On the 14th August 2003, two UK entrepreneurs, Andy Kemshall and Steve Watts, decided to go all in on a new venture, one that would reimagine how companies securely access their most vital data. The result: SecurEnvoy Ltd.
Today marks 20 years since that decision and just over 18 years since I joined the team. Together, we would accomplish our mission to bring a UK founded authentication vendor to the global stage. To mark this significant milestone, I’ve charted those 20 years since these plucky entrepreneurs began their journey toward become an industry defining force.
Phil Underwood (CIO) and I had the privilege of joining the SecurEnvoy team, bringing our motivation and expertise to create a dynamic group of 5. We sat alongside the visionary leaders, Steve (Commercial Co-Founder) and Andy (Technical Co-Founder) and were greatly supported by the efficient administration and financial management of Julie, Andy’s wife.
Our journey began with SecurMail, an innovative solution designed to enable organisations to send encrypted emails securely to recipients without the need for prior enrolment or client downloads. The system leveraged a 6-digit OTP sent to the user’s mobile phone for authentication, ensuring robust security.
Despite the obvious benefits for various industries, such as legal firms, finance, and healthcare organisations, convincing their respective boards and budget holders proved challenging.
However, amidst these discussions, we gleaned opportunity. A challenge that required no explanation. One that presented over and over again: The necessity for user authentication in a vast, evolving, and unpredictable internet. Passwords were no longer enough. The need for stronger authentication was universally understood.
This led us to venture into the realm of two-factor authentication (2FA).
Redefining an industry
The release of SecurAccess was a true turning point for us. The 2FA space was dominated by a company manufacturing key fob OTP tokens—a company where our technical co-founder, Andy, once served as the fifth employee and a leading technical mind. No one had yet realised the potential mobile phones held for authentication. And so, we presented SecurAccess, a pioneering tokenless SMS-based two-factor authentication solution that we sought to make the de-facto standard in the realm of two-factor authentication.
With relentless dedication and a shared vision, we forged ahead, reaching out to partners, customers, and stakeholders, believing in the potential of our product and the value it brought to the market. Our determination and passion fuelled our efforts, and gradually, our hard work began to bear fruit.
The value of 2FA was no longer a matter of convincing customers; we could effortlessly demonstrate how our solution was easier to use and manage, and, most importantly over 60% more cost-effective for their businesses. We began to cause a stir.
Initial Product Datasheet
Causing a stir
Our journey took a significant leap forward in 2006 when we proudly debuted as an exhibitor at Infosecurity Europe in London. The event proved a resounding success, attracting an overwhelming amount of interest from attendees.
Throughout the event, our team tirelessly delivered back-to-back demonstrations for three consecutive days. Despite feeling physically exhausted and grappling with lost voices, the excitement about the prospects ahead of us kept us energised and motivated.
The impact of our presence at Infosecurity Europe was profound. We successfully closed deals with several key clients, including esteemed enterprise accounts like T-Mobile and John Lewis. These partnerships proved to be enduring, with these esteemed companies remaining loyal customers for well over a decade.
Our journey as exhibitors at Infosecurity Europe not only allowed us to showcase our products and solutions to a broader audience but also enabled us to forge invaluable connections within the industry. The show served as a platform for us to stay ahead of the curve, continuously improving and refining our offerings to meet the ever-evolving needs of our clients.
Looking back on those years, we fondly recall the challenges we overcame and the growth we achieved. The memories of those exhilarating days at Infosecurity Europe remain etched in our minds, inspiring us to push the boundaries of innovation and solidify our position as a leader in the two-factor authentication market.
SecurEnvoy stands at InfoSecurity Europe
As our journey progressed over the next decade, we remained dedicated to refining and expanding our product offerings. Our commitment to continuous improvement led us to develop new and diverse authentication methods, ensuring that our customers had a wide array of options to choose from when it came to delivering one-time passcodes.
Embracing the advancements in technology, we introduced mobile and desktop apps, empowering users with convenient and secure authentication options. Additionally, we even explored innovative avenues like voice calls for passcode delivery, recognising the importance of catering to different preferences and accessibility needs.
Our impact extended beyond the technical realm, as we revolutionised the market once again with our annual subscription model. This deviated from the standard perpetual license and annual maintenance offerings of our competitors. This shift allowed us to disrupt the status quo, both technically and commercially, cementing our position as pioneers in the industry.
In 2011, a remarkable achievement filled us with immense pride and honour: the prestigious Queen’s Award for Innovation acknowledged our dedication to innovation and excellence. This recognition was a true testament to the passion and hard work that went into developing our cutting-edge authentication solutions.
