Dave Abraham, CEO of Cambridge-based Signify
Signify, headquartered in Cambridge, was founded in January 2000 to provide secure Authentication and Identity Management services to corporate and public sector customers.
The Signify team brings together some of the key commercial and technical experts who pioneered the European TCP/IP and Internet revolutions in the late 1980's, and designed and built leading edge Internet infrastructure and security systems throughout the 1990's. This wealth of technical and marketplace experience has helped put Signify at the leading edge of the Identity Management market, and has ensured that the company delivers real, workable solutions which really address our clients' key management issues.
1) How does your approach to data security differ from – and improve on – what is already out there? Our approach is to simplify, streamline and automate the processes to authenticate users. We have taken market-leading, best-of-breed authentication technology and used our skills and infrastructure to build a scalable managed service that is more secure, reliable and flexible than an in-house solution. The great benefit is that everything is easier for the end user – people like you and me – that log into our organisations’ networks every day and want the technology just to work. 2) The security of data and identity fraud is very much in the news at the moment. How much of an opportunity is this for you and how are you managing it? Data security is increasingly important to organisations, especially given recent high profile data losses and knowing who is accessing what data is critical to maintaining that security. To prevent the growth in consumer identity theft, high street banks have started to deploy various forms of “Two factor” authentication to secure their consumer online banking. This raises the security bar for consumers to the same level that Signify has been deploying to companies and local authorities for several years. As “Two factor” authentication becomes standard practise, it will be unacceptable for an organisation to allow staff or suppliers to remotely access data over the Internet using only a password for protection. 3) In what segments are you seeing the biggest growth? We have a very good customer base across almost every sector. While we have seen a significant increase in the use of our service by organisations that manage lots of sensitive information such as legal firms and local authorities, our growth is very much across a range of markets. Customers include building societies, construction companies, transportation organisations, accountants, manufacturing companies and charities. 4) The market for your technology is presumably international. What is your strategy for international growth? Authentication is used by every person accessing a computer, wherever they are in the world. Our service has the potential for delivery on a global basis. However, different markets have very different drivers. For example, the UK got chip-and-PIN two years ago, whereas much of Europe had it years ago and the US has still not adopted it. Similarly, the drivers for when a security technology is adopted vary by geography. At present, there is still a huge latent demand in the UK where we intend to focus our efforts. But in the next 18 months, we will be looking at other regions where we can be successful. 5) In what ways has being based in Cambridge helped or hindered the growth of your business? Being based in Cambridge has given us a pool of bright and talented staff and a good team is key to building a successful business. We were also able to raise money from the Cambridge-based venture capital firm ET Capital when founding the business. Our customers are all over the country and Cambridge is well located to get to most places. However, getting to customers in the M4 corridor for a morning meeting is painful! 6) Do you have any new products or technologies in the pipepline? We expect to be launching new additions to our services this year and are currently working with customers to identify what will help them the most. I find it amazing how the market for authentication has been static in regards to new technologies over the last five years. Most manufacturers are the same. We regularly research biometrics and smartcards to see whether they are commercially viable but they still don’t meet the needs of most real computer users. 7) How has your industry changed in the eight years since Signify started up? As a managed service provider, we are at the intersection between two industries – authentication, which is part of the computer security market and Software as a Service (SaaS). Authentication has been quite static, whereas the SaaS has been dynamic. It was ‘the next big thing’ back in 2000, but after the dot-com crash, it went out of fashion. However, over the last two or three years there has been an increasing trend by IT departments to adopt hosted services. We can deliver a service that IT departments want, with guaranteed security and reliability but without the organisation taking on the implementation risks and costs. The major change is that many IT departments now recognise these benefits. 8) What are your biggest challenges going forward? The biggest challenge as a small company is to increase our visibility to new customers. We have a fantastic set of existing customers. Some have been with us for up to seven years, with almost every customer renewing year on year. Making organisations aware of us is a challenge and will drive our next phase of growth. 9) What have been your biggest achievements as a company so far? Our first key achievement has been down to our technical team in delivering an authentication service that has been available 99.999% of the time each and every year, over the last five years. That’s less than 6 minutes of downtime in 12 months and most years we achieve 100% uptime. The second major achievement has been reaching sustained profitability over the last two years and doubling profits in the last financial year. As a managed service provider there is a minimum level of people and infrastructure needed to deliver a high quality service and having reached the point of consistent profits, we’re now in a strong position to grow and invest in our future expansion. 10) What would it take for Signify to become a truly global player? We believe that in a few years time, we could be a global service – where each person will carry a Signify authentication token to prove who they are when they log into each website, online service and company network. Everyone would benefit. Users would no longer have to remember lots of passwords – they could just use their single token and we’d all be more secure. But to achieve this we will need to reach a critical mass of organisations using our service, which will involve developing a global brand and becoming integrated into all the key systems access points.