Making it in the tech business

Zonefox logoWe doff our hats to an Edinburgh-based cyber-security company, who have been shortlisted for the UK’s most Innovative Small Cyber Security Company of the year.

ZoneFox started off as a PhD project for 34-year-old Jamie Graves, but after completing his studies at Napier University found that the small business had the potential to grow.

We caught up with the former student to discuss what his inspiration was for ZoneFox, how it’s grown, and what tips he would give to those wanting to start their own business…

Tell us a little bit about the background of ZoneFox…

ZoneFox started about 10 years ago, after I had my undergraduate degree in security and networking. During that degree I took some time out to work at the Royal Infirmary for a gap year and get some experience. At that time I got really interested in the idea of biology and computing, and it got me thinking about an immune system for computers.

So I came back and finished my degree. I was offered to do a PhD with Professor Bill Buchanan and I accepted.

The main idea for my PhD was on computer crimes and software. By 2008 I finished my PHD having founded a small cyber-security business and Bill and I realised that this would be really useful for the industry.

We received a grant from Scottish Enterprise that enabled us to bring what we had invented into the industry. So that’s how things got going.

What happened next?

I spent two years building software, putting together a team, a board and getting a mentor. I’d recommend anyone to get a mentor for running a business. By 2010 we had a company ready to get going. The ‘seed’ investors were crucial for putting money into the business and they still put finances into it today.

How do you find running a business?

It’s a case of knowing what needs done and who to delegate the tasks to. I used to “wear lots of hats” and I still do lots of different roles. I’ve gone from operational CEO to building a team. I’ve got a sales team and working towards a marketing team too. My mantra is to hire people who are smarter and better than you at the job and you will succeed.

Who inspires you?

The Silicon Valley tech team inspires me in the way that they run their business, and the MIT companies are now worth about $1.3 trillion. They see an idea and they don’t constrain it- they allow the entrepreneur to realise it and support it in any way that they can. It’s a great way of running a business.

Were you surprised by your recent nomination?

Without sounding arrogant, we weren’t really surprised by the nomination. We are a very innovative company as we are ‘ahead of the curve’, so going from 11 nominees to four didn’t really surprise us. It’s good for us to be recognised for the work we’ve been doing.

So what happens next with your nomination?

We’ve got to go down to the Infosec Exhibition in London at the start of June and set up a stand there. We can put out our pitch and this means we’ll receive great publicity and coverage.

Is this a good time for young people to start a cyber business?

It’s a fantastic time to get involved in cyber security. In 2008, there were very few companies but now there are wee companies that have sprung up all over. Skyscanner are primed to be one of Scotland’s $1 billion companies. They have received recognition from London and other parts of the world. Edinburgh is becoming an established tech hub.

What tips would you give to young Scots thinking of starting their own business?

Get yourself a mentor- someone who’s done it all before. And get a smart team together, people who are cleverer than you. My last piece of advice is to take a pragmatic view as nothing goes to plan. Don’t beat yourself when things don’t work out- regroup and re-plan.

For more about Zonefox, visit www.zonefox.com and Scottish Enterprise at www.scottish-enterprise.com

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