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Sirin Labs raised $72 million to make a secure smartphone which costs $15K

A Swiss-based start-up has raised $72 million and is planning to launch a high-security smartphone next month that could cost up to $15,000.

Kazakh businessman Kenges Rakishev; Israeli venture capitalist Moshe Hogeg; Tal Cohen, a former McKinsey consultant; and Chinese social media firm RenRen were all investors in the round. Rakishev, Hogeg and Cohen are the founders.

The company, Sirin Labs, is set to launch an Android smartphone in its yet-unopened London store next month with the price tag likely to be in the $10,000-$15,000 range. Hogeg said that the features rather than price were the focus when the company designed the device.

"The first product we are launching is the smartphone which we believe is the most important device, and this phone will be launched at the end of next month and you should expect to see almost in every aspect, very high specs on the product, higher than all of the great mass market phones, combined with software and security features," Hogeg told CNBC in a phone interview on Monday.


Security focus

Sirin Labs is trying to tap into the growing consumer concern over privacy just weeks after the end of the high-profiletussle between Apple and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over the unlocking of an iPhone that belonged to one of the San-Bernardino shooters. Eventually the FBI managed to get into the iPhone, showing that they weren't completely unhackable.

BlackBerry used to be the company best-known for their secure devices, but the company's decline in market share has seen a number of other players try to muscle in on the security-focused device space. Both Apple and Samsung have been bolstering their security capabilities while start-ups like Silent Circle are bringing more niche handsets to market.


Ulrich Baumgarrten | Getty Images

Silent Circle makes the$799 BlackPhone 2 which focuses on keeping users' data secure. Archos and Sikur produce the $850 GranitePhone.

And then there are ultra-premium phones on the market such as the $310,000 Vertu Signature Cobra which is laced with gems.

Hogeg said that the company is not focused on creating a phone will lots of diamonds on it that look like jewelry, but a secure phone with good technology.

"We started the company because of a pain point with our founders many years ago, when he was hacked. If you're phone is hacked your life is hacked. For some people there is a lot of sensitive information in their phones. We wanted to develop a secure phone for that," Hogeg said.

Given the price of the device, the likely audience is businesses rather than the everyday consumer with the device unlikely to gain a large portion of market share.


Android apps

Another challenge for Sirin Labs is making sure it can live up to the promise of security and privacy given that it runs Google's mobile operating system. Android has a bad reputation as a much less secure platform, due to its open-source nature. But in a recent security report, Google said it run over 400 million checks of devices per day for security issues last year as it looks to bolster security. Hogeg said that by using Android, people will have access to the apps they want via the Google Play store.

"Without an app store today it just doesn't cut it. It is super important for people to have apps."

Hogeg added that making Android really secure was "difficult" but is convinced Sirin Labs' phone is "far more secure than those and every other commercial device in the market".

Sirin Labs is also hoping to extend its security-centric products into other areas. Hogeg said the company is already designing the next phone and that the next product to be launched would most likely be a personal computer.