Mobile App Security: Viennese Startup App-Ray Is Leading The Way

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Zsolt Nemeth, founder & CEO of the Fraunhofer Institute spin-off App-Ray, on mobile security and the dangers of a transparent society:

Describe App-Ray in 50 words or less.

App-Ray is a spin-off company from Fraunhofer Institute working on commericalizing a fully automated mobile app security testing framework. We help companies save time on doing repetitive tasks (such as reverse engineering, code auditing, etc.) by automatizing them.

What is your role at App-Ray and how did you get involved?

I am the founder and CEO of App-Ray. I got involved in August 2015 when the idea for a spin-off hit me. I noticed that despite all the tools available on the market and efforts put into this field the apps are not secure enough (not to mention the privacy part) so I took the opportunity to introduce something that the developers and their customers would like.

Why did you want to take on data security? What problem are you solving?

App-Ray is a powerful security analysis tool designed to automatically scan applications in order to detect vulnerability to hacking, data leaks, