Conseal Security is a specialist data security company that aims to give a range of clients, including individuals, businesses and government departments, control over who accesses their data and when. Tom Colvin, co-founder of Conseal, tells what it takes to succeed in such a sensitive industry.

Tom Colvin was no stranger to business when he set up Conseal. His entrepreneurial bent first emerged in secondary school with a PC refurbishment business. Initially selling to friends and family, a small business eventually emerged.

Tom was then recruited by a company called Visualware at the age of 16. The company was owned by three partners who took Tom on as chief developer on their flagship product. By the age of 21 he had become head of development and was responsible for the company's entire development team.

Like many entrepreneurs, Tom considers his early business experience important in developing his skills and acumen.

“It’s good to get business experience early. If you read the biographies of great entrepreneurs, they all say you have to start early. Luckily I had that opportunity and I really feel it has helped.”

Conseal Security was born out of a lifelong interest with security, including cryptography, physical security and even specific applications such as how governments pass classified information between departments.

“Visualware was in the IT security space and we did a lot of tracking for police departments around the world.

The seed for Conseal started when Tom noticed the fallout when HMRC lost a huge amount of sensitive personal information. He considers it a watershed moment; a time when public perception of IT security changed.

“Before that moment people didn’t seem so interested in IT security because they didn’t see how it would affect them. And afterwards, you saw that people were actually really angry because the breach wouldn’t only cost HMRC a lot of money, but could potentially cost them – the individual – money.”

With so much data being sent around on CDs and flash drives, and no way of controlling how it’s accessed and who accesses it, Tom saw a gap in the market for a company that solved these problems.

“One of the benefits of our USB technology is that it works with any USB device. So people are favouring us because they don’t have to roll out new devices and don’t have the expense of bespoke hardware. We’ll work with whatever technology the company already has.”

Tom did encounter some obstacles when setting up Conseal Security.

“The number one challenge we faced was getting the product absolutely right. We’d done all our research and decided to go ahead, but when developing the product you have to be incredibly particular when it’s something that’s so high security. You have to be absolutely spot on that the product works as it says it does.”

The development of the product was an extremely difficult thing to get right
Another difficulty Conseal faced was making sure they got to the right market and were presenting themselves in the right way.

“The founders of Conseal are technical and business experts so we don’t have a lot of graphic design or web development experience. Making sure the website was appealing, and that we were tapping into the right markets, was difficult. We spoke to marketing agencies and flew experts to the UK to help us overcome this hurdle.”

They currently face a considerable challenge: responding to the feedback and buzz generated since Conseal’s launch and integrating this with business processes, such as product development.

“We basically haven’t slept since the launch! We have a number of resellers interested in partnering and our current challenge is to develop a programme that will be mutually beneficial. “

What’s next for Conseal?

“Conseal has a long road ahead of it. The products we have are a base that we’ll be building on. We have a number of new products in development which will add to our portfolio. We’re also adding new features to our existing products to enhance their value. Reseller programmes will also form a large part of our focus in 2011. In 2012, we may well look at developments abroad.”

Tom’s top tips for entrepreneurs:

Do your research: “This is incredibly important. Be methodical. Talk to people in the industry. See if there are competing or similar products. Check to see if recently granted or applied-for patents could cause you problems. Only when everything adds up should you go ahead and start your business.”

Don’t try to do everything: “It’s not always healthy to personally take on too much. As a business grows there’s so much to do you can’t possibly do it all. You need to recruit the right people. Try to find people with complementary skillsets that can do the jobs you find challenging.”

Do things well: “Whatever you do, do it well. That’s what creates a good product. I know of businesses that have tried to reach too far in what the product is aiming to do. If you look at a problem the industry has, or predict a problem the industry will have, that forms the basis of the product. You then need to solve the problem and solve it well, and you’ll get your reward. Diluting your efforts can cause problems in the long-run.”