Wickr spins off non-profit to promote encrypted messaging

The firm behind one of the market’s leading private messaging applications will split into two parts: a for-profit company and a non-profit foundation to focus on encryption and human rights.

The transition for Wickr comes with a leadership shakeup. Nico Sell, the company’s founder, will lead the Wickr Foundation while investor Mark Fields takes the reins of the for-profit enterprise.

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The split will allow Wickr to focus on two distinct missions: offering its encryption platform as a privacy solution for large businesses, and advocating for secure communications for activists and journalists.

“The foundation’s goal is the reason why I started Wickr. The strong belief we have is that to have a strong society, you need freedom of information,” Sell told TechCrunch.

“We’ll focus on building out tech for human rights activists and advocacy and tech for teenagers and we’ll also work on the trust component whether its crypto that is ours or other people’s,” she said.

The for-profit company, meanwhile, intends to meet a need for secure corporate messaging as hackers mount increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks against businesses.

“Encryption as tools for those who need it. Wickr is well suited to help enterprises a lot, and we are talking with a lot of companies to use the core technology and extend the functionality to make it an enterprise grade app, or tool they can use to build their own apps,” Field said.

Wickr was founded in 2012 amid revelations about NSA surveillance by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. It provides end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages, and reportedly stores no data on its users.