Four days before the massive protests of July 11th in Cuba, I was developing my own VPN service. It was ready to be offered to the public and commercialized. Creating startups there, and being an active online citizen was difficult due to internal censorship of many sites, and external blocking of Cuban IPs to access global services, due to the embargo. Blocked inside and outside, that's Cuban's constant nightmare.
The protests were a surprise and a sprinkle of the Cuban people's desire to embrace freedom and democracy. During those days, I just tightened my schedule and released the service, and named it Lugodev VPN.
My goal was to help Cubans avoid internet censorship while paying a low and affordable cost, which can sustain the business itself. Having that in mind, the first pricing was $ 50 CUP/mo (around less than half a dollar, now) or $ 540 CUP/year.
At that time, the service was only supporting Germany as a unique location, and pricing was cheaper compared to the whole Cuban (underground) market. That led to onboarding hundreds of customers and receiving lots of payments, billing thousands of Cuban Pesos (CUP) in no time. It was a profitable and sustainable business while making customers happy.
The next months went by and November arrived when another round of protests started raising, and internet connection issues were perceived again, due to the regime blocking and lowering speed to avoid live broadcasts.
Then, as a decision to help my fellow compatriots, I put the service for free during the entire week from Nov 11th to 18th. I never imagined thousands of new users coming up and media coverage.
The most important thing to me is helping people achieve freedom and express their creativity. Yes, I launched my VPN service but was not afraid to share how I did it. It's all explained in this another article, and that led to many Cubans launching their own VPNs and even commercializing them. Competition is good for society, and I kept my customers, so everything was going ok. Personal touch and brand are important, also.
In December 2021, I realized that the product had the potential to grow, and started taking it even more seriously, and rebranded it. The new name was Lugo.Network. Also started receiving payments in Hive, achieving the milestone of being the first Cuban VPN on offering services, available with that cryptocurrency.
- It was the first Cuban VPN accepting Hive and TON as a means of payment.
- It was the first business on integrating TelePay, my crypto-payments gateway.
- During the whole year of operation, it only experienced 3 interruptions, with no more than 20 minutes in total downtime.
- Served more than 2k users.
- Processed more than 700 payments.
- Handled more than 120 TB of internet traffic.
- The new VPN, Connecton, launched just 1 day before the old VPN's first anniversary.
Earlier this year (2022), some investors saw my VPN service and thought about acquiring it. I was happy to take it into a new stage of scalability, by joining forces with them. It was a lot of advantages: funding, equipment, more employees, access to global market and much more.
I can't say how much I got, but it was my ticket to freedom. So, inmediately I relocated to Serbia, muy new home, a country with free visa for Cubans, where I can perform my work without those bothering interruptions that I had on my country: blackouts (6-12 hours) and internet issues. Now, I can serve my fellow citizens even more, and go beyong my own personal bareers. Now the sky is literally the limit.
We just launched the new VPN on August 4th, 4 days ago, and I'm amazed while looking the numbers. Impressive, we just arrived to to thousands of users, and has served lots and lots of TeraBytes of internet traffic. For real, A LOT of traffic.
Users from all around the world has joined in just 4 days, and are enjoying our very kind 30 days free trial period, with USA, Germany, Poland, Finland and Brazil as current locations. Check out our website: connecton.surf.
Our plans are into competing with leading VPN services, keep adding more locations, developing our own applications, and supporting more protocols. The Connecton mission is helping as much people as we can, to access unrestricted internet, while being anonymous and keeping their traffic private.
- Product market fit is essential. Without it, you definetively go out of business.
- Charging is important. No service can be sustained without charging, unless you're an NGO, and that's not my case.
- Keeping a close eye to customers feedback and applying solutions, it's a must.
- Personal touch and care for their needs, is better than no having it. Lots of brands leave their customers unhappy and treates them like shit. We're humans at the end of the day, we should be driven by compassion.
- When an acquisition attempt comes in, it's better to take it, when it helps you grow and offer a better service. In my case, it was the perfect decision.
- There's no way to create and sustain a healthy startup without freedom. You need freedom, good public policies and democracy to run your business. Cuba is not the best place for that.
- Perfection is not good. Making things functional is more important. Then, you can aspire to perfection, only when you have a working thing.
Now I have a huge challenge: make a living here through my startups. I achieved Ramen profitability while staying in Cuba, but conditions has changed and cost of living too, including rent and much more expenses. So, my next goal is getting that here also, while boosting my now shared startup to the sky.