October 17, 2017

WA start-up takes aim at the consumer market

Turning IP into profitable products: WA start-up Wangle Technologies has the lucrative network security market in its sights.

Transforming intellectual property into commercial products is no simple feat and the launch of its first offering, Wangle VPN, a mobile virtual private network aimed at the consumer market, in April 2017 marked the end of a two-year journey for Wangle Technologies.

Systems which allow users to connect securely to third party networks via the internet, VPNs are used by organisations to provide off-site employees with access to corporate systems and by individuals to prevent their data being hacked while using public Wifi networks.

Reverse listed on the Australia Stock Exchange in 2015, Wangle is headed by CEO Sean Smith, the kayaking enthusiast whose FatPaddler blog enjoys a global following. A seasoned data analytics specialist whose CV includes stints at Woolworths and Ticketek, he was headhunted in January 2017 to spearhead the Perth-based minnow’s commercialisation drive.

Sean Smith, CEO of Wangle

Products in the pipeline

Hot on the heels of the Wangle VPN, which hopes to attract 100,000 paid subscribers by 2019, is another network security offering aimed squarely at the home market – the Wangle Family Insites Product, slated for release in late 2017.

To be sold on subscription via the Apple and Google app stores, the product is designed to help parents monitor children’s internet usage without the accusations of privacy invasion familiar to folk who demand inspection rights to Facebook, Instagram and email accounts.

“Instead of monitoring the actual posted content of kids, Wangle Family Insites analyses network behaviours and those behaviours help us to identify risks like cyber-bullying or predatory behaviour online, in turn helping parents and children work together on their cyber safety” Smith says.

“We can also track usage patterns such as children using hidden accounts for risky behaviour or logging on between midnight and 4am when they should be sleeping. There’s a whole range of online behaviours that can be captured without invading their privacy.”

Historically, efforts to oversee children’s internet usage via technology have centred around the use of firewalls to block access to inappropriate sites and spyware which records their online interactions but both approaches fall short, according to Smith.

“Kids get around blocking technology and using spyware can create issues with parents due to breaches of trust and privacy,” he says.

As well as alerts, parents will receive research and practical advice on ways to deal with online behaviours of concern.

The Wangle Family Insites product has been endorsed by Telethon Kids Institute, a not-for-profit medical research institute which studies a range of childhood health and development areas including children’s cyber-behaviour. The two organisations have entered an information sharing agreement which will see de-identified data collected by Wangle used to inform future research.

Also in the Wangle product pipeline is an enterprise mobility solution which will provide organisations with improved surveillance capability around employee-owned mobile devices that are used to access corporate networks.

The Bring Your Own Device phenomenon has seen millions of workers worldwide opt to use their own smartphones at work over the past five years and the trend has created a security headache for organisations.

“Most businesses are really good at managing access to intellectual property inside the organisation but these privately-owned devices fall outside their usual security networks,” Smith says. “We think a solution which addresses this has enormous potential – it’s a big and lucrative space and the enterprise customers we’ve spoken to have said there isn’t a clear solution available.”

Living lean

With a full-time headcount of just ten, Wangle has by necessity found itself having to do a lot with a little.

The firm has elected to partner with an external software development agency and offshore its customer service and network support operations, rather than establish costly in-house infrastructure of its own.

“Like most new businesses, you look to bootstrap to make things faster and cheaper by necessity,” Smith says.

“That’s what we’ve done. Like any start-up we’ve had wins and we’ve had backward steps, and being a listed company we’ve had to play those out publicly. Our focus is on getting products out to market and making some money and we’re in a position to do that aggressively. Once we’ve built up our revenue streams we’ll look at expansion to support that growth.”

Partnering for growth

A NAB customer since its infancy, Wangle has benefited from the bank’s extensive experience working with fledgling high-tech ventures of all stripes.

‘We’re a small business that’s had to deal with all the requirements of being a listed company, with very few staff, while trying to move ahead at pace and develop a very complex set of technologies,” Smith says.

“We’ve set a pretty big agenda for ourselves which is going to take a bit of time to execute and it’s helpful to work with a bank that’s familiar with the landscape we operate in and understands the challenges of the start-up journey.”

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