally
software, um, like your startup
is you're selling software.
If you think like I'm trying to build
Google Maps or build yeah, Netflix, well
then you might think about building,
getting a technical co-founder or
yourself technical and building and
coding and building the MVP version, but.
besides strictly software systems,
software solutions, everything
else you can MVP of bubble io and
a lot of these software together.
Kevin Horek: So I'm curious to
get your thoughts on how have you
managed your internal project roadmap
compared to customer feature requests?
Because I think a lot of startups
struggle with that and while anybody
really that's building anything kind
of can struggle with that, no matter
whether you're brand new or you have a
Arjun Bhatnagar: ton of customers, I
think, uh, I always come back to an advice
I got from one of our, one of my advisors.
Um, he said to me, uh, and I actually
mentioned this to my, my team literally
today, was that you could either be
an Uber driver or you could be a bus.
and he explained what that meant to
me was that when a passenger comes
into Uber, Uber drive, Uber ride, he
said, okay, where do you wanna go?
And then you take him there.
Now, how do you contact the bus driver?
The bus driver's headed towards
a destination and he has specific
stops along the way, and the person
coming on will stop on the stops,
you say, or they get off the bus and
like this is the wrong bus for them.
So it's whether you are in control
or the customer completely dictates
what you're supposed to do.
And I think it comes back to is that you
should have a clear vision and direction
you wanna go, but you can have direction,
you can have things that along the way
you're trying to learn and adapt and grow.
They have a clear side of
what you want to accomplish.
The customer feedback, the things
that they're saying should inform
you whether, maybe I should
take a pit stop here or change.
But really, you should not be taking
customer feedback and saying, today
I'm, I'm solving this problem.
Oh, got customer feedback.
I'm gonna pivot entirely.
Oh, I got a new feedback.
I'm gonna now build this and
go do this entirely new thing.
It should inform the direction
you wanna go, uh, but it shouldn't
change your direction unless you
fundamentally realize that you were
on the wrong course to begin with.
But alt, a lot of the time, if you're
living, breathing, thinking your,
your company, you have a strong
idea of the overall direction.
And customer feedback just gives
you the stops along the way.
That's actually a really
Kevin Horek: good way of putting it.
I've never heard it explained like that,
but I, I think that makes a ton of sense.
And everybody can relate
Arjun Bhatnagar: to that
and understands that.
It's given me a lot of clarity.
It's around that I can't be just
going left and right because
customer says I want this or that.
We even get that from our own product is
that, oh, really want cloak to do this?
You're cloak to do that.
Like, one feature we always get, um,
that I, I wanna work on is just, uh,
something on, on our eventual roadmap
is cloaked addresses, for example.
And we know that customers always
ask for it, but we know that.
. They say they want it, but I know
if we launch it, they may not use
it because if they get their package
slower, no one will be happy.
So I want, yeah, interesting.
And so we wanna take it on in
a smart way where it doesn't
actually cause inconvenience.
So that'll take time,
partnerships, and conversations.
So that way we haven't launched it yet.
Um, but that's an example of
fun for us that people ask
for and talk about it a lot.
But I, we've said, we'll, we'll
get to it when we, we can.
Kevin Horek: That's interesting
because that you're focusing that
much on, cuz that really just comes
down to user experience, right?
Yeah, it's, you're right.
Like if I order something from Amazon
and I want it delivered, you know,
today or tomorrow and it comes two
days from now because of an app,
you're gonna hear about it, right?
And yeah, and yeah.
Yeah, it's interesting and
I think so many people.
Forget about some of that stuff,
especially when there's the
physical world that needs to be
involved in logistics outside
Arjun Bhatnagar: of the app's control.
That's, for us, it's user
experience is the name of the game.
I know that we have to make cloaked
easy and convenient and simple, and
if something we're building detracts
from that, sometimes security
adds a little bit of hurdles.
But besides that, I think that
it's, we, we have to make sure that
it doesn't violate that principle.
