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SaltDNA’s Joe Boyle on the journey to building a cybersecurity business
Mon, 4th Jun 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Businesses are born when someone willing to take a risk sees a problem that they know how to solve. Joe Boyle is one of those people.

Telecommunications are a weak link in security chains. Corporations struggle to keep trade secrets and client data secure while operating in a BYOD world of unencrypted data transfers across public channels.   

Looking beyond the need to safely store data, Joe has developed software that enables the secure sharing of information across global teams operating in a dynamic and digital environment. Founding SaltDNA in 2013, Joe has brought years of Silicon Valley and telecom experience back to Ireland in a bid to change the way corporations communicate.

Robin Block sat down with Joe to discuss his journey to becoming an entrepreneur and to find out what has driven him to build businesses.

What started you on this journey — when did you first think that building a company would be a good idea?

My journey to becoming an entrepreneur began years before I started SaltDNA. I was working at F5 in the mid-2000s as the Development Manager for their web acceleration platform. At that time, the optimisation market basically consisted of shipping hardware across the globe — requiring specialist IT guys to be in place on either side and driving up logistical and maintenance costs.

I could see that there was an opportunity to do this with software. Myself and several friends decided we had to go for it. I think the motivation was wanting to feel like we owned what we were doing and seeing an opportunity to contribute. We started a company called Replify — one of the first virtualised WAN optimisation firms in the world.

The trouble we had with Replify was relying on outside funding. The networking required to find adequate investment for tech-development has never come as naturally to me as the technology itself. Leaving Replify was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. However, I was recruited by Blue Coat Systems in California and felt like it was an opportunity I had to take.   

After nearly 4 years in California, I wanted to get ‘the band' back together. I wanted to get back to Ireland and I wanted to be working for myself. To start with, my old team and I set up a little shop called 6 Degree Labs — simply to do some professional service work for high-end customers. The idea was to use our own money to jump-start something innovative. One of those projects was SaltDNA.

Where did you get the inspiration for SaltDNA?

A massive amount of money was going into privacy-oriented consumer apps. WhatsApp, SnapChat, Silent Circle — they all received massive market success. It was easy to see that there was a huge move towards privacy in communications. However, no one was making applications that could meet the specific needs of enterprise-level users.

We exist in a business environment reliant on the mass segregation of information around individuals. The step we took was to take the latest in encryption technology and deliver it in a usable, intuitive and enterprise-friendly package.

Our product provides central control management, reporting and compliance in an encrypted and secure network. It feels a lot like WhatsApp to the user — it has text, file sharing, voice and video call options. However, instead of downloading the application and going out to find people, employees are sent invites from the business. You have a secure list of contacts that is curated by management — allowing the company to keep control of its internal communications.  We provide this as a cloud service, but also allow companies the option to bring it on-premise — allowing them to run their own secure communications system.

How much has your ‘persona' and experience contributed to the success of SaltDNA?

I think that the work we did with Silicon Valley cyber firms on some of the largest telecoms infrastructure in the world aided my ability to attract a team and initial clients. I spent years with one foot aiding development teams and the other working with marketing and sales. Those skills have been indispensable in building SaltDNA.

However, I don't think people buy SaltDNA because of my experience. Our main differentiator is the product. We do something that others can't. We produced a highly stable platform that can tick all of the compliance boxes and offer management control. We give companies back the simplicity of internal secure communications — the old world of Blackberry, but, with BYOD flexibility.

If you build something unique, with a definitive and measurable value to your target audience, it is only a matter of time before it begins to sell. We are the only company on the market that can, within a day, give you your own on-premise solution that is fully wrapped, has your brand on it and enables private group chats and conference calls. That is hugely powerful!

What drives you to want to work for yourself?

Like many entrepreneurs, I am driven by the daily buzz of building something new — something over which I feel I have ownership. The real beauty of working at a small business is how that feeling pervades everyone. The people at SaltDNA don't work for me — they work for themselves. Everyone here is invested in the long haul of what we are doing. They feel ownership of their projects because they have been part of creating something new and important. That is a very captivating environment to be in.

There is a massive buzz in being able to say — ‘we started with nothing and now people are paying us hundreds-of-thousands of pounds for what we have built.' The money is great. But, it goes far beyond that — it is the fact that the world sees value in something you made. From a creative perspective, it is hugely enriching. Without that, it would be hard to say that the level of work required would be worthwhile.