SQR Systems was founded in December 2010 by Dr Nithin Thomas and Rockman Law, and specialises in securing data transmissions over low bandwidth networks.
The startup provides cyber security for the defence and security industries, and has grown to employ a team of 12 in an office in London.
We put Thomas under the startup spotlight to find out more about SQR Systems.
What does SQR Systems do?
SQR Systems is a cyber security company developing a new standard for secure communications. We have patented combined compression and encryption technology that allows data to be optimised in encrypted form.
Essentially, this means the data is always kept encrypted end-to-end, while every user gets the best experience regardless of the network or device.
We have all read the market reports forecasting that over two billion smartphones will be in use by 2016 and over 16 billion smart devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
This means there will be a vast amount of sensitive data available, which will often be transmitted over poorly connected wireless networks. Our technology enables this data to be transmitted securely over whatever network is available while ensuring the user has a positive experience.
Where is the company based?
We are now in the CyLon accelerator in Hammersmith, London. We are really excited to be part of Europe's first cyber security accelerator where we have been invited to support the programme and the entrepreneurs and early stage businesses that are taking part in it.
I believe London is really well positioned to lead the way in cyber security technology and this is helped by a unique blend of favourable government policies for startups like the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief for early stage investors, together with a rich set of early adopters in the financial services industry that provides the validation to grow the technology startups.
Being part of CyLon has been a great way for us to contribute back to the community and help build a sustainable cyber security startup ecosystem right here in London.
How many people work in the business?
We currently have 12 people. We are fortunate to have a great mix of youth and experience.
Our board has a strong track record as technologists, operators and investors with deep domain expertise in cyber security from many years in leadership positions in the highest levels of government and industry.
Our team between them have a breadth of experience, including scaling businesses globally having built a British startup from the ground up to more than $500m in revenues and orchestrated several acquisitions in the US and a Nasdaq IPO.
We have a track record in commercialising cutting edge technology, having delivered research programmes in academia, government and industry, and we have influenced and continue to drive future communications standards in defence, intelligence and telecoms segments.
This is complemented by a lot of experience in complex commercial negotiation and delivery having led the delivery of the complete $30bn UK aircraft carrier programme.
Why did you develop SQR Systems?
During my PhD, I was developing new ways of encrypting video for transmission over the internet to different types of devices like mobile and laptops.
The challenge was how to keep the data encrypted end-to-end while ensuring the quality of the video is as high as possible for every user regardless of their device and connection quality.
I saw many applications for this technology from internet broadcasting to video conferencing and surveillance. At SQR Systems, we used this technology to develop it into a new standard for secure transmission of data, including other types of data beyond video.
I saw an enormous opportunity to deploy this technology in applications such as drone communications, mobile communications and the IoT.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground?
I founded the business alongside my colleague Rockman Law. We actually met at the University of Bristol where we were both studying for our engineering degrees.
While at Bristol I conducted some research into new ways of securely transmitting video data over unreliable networks. It was from here that SQR Systems was born as we set up the company to commercialise my research.
The business was funded through founders' funding and revenues with large defence companies and the UK MoD in the early days. This allowed us to develop much of the early technology and hire a small team.
We concentrated on delivering research and development projects to these organisations in order to develop our technology base and build a route to market. We then raised money with friends and family and angel investors to productise the technology and take it to market.
What technology do you use?
Most of our core IP is developed in C/C++. We have currently deployed this technology on Android and iOS platforms as well as Windows and Linux systems. Our servers are all hosted on UK cloud infrastructure.
What level of funding have you received so far?
We have avoided raising institutional funding and have built the company through a combination of founders' funds, friends and family investment and small angel investments together with revenues from the start.
What challenges have you encountered?
Funding the development of the company in the early days was very challenging as we set up in the height of the recession.
Having set up the company straight out of university, it was difficult to attract investment, which meant that we had to concentrate on revenues from a very early stage.
This meant that we were focused on developing great technology and driving efficiency from the very beginning and this has continued to be part of our culture today.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business so far?
Every new customer we have secured has been a great highlight for the business.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
I believe having access to a table tennis table is mandatory for every startup. We like to have a relaxing game after a busy day.
What did you do before starting up?
The company was set up pretty much straight after I graduated from the University of Bristol where I did my PhD. I worked briefly for a large technology consulting company in sales and marketing to develop my skills while setting up the foundations of the company.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
My favourite thing is the variety of interesting people I get to meet and interact with. I find the opportunity to learn from others who have chosen an unusual career path very exciting.
The worst thing has to be the long hours, especially in the early days when there is an incredible cash flow pressure.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
I prefer SQR to define its own place in the universe instead of emulating another startup.
(Encrypted voice, video and text messaging app) Ceerus.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
In the early days, I had a very limited network and I found startup events extremely valuable in order to help me build my network. They have also been a great opportunity to exchange ideas and learn new things.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
The UK government is doing a great job of creating an ecosystem that is friendly towards startups.
The tax initiatives like SEIS and EIS are generating a lot of investment interest in early stage companies, and the R&D tax credits are a great way to improve cash flow in high-tech businesses.
The technology industry is also doing a lot through open innovation programmes that encourage collaboration with startups to bring through the best ideas and deploy them in the enterprise.
There is always more to be done, but we are in a good place to build a great startup ecosystem in the UK.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cleaner-seeking iOS and Android app Hassle.com and meeting rooms-as-a-service firm MeetingRooms.com, to IT management firm Essensys and data analytics SaaS firm Saberr.
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