Kevin Horek: that makes sense.
So I'm curious because you support,
um, like Chrome, Android, iOS,
the web, and obviously Google's a
little bit more open with things.
iOS is a little bit closed.
How have you managed the user experience
and the privacy stuff between all
the different platforms you support?
Because that's gotta be very challenging.
in itself, like, do you have an,
any advice around that for others
that are maybe building something
across so many different spaces?
Arjun Bhatnagar: I, for, so I've been
technology for a while, so, and building
things on different platforms has been
kinda a muscle you, you develop as
you, uh, totally, you go through it.
Because the challenges with iOS, the, the
many pal, not just iOS has challenges.
Android has a bunch of challenges.
I would, uh, I'd have a, we can spend
an hour talking about the, the camera
SDK on Android and what it just . Um,
but it's, I think that's something
that it becomes ultimately what, what
what you're trying to do and what
you're trying to accomplish will drive
what you're, what, what, how you've
built across any of these platforms.
So you set your purpose.
If there's some challenges,
one of these platforms, most of
the time there's a workaround.
Um, even for us, there's a lot of
limitations on iOS, but we can leverage
the tools we have and take, use them in
clever ways like Apples auto autofill.
we're able to use in a clever way to
not just fill in things, but think about
also creating, um, Android is a little
bit more of flexibility, but in Android
there's also some challenges where when
we're trying to do native things, they
say, oh, there's no s tk, no tools.
You have to build entirely custom.
And I think it becomes a, a decision you
weigh about how much you wanna invest in
now, how much you wanna invest in later.
I think with Chrome and the web,
because we, one decision I always tell
founders, like, do you want to be on
multiple devices, multiple platforms?
I would strongly, sometimes a lot of
founders say, you don't, you don't
wanna do, especially for even what
we were doing, B Cross platform,
start with one platform, sharp there
and expand from that point of view.
When CL first started, it was
just the browser extension and the
backend, and then we expanded and
built a crude web app, um, so people
could manage their identities.
And then, um, many months later,
we eventually had a mobile app.
. Um, and it, a lot of times you
wanna defer some of you those
points make it even years later.
Your mobile app, we know from our
product is important because there's
a strong sense of fear when you don't
have access to your information.
Whether you're, you're in
mobile, you're on the go.
Cause a lot of time consumers,
when after 7:00 PM it always shows
that you're on your phone way more
than your computer during the day
you're on your computer at work.
There, you, that's where,
that's where you're living.
And so we're a product that's consumer.
We're b2c, so we have to kind of match
the consumer behavior where they are.
So it made sense for us.
Now we are native iOS, Android.
I say for people who are an MVP
stage, think about things like
react native or hybrid apps.
Definitely an easy way to go.
Or progressive web apps.
Um, from my perspective, we're
doing things like encryption and
doing a lot of security things.
Having granular control and native
ecosystems is just a lot more helpful.
Um, but I think from these
challenges, There's always gonna be
them, but it's never a huge hurdle.
It's something that you
eventually find solutions around.
Um, there's nothing that Apple, Android
will do that will be a huge blocker.
And even if Google's bit more open,
they have their own challenges.
They have a lot of
challenges by being open.
So I think it's, I often say get, uh, if
you have a good, strong technical, uh,
team, co-founder advice, mentorship, or
if you've got the experience of self,
you'll be able to get through any of them.
Oh, I think that's really good advice.
Kevin Horek: Do you change the user
experience a little bit depending
Arjun Bhatnagar: on platform, just be
Kevin Horek: maybe
because of some of those
Arjun Bhatnagar: limitations
that you talked about?
Yeah, so I, I, we haven't made too much
of a delta, not too much from iOS versus
Android, but absolutely different from,
um, our dashboard on the web versus
our extension versus our mobile app.
I tell our team that every product
has its own tempo and its own theme.