To commemorate this extraordinary accomplishment, the founders were bestowed with a rare privilege – an invitation to Buckingham Palace in London. There, in the presence of the late Queen Elizabeth II, we were humbled to receive the distinguished award. The experience was truly surreal, and it symbolised the heights our innovation had reached.
SecurEnvoy Queens’s Award Presentation at Buckingham Palace
Our rendezvous with Buckingham Palace did not end there, as we were once again honoured with another Queen’s Award – this time for Export. This accolade celebrated our success as a UK Cyber Security Vendor, whose influence had transcended borders, reaching a global scale. Our multi-factor authentication solutions were now embraced in over 35 countries around the world.
Both these awards were a testament to our unwavering commitment to excellence and the pioneering spirit that guided us. The recognition from Her Majesty’s government not only validated our work but also inspired us to continue pushing boundaries and expanding our horizons.
These accolades served as a reminder of the far-reaching impact of our work in the realm of cyber security. Armed with innovation and determination, we had not only created solutions that improved security for organisations but also contributed to the UK’s reputation as a thriving hub of technological advancement.
Customer centricity at heart
One decision that posed a challenge was our foray into supplying hardware tokens. This was a particularly difficult choice, considering our marketing message had always centred on promoting ‘tokenless’ authentication. We had even acquired the trademark for this term, which made the decision even more significant.
Nonetheless, what drove us to this decision was our unwavering commitment to our customers and partners. We recognised the vital importance of listening to their feedback, understanding their requirements, and responding to their needs effectively. By doing so, we ensured that our product catered to a diverse range of preferences and use cases, providing them with a comprehensive set of token options, including hardware tokens.
This willingness to adapt and evolve not only demonstrated our customer-centric approach but also strengthened our position as an industry leader. We firmly believed that growth and success stemmed from meeting the demands of our valued clientele, and offering a wide range of tokens was a testament to that philosophy.
As we continued on our journey, customer feedback remained our guiding light, and we knew that by staying responsive to their needs, we could stay ahead in the ever-changing landscape of authentication solutions.
SecurEnvoy Hardware Token
As our success continued, we naturally caught the attention of numerous organisations seeking to invest in or acquire SecurEnvoy. However, we were acutely discerning about the kind of partnership we envisioned for our company’s future.
Towards the end of 2016, we were introduced to Shearwater Plc, an AIM-listed organisation with a strategic vision to establish a robust portfolio of digital resilience companies. Their approach, focused on buying, nurturing, and expanding companies, resonated strongly with us. What particularly stood out was the presence of a highly successful Chairman and a board comprising of seasoned executives and non-executive members.
It became evident to us that working alongside Shearwater Group Plc could provide SecurEnvoy with the ideal springboard to reach new heights. Their vision, coupled with the wealth of experience within their leadership team, instilled in us the confidence that this collaboration could propel SecurEnvoy to the next level of growth and success.
In May 2017, we made the momentous decision to proceed with the acquisition, and SecurEnvoy officially became a part of the Shearwater Group Plc family. This marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for our company.
With this acquisition, we recognised that we weren’t just joining forces with Shearwater Group Plc; we were also joining a community of like-minded digital resilience companies, each striving to make a positive impact in the industry.
In 2018, we embarked on an exciting new vision, shifting from on-premise multi-factor authentication to a dynamic, deployment agnostic Access Management solution. This innovative approach grants organisations unparalleled flexibility, allowing them to choose between leveraging our public SaaS offering, deploying in their private cloud or datacentre, or opting for a fully managed service through our MSP partners.
At the heart of this Access Management solution lies an advanced conditional access policy engine, empowering organisations to implement zero trust principles. With precise control over access to corporate resources, we strike the perfect balance between frictionless user access and robust security.
Looking to the future
We remain committed to driving innovation and placing our customers at the heart of everything we do. We are unwavering in our dedication to invest in cutting-edge technologies. Notably, as part of our strategic roadmap, we are developing our advanced Sensitive Data Discovery technology, an indispensable component that enhances the context of access policy decisions. Our focus remains on developing solutions that are user-friendly, easy to manage, cost-effective, and, most importantly, bolster organisations’ security posture while ensuring compliance with ever-growing regulations.
The future of cyber security is ever-changing, and we will remain at the forefront of the industry, providing our clients with the tools and expertise they need to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and peace of mind. As always, our journey is shaped by the feedback and needs of our valued customers, guiding us towards a safer and more secure digital future.
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