Belfast Telegraph

'Our product finds security issues while software is being developed'

Small Business Can

By Lisa Smyth

It's estimated that cybercrime costs the global economy more than $450bn in 2016, and it is the fastest growing area of crime in the world. So it makes sense that a product that offers effective protection against cybercrime will be sought after.

However, Belfast-based firm Uleska has taken it one step further by creating a product that automatically identifies potential security flaws in software as it is being developed.

It is a world first and could save companies millions of pounds in lost revenue through cybercrime and retrospective reprogramming.

Gary Robinson, Uleska founder and chief executive, said: "There is no other industry that would work the way software development currently works.

"You wouldn't build a house, road or a car for example, and spend a year building it and then at the end of the process, start thinking about security.

"You wouldn't build a house for a year and then consider whether someone can break into it, but that is how software is being built.

"It is after the programme has been developed that companies bring experts in to analyse the security and identify any issues.

"On average in the industry it is 12 months from a piece of code being written to it being tested and fixed.

"However, we have developed a product that automatically tests programmes on the day they are written so that any issues can be identified and addressed immediately.

"If you're going to spend six months writing code, you don't want to get to the end and have to spend another couple of months fixing problems."

Gary (41) has an impressive track record working in internet security, and spent 18 years in application security and software development before founding Uleska.

This included experience as a senior application security architect at Citigroup, along with work in the TV markets and telecoms industry, where he authored two patents in the area of domain name system (DNS) security.

So it is clear he knows what he is talking about when it comes to cybercrime and how to prevent it.

But there was also a desire to set up his own business.

"I was there working for one of the biggest banks in the world. I was happy, but I gave it all up for a start-up," he said.

"It is ironic because people in my area of work tend to be very risk averse but my idea was getting traction and I felt like it was something I could develop.

"The idea was definitely the catalyst for me setting up my own business. I certainly didn't always want to run my own company. It's not something that was at the front of my mind, but I didn't mind giving it a go when the idea came up.

"I did a lot of research, I looked into whether my idea had already been produced, whether it already existed.

"I went around London and showed people and the feedback was very positive."

To his surprise, he has enjoyed the process. "It has been very much about networking, if someone had told me I would be comfortable going into a meeting with a big business and selling something I would have said there was no way.

"I think it has surprised me that I actually enjoy that now."

Gary said mentorship from schemes such as Ulster Bank's Entrepreneurial Spark programme has been crucial as he has built Uleska.

"We've been really lucky as this has allowed us to access entrepreneurs and big players who will answer the phone to you," he said.

There are currently three people working for the company in management and marketing roles, but Gary said that he hopes to take on another four staff this year.

"We're going to be bringing on more developers," he said.

They are also working with potential customers to tailor the product to their individual needs.

"That's all that matters, that it is relevant to our customers.

"It's the only thing that matters as far as I am concerned, if your customers don't want to buy it then you're back to being an open source project."

But Gary is determined that his product will become global, and he is due to travel to Silicon Valley to meet industry leaders as part of research and development.

"Our product can be sold around the world," he said. "But to begin with we are targeting Belfast, London and Dublin as we already have contacts there.

"Where we plan to be in a few years is selling to both small and large customers, and by 2020 we expect revenue to be £3.5m. By 2023, we intend our revenue to have grown to £5m."

Belfast Telegraph

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