(ed: Nord Sec and Surfshark have sent statements pertaining to this article. To view these statements, please scroll to the bottom of this article).
As with many privately owned VPN providers, popular VPN provider Surfshark has remained coy about its ownership or corporate structure. However, in a first, Surfshark CEO and founder Vytautas Kaziukonis revealed to Verslo žinios (a Lithuanian business news site) that Surfshark was developed alongside Nord Security and NordVPN, under the umbrella company and business incubator Tesonet.
This new disclosure raises some interesting questions about the specifics of Surfshark’s links to NordVPN, past and present, and why this had never been admitted to before. Tesonet’s website lists a dozen products that it has created and invested in, including Nord Security’s range of offerings, but does not reference Surfshark.
According to Surfshark CEO’s interview with the Lithuanian news site (and machine-translated in English), Surfshark was part of the Tesonet Group for the first two years of its operations. Tesonet helped Surfshark with "things like hiring and office rentals”.
In the interview, Vytautas Kaziukonis described Surfshark and Tesonet’s current relationship as “close friends” who share “market insights and forecasts”. He stated “Surfshark is a Lithuanian capital company, but we would not like to disclose our shareholders yet.”
Welcome to Vilnius
Surfshark had previously announced a reorganisation and relocation from the British Virgin Islands to the Netherlands, but had not mentioned Lithuania as part of that announcement.
Tesonet is also the investor behind Oxylabs, a proxy service that provides solutions for large-scale public data gathering, as well as Hostinger, a popular web hosting provider and its subsidiary, Zyro, a website builder, rival to Wix. It is also well documented that Tesonet has helped another VPN, ProtonVPN in the past when they wanted to open an office in Vilnius.
While it is unclear how NordVPN and Surfshark work together today, Verslo žinios also revealed that Surfshark will move to Cyber City, an upcoming tech campus in Vilnius, Lithuania that Tesonet and NordVPN have said that they will be moving to as well.
Consolidation has been a trend in the VPN market as of late. Kape Technologies, owner of both CyberGhost and Private Internet Access, recently purchased rival ExpressVPN in the industry’s largest merger.
J2Global owns six VPN brands, including IPVanish and StrongVPN. Nord Security also made a recent acquisition in Atlas VPN. However, the links between NordVPN and Surfshark were previously unknown and seemingly sidestepped when questioned.
Sure. The clear answer to both questions is no. Actually, we're thinking of developing our own whitelabel as we see demand for such serviceAugust 12, 2020
In a statement, Surfshark told TechRadar Pro, "Tesonet is an IT business accelerator/incubator in Lithuania that fosters a number of prominent companies, such as Hostinger, Nord Security, Zyro, and others. Surfshark kicked off with the help of the incubator, especially in terms of office space, hiring, and advice. Today, Surfshark is a completely separate company but we remain close friends with people from other Tesonet companies, have occasional events, and share knowledge about the labour market situation."
Separately, NordVPN told us, "While Nord Security is a creation of Tom Okman and Eimantas Sabaliauskas, through the Tesonet business accelerator they helped many founders to grow their startups or even turn their ideas into viable businesses. Nord Security team has always been independent and autonomous, even while still a part of the Tesonet accelerator in the very early days."
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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.