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Glynx - Your World of Private Applications

Today we showcase the story of an entrepreneur, Malcolm Allen, from Melbourne, Australia, founder of Glynx - Your World of Private Applications, i.e.; it is software you run on your PC to control your online identities and make your internet private.

In a recent email-based interview with us, he gave insights into how he is managing and juggling. This is what he has to say in his interview with us:

• How long it took to launch
From the first concept to today six years old. We have had several goes at it, realising the problems are far greater than we initially anticipated, both technically and in terms of the competitive intensity. It would be true to say that I am not sure we would have started if we had known how hard it would be (and the amount of sacrifice required). For us it has really been a "force of will" - we are creating a business literally from nothing. We didn't even really believe the meaning of "we don't know what we are getting ourselves into" until we experienced it!

• Stage of Venture
Our first public beta launch was in January this year. We launched an engineering prototype mid-last year to fifty or so interested parties. While the core platform is still static there is still massive amounts of work going on to build out the applications that use the technology - expect lots of interesting things...
We completed an Angel round early last year and have been using that (plus some top-up funds) since.

• Which Market Segment
We are targeted at anyone who wants to control the privacy of their information online.
Key consumer markets for us are professionals who distribute client documents and those who need to maintain databases of client details. Examples are professional contractors, lawyers, doctors, project managers, bankers, etc. At a broader level, our technology substantially enhances privacy functionality for those who manage Identity details on behalf of users: Bank online portals, social networking sites, affiliate groups, etc. At an even broader level, our technology enhances privacy for any user concerned about losing control of the use of their personal details online.

We provide tools to support both producers of this Identity information and consumers of that information. Students are good producers - they create lots of new personal details as they change employment, residence, etc. and they are used to working online. Their friends are typical consumers: it's tough keeping up with what everyone is up to today! You should expect at least one in three of your contacts to change their Identity information annually. Think of what that costs you today in maintaining your contact list, lost productivity, lost calls, bounced emails, and lost opportunities. But have you the right (let alone trust) to give all your private contact information to a third-party website(s) to manage or advertise to? Glynx solves this problem.

• Customers
It's hard to tell because our model is total privacy so we don't actually know who all our customers actually are, by definition! You can use Glynx like Microsoft Word or Excel - we don't need to know. We do have a core group of users using our system today most of whom are concerned about online privacy and control. This includes bloggers, commentators and innovators working at the forefront of the field of online Identity Management, Trust and Social Networking.

• Targeted Age Group
Our user base seems to be more middle-aged, if only because this generation understands the value of reputation. Once your data is on the public web you cannot take it back. Younger people do not tend to have built up sophisticated models yet for managing their online activity and they tend to have less to lose if their privacy is compromised by their favourite social networking site (for example).

• Users Using Service
It's still early days and I think most of the people that have signed up are tech heads checking out the interface.

• Marketing Technique
Our business is all about giving users power and control of their Identity online
"Your business is your business" Consequently our primary model is referral. To seed the market we speak to bloggers, commentators and leaders in the field of online Identity Management and show them a better way to manage user information online than trust it to third parties to manage.

• Measuring Success
Our game is all about user uptake. Do enough people care about managing their own information online to give us critical mass? Ultimately we could end up being a core technology for a larger business, but our model is stand-alone. We have a business plan to cash-flow break even that we are working towards.

• Monetizing/Revenue Model
Value-added consumer paid services like those used by high-end professional networking sites and Identity Provider verification services. Some limited advertising (without breaking our promise of user control and privacy), such as targeted employment ads.

• Main competitors
Those who provide centralised online Identity management services that observe who you are, who you have relationships with and what activity you do. The main players in this market today are Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google/Grand Central, etc..

• Technology Stack used
  • Server-side: Linux, J2EE/Tomcat/Struts, Hardware encryption
  • Client-side: Eclipse SWT,
• How Much Money is Used/Reqd.
Cash investment to date is well over six figures. Many people have made investments in our business as "sweat equity"..

• Main Barriers
We wanted to ensure our core technologies were patented before launch. This required substantial investment in time and money. Startups have to make a strategic decision early: Do you want to go for speed or secure a core technology first? Our last startup was based on speed and we spent the whole time looking over our shoulders concerned that others could easily come over the top of us. It was a tremendous distraction and led to several reinventions of our business model. This time we made a tremendous effort to get to the root cause of competitive advantage in our market and secure that advantage before proceeding to build the business.
As with any startup, time and/or money remain barriers to speed to market - we can only do what we can do with the resources we have. To that end, we have made a fair amount of effort to ensure the business has the appropriate tools at the back end to make the staff as productive as possible.

• Advice For People
Get your app in front of users as fast as possible. You never have enough money to do what you want. How much do you really, really need? This comes down to understanding the competitive essence of your business and putting all your effort into expressing that in its purest form.
What do YOU really need to do or what can others do for you - and why?

Speak to and learn from people who know more than you about what you want to know. Most of what you really want to know cannot be found online (or will not make the appropriate impression there). This is particularly difficult for people based in Australia as you need to establish relationships with those you aspire to be like. For us, that means "The Valley".
It's hard work and you need to sustain the passion. Have a sense of belief in yourself. It is not easy and we would have given up many years ago if we had done it for the money.
We worked for many years at two jobs to pay for this - working nights and weekends away from the family until some of the team could afford to do it full-time.

• Your Education/Professional Background
MA, MBA, Business Fellow in the US. However, I wouldn't put too much store on this as there is as much to learn from a particular mindset and experience/historical background as formal education.

• External Funding
We sought $3m in an Angel round 18 months ago. We didn't get nearly that but we got enough to get going. A key message is just getting going. We are interested in further funding from partners who know this space and believe they can add value.

Ongoing coverage on Australian startups, innovation, business and tech trends, and interviews with experts in various domains can be found here


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