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Asian startups: This SODA is not plain

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 2, 2014
Q&A with the founders of Soda (Safe of Data App) security solution


Soda founders (from left) Michael Tse and  Professor Kwok-Yan Lam

A new start up in Singapore, founded by Michael Tse, a long time banker and financier; and Professor Kwok-Yan Lam, an academic, e-security domain expert and entrepreneur; has introduced a new app that enables mobile users to protect the privacy of their information by encrypting the data on their device before saving them onto the same device or on the cloud.

Soda (Safe of Data App) security solution is an app that addresses security and privacy concerns of online data. According to the app makers, Soda serves as a virtual safe, image browser, note editor and private address book. Protection mechanisms implemented in Soda are based on certified and strong cryptography such as RSA-1024, DES-EDE and AES-256.

SODA Private Limited was co-founded by Professor KY Lam, who has long been recognised as a domain expert in the area of e-security. An academic and serial entrepreneur, Prof. Lam founded PrivyLink Pte Ltd as a spin-off of the National University of Singapore in 1997. PrivyLink is a pioneer in end-to-end security technology, which has been integrated in many government- and enterprise-grade data security solutions developed for government agencies, financial institutions and corporate customers.

Prof. Lam has held professorship at the Tsinghua University, PR China, and has been a faculty member of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of London. Lam received his B.Sc. (First Class Honours) from the University of London in 1987 and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1990.

Both Michael, who is based in Hong Kong, and Professor Lam, also from Hong Kong but who moved to Singapore more than 20 years ago, started SODA in 2012. Both men spent the last one year enhancing the platform for both consumers and enterprises before officially launching the app this month.

Both of you were well-employed. What turned you into innovators?

Michael: I left Citibank in 2008 and started managing my own investments. I am also actively looking for opportunities where the main objective is not about making money but something that can give back to the community and help serve society.

Prof Lam: I've been doing research and development in security for a number of years. I would like to see the R&D results being applied to solving world problems.

What was the idea behind the creation of SODA?

Michael: I saw a need for data protection at my endoscopy clinic where patients medical reports are produced, kept, copied and couriered to various doctors. There is always the risk of loss and exposure if they not securely kept or disposed and keeping the confidentiality of those reports was paramount. I was searching for an encryption tool that can help the clinic and the ones used by financial institutions were very expensive. Professor Lam was a domain expert in the information security business and someone who I knew for a number of years. I approached him and asked if he could produce a consumer version of encryption technology that consumers and smaller businesses could afford. He gladly took up the challenge.


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