“Forgot your password?” It seems to happen almost every day. With so many online accounts to manage, remembering the correct password is a common challenge in today’s technological era. A new startup is trying to rethink the way we log in to websites.
The idea for Clef first came to Brennen Byrne while he was working at Adobe. Around that time, LinkedIn suffered a major security breach, losing up to 6 million passwords. Byrne realized that there had to be a more secure system of logging in. “I was working on using our phones to identify ourselves and realized that they could do a much better job than simple passwords,” Byrne told Opportunity Lives.
Clef relies on two-factor authentication, a system that drastically improves security by relying on two separate components to log in – in this case, the computer and a smartphone. But unlike most two-factor systems that require you to request a code on your phone and enter it into the computer, Clef requires only a wave of your phone in front of the screen. This ensures convenience for users and is often faster than trying to remember the correct password.
Clef CEO Brennen Byrne
Clef uses the iPhone fingerprint technology (or a pin on the smartphone) to ensure maximum security, and the unique login images generated by the Clef system prohibit unauthorized access or password hacking. Clef also has a security team that reviews location information to prevent fraud. The app even allows you to log out of your browsing session from anywhere in the world, simply by tapping a button on your smartphone.
The idea has taken off, with close to 45,000 websites using Clef for their logins today. The team, based in Oakland, California, is growing quickly and Byrne, the CEO, said the primary goal is to integrate the service with more websites. “We want to kill passwords everywhere,” he said.
Clef already supports more than 10 languages and is rapidly expanding internationally. Websites can add Clef support for unlimited users with unlimited logins for free. They only pay subscription fees if they want support, advanced analytics, or the option to self-host the service.
Byrne has faced many challenges along the way while building the company. “Every time I figure out how to do something important, I get a whole new set of challenges that are totally different and new,” he said. From fundraising to hiring to managing, he is always developing new skills. “Always working on something new is really interesting, but it’s also the hardest thing about building a company.”
But one thing is sure – Clef’s success is in large part due to a passionate team that cares about solving a unique problem. This is the key factor for any new entrepreneur, said Byrne. “Only work on a startup if it’s a problem you really care about and with cofounders you really love. Starting a company is a marathon and it’ll be much, much harder if you don’t have those two things.”
Daniel Huizinga is a columnist for Opportunity Lives covering business and politics. Follow him on Twitter @HuizingaDaniel.