. Um, I think about, um, for example,
our, uh, mobile app, the tempo is fast.
You're trying to get information
where you're, you're trying, you're
looking at something on Instagram
or setting up for this new app.
You wanna give a cloaked
information as quickly as possible.
Um, and I think the idea of our,
uh, dashboard, you're, you're
looking at your information.
You're trying to find your, um,
either identity an email, the
tempo's a bit slower, and our browser
extension, I think the tempo's medium.
You're browsing a website,
you're in a signup form.
Um, you're actually
right then that moment.
Um, but you, it's not a gun to your head.
I need to fill information.
You have a little bit of breathing time.
So keeping that in mind, you try to think
about designing the experience so that it
matches the way the consumer's thinking.
What's the environment?
Um, so I think, yeah, there's
absolutely different experiences,
the way we build our products.
The mobile, I think we could get a
little bit better about I versus Android.
A Android are, are very similar, but.
, I think we have contrasting experiences
entirely across the different
verticals of mobile web extension.
No, I think that's really good advice.
And like thinking
Kevin Horek: about, obviously mobile,
like can use it one-handed, do I need to
use one hand and then go to two hands?
And then back to one hand, like if I'm
holding on like a, you know, one of the
railings on a bus or something where the
train, can I give my, can I use cloak
one-handed or do I need to use two hands?
Like, or, and then obviously in the
mobile app it's like, how much do
I need to move my mouse around the
screen between different steps, right?
Like, there's so many, so I'm, I'm happy
that you said that because I think so
many people sometimes try to focus, it
needs to be the exact same everywhere.
And sometimes that's
Arjun Bhatnagar: true and sometimes it's
Kevin Horek: not true.
And I'm, I'm happy that you gave that
Arjun Bhatnagar: advice.
I think there's some big apps
I'm learning from this too.
Um, if you, I'm sure you've known Notion.
Um, the Notion Mobile app was just a
carbon copy of the Notion Desktop app
and a carbon copy of the Notion Web app.
and I think, uh, in recent updates of
the Ocean Mobile app, they're starting
to make it feel like a different thing.
Not just a copy everywhere.
No, I, I think that's,
Kevin Horek: that's really good advice.
But sadly, we're kind of
coming to the end of the show.
So is there any other advice or something
else that you'd like to mention that we
forgot to mention today about Cloaked
and then let's close the show with, uh,
telling people where they can get more
information about yourself and cloaked
and any other links you wanna mention?
Arjun Bhatnagar: Yeah, absolutely.
I wanna appreciate the time today.
I think from talking about cloaks
perspective, my goal and my vision
is my, I hope to change the world
and the way you as a person, us as
people interact with technology apps
and our own information altogether.
I'm not here to try to make a quick
cash grab and go sell anywhere.
My, I wanna finally change how we view
technology and interact, uh, digitally.
And I think for my.
. My point, the way cloaks has been built
from the ground up is that by putting you
in control of your identity, we're able
to then put you in control of your data.
And ultimately by putting you in control
of your data, we can put you in control
of the way things are personalized to you,
how AI interacts with you and ultimately
how technology controls or manipulates and
works with you can be all in, in your say.
So, I'm happy with the
progress we've make in cloaked.
I'm excited for this year we'll
be getting out of beta and
it'll be an exciting experience.
Uh, yeah, I think that's, that's
really it from uh, my perspective.
Uh, and I think for just learning
more about cloaked, you can visit
us on cloaked, uh, www or just
cloaked.app, um, and join our wait list.
We're now taking people off
the wait list every day.
Um, so before we had kinda a
long wait list period and now
we're taking people off daily.
So please feel free to join our wait list
and we'll get you off and expect later
this year to, for us to get outta beta.
Kevin Horek: Well, I really appreciate
you taking the time outta your
day to be on the show and I look
forward to keeping in touch with
you and have a good rest of your
Arjun Bhatnagar: day.
Thanks so much.
Thanks for listening.
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