An Interview with Bernard Parsons, CEO, BeCrypt…

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In the wonderfully opulent setting of the Savoy hotel, London, I recently met with the co-founder and CEO of BeCrypt, Bernard Parsons, and his colleague Keith Ricketts, head of marketing.

Bernard Parsons isn’t your typical CEO. He’s quiet and understated but what he does say is intelligent, relevant, and well thought-out. While he’s eager to give me the ‘A, B, C’ of what BeCrypt do and what they stand for, he’s also eager to sit back and let me steer the conversation in whatever direction I felt relevant. This is a refreshing approach, and one I was very grateful for.

Below are some of the highlights of the key topics we discussed over the ‘poshest’ pot of tea!

The Beginning

BeCrypt was launched in the UK by four founders in 2001 – all of whom are still in technical roles at the company, with the exception of Parsons who was promoted from CTO to CEO, but we’ll come back to that…

The technology (which BeCrypt describes as “the leading supplier of government grade encryption and end point/remote working systems across a variety of form factors - including tablets”) was designed as a government security product, “and we built the technology which could get the highest approval. We came into the market at the top end, always focused on security from the highest point – differentiating ourselves from the competition.”

Getting investment was a big challenge, Parsons told me, as the company was born into a “boom and bust cycle. [In 2001] the venture capital community had changed drastically and venture capital has almost disappeared from the scene.” When we discuss this a little further, Parsons suggests that the US are more supportive of entrepreneurs than the UK, although alludes to “positive signs of governments making more of an attempt to support SMBs”.

The Evolution from CTO to CEO

The evolution from CTO to CEO is a tricky one, but Parsons appears to have navigated it successfully. How? “Because I surround myself with people I look up to. I rely very heavily on my talented colleagues – building a strong sales and marketing management team around me”.

He sees technological skills and understanding as an advantage in a business management role, and agreed that there is a skills shortage in the industry – both in those possessing both technical and business skills, and those possessing the correct technical skills. “It’s tough to recruit good people. There is a limited pool of information security professionals and a steady drain of those we are moving to America to fulfil their [information security] careers”.

Parsons believes that the “Bentley-like superiority” of the BeCrypt product certainly helps with recruitment, attracting skilled professionals to the company.

Commoditisation of Information Security

“There are so many disruptive events occurring that are preventing the commoditisation of the industry”, Parsons told me. I ask him to expand on the ‘disruptive events’ and he listed virtualisation and mobility, both areas which “we are focussing on as a company.

“There’s certainly an element of “same same being produced by vendors in the industry” in order to jump on the bandwagon, Parsons said. “Everyone rushes to tick boxes, which creates a negative dynamic.”

While Parsons believes “real innovation is driven by start-ups”, he has also witnessed a trend whereby as soon as a start-up is acquired, “a brand new company launches in that space with a similar product, creating a balancing act against revenue”.

From PC to Laptop to Tablet

When laptops first appeared in government, there was a “real transformation” and Parsons predicts a similar transformation is about to happen with tablet devices. BeCrypt recognises the importance of keeping up with technology and are “tracking the emergence of iOS and creating a MDM solution for the platform. I also predict that with the launch of Windows 8, there will be an uptake in tablets in the public sector”, he said.

A BYOD policy, considers Parsons, is “entirely acceptable. It’s almost at a point where I T security can’t say no due to the pressures and demands.” So, when should security say no, I asked? “It depends on the nature of the company and the risk profile”, he answered. A point well made.

On the subject of devices, I ask Parsons whether he considers the perimeter to be dead – a debate that I’ve heard a lot about recently, with strong arguments being made for both sides. His response was clear: “The notion of the perimeter can’t be dead, but it needs to be re-defined. We still need to care about devices and we still need to manager the user.” The perimeter, argued Parsons, “reflects the idea of what’s around the organisation. BeCrypt will continue to care about the perimeter and the devices.”

Bernard Parsons and Keith Ricketts, it has been a pleasure…

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