The security startup that sold 1m 2FA dongles to Google
The Hustle

The security startup that sold 1m 2FA dongles to Google

Yubico created a dongle to fix the 2FA process. Now, 9 of the world’s 10 biggest tech companies use it.


January 7, 2021

“What if [insert Big Tech firm] competes against us?” It’s a question every startup asks itself.

There’s the flip side too, though: What if a Big Tech firm becomes your startup’s biggest customer?

This is exactly the case for Yubico, the hardware maker of the popular

security dongle called Yubikey.

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Yubico was founded in 2007 in Sweden…

… and for years was an “obscure security firm” with only 5 full-time employees, according to The Information.

The company was trying to solve a problem with the ubiquitous two-factor authentication (2FA) process:

  1. First factor: username + password
  2. Second factor: one-time password via text, email, or authenticator

There are actually a number of ways to bypass 2FA, from phishing to intercepting tokens. Yubikey partially solves the problem by requiring a user to plug its dongle into a USB port as another layer of security.

Yubico’s first big client, Google (which has bought 1m+ dongles)

While the ~$45 dongle is not a silver bullet (it could not have prevented the SolarWinds hack), organizations are snapping them up.

Today, 9 out of 10 of the biggest tech companies as well as world leaders (e.g., Angela Merkel) use Yubikey. Banks have rolled them out to high net-worth individuals (not me) and it could be coming to your office next.

With 300 employees now, Yubico expects revenue to rise 70% this year (from $200m in 2020) and may be prepping another key startup question: “When’s the IPO?”

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