Veteran, entrepreneur: IST alumnus takes unconventional route to success

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
February 05, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the summer of 2001, Jon Luzader was packed for Penn State, ready to chase his dream of working in software by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology (IST).

But that all changed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Inspired by his grandfather, Frank Petz, a World War II veteran who enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Luzader put his dream on hold by deferring his Penn State enrollment and joining the United States Army.

“My grandfather didn’t sit around and wait to get drafted,” he recounted. “He saw what happened at Pearl Harbor; he wasn’t going to let people do that to his country.”

He added, “My grandfather was the greatest man I’ve ever met, and if I wanted to be half the man he was, I knew I needed to do the same after 9/11. That was it, period.”

During his time in the Army, Luzader served as a signal support system specialist. His duties were primarily in configuring, installing and maintaining communication systems like satellite phones and radios.

“Anything with an electronic circuit or a piece of software that was used by the Army, my job was responsible for it in some manner,” he said.

After three overseas tours, including Iraq, where he participated in more than 150 combat-support missions, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania, native returned to the University Park campus in 2006 to begin his degree in IST with an option in integration and application.

“It was a little weird,” he said, laughing. “I went from escorting colonels on Black Hawk helicopters in combat zones to writing an essay in an English class.”

After his graduation in December 2010, he began working for CSRA, a government consulting firm. At first, he mainly worked on agile software development for the Energy Star federal program that promotes energy efficiency in consumer products.

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it used to be to find an Energy Star appliance; you had to go to a website and download an Excel spreadsheet,” he said. “We spent a lot of time trying to make that experience better for American consumers.”

His consulting work eventually led him to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, where he helped to optimize their software systems. Once again, he found himself drawing inspiration from his grandfathers.

“My other grandfather, James E. Luzader, had multiple patents to his name and has always been an inspiration to me growing up,” he said. “Becoming an inventor was always something I've wanted to do.”

In the early winter of 2016, he began drafting his first patent application based off of a concept that models quantum mechanical behavior in a modern communications system. After months of research and testing, he was awarded his first patent to help protect confidential online communications, an idea he used to found his own tech company, Blink.cloud. The enterprise is a member company of Bunker Labs, a startup accelerator for military veterans located in Alexandria, Virginia.

“Simply put, the concept is to guarantee a message like an email or text is only seen once,” he explained. “The moment it’s accessed, it’s destroyed.”

A free tool for the public, text-based communications can be sent through the blink.cloud website and delivered to their intended recipient through text or email. Subsequent attempts to view the message return decoy content, making it extremely difficult for attackers to determine the value and context of that information.

“That means if I send an email with a blink.cloud, the person who it is sent to is the only person who will ever see that message,” he said. “Even if your accounts are compromised, the email itself will be there but the contents will be completely different.”

In a world constantly inundated by cybersecurity threats, the ability to protect confidential information in electronic transmissions is vital.

“We really hope this helps people use better information security practices,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to use email or text, and both are really terrible tools for information security. Messages can be forwarded, accounts can be hacked. With blink, you can better control data residency of all your information and choose what you want to secure, as you type it.”

In the future, he plans to grow his company and create similar programs for non-text based communications, something his education has prepared him for.

“My IST degree translated really well to the professional world because they need people who understand technology and software and how solutions can be efficiently developed,” he said.

And while his path took him on some detours, Luzader said if given the chance, he would do it all again in a heartbeat.

“I’m really thankful for my experience,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.”   

  • Jon Luzader.

    Jon Luzader

    IMAGE: Courtesy Jon Luzader
Last Updated February 05, 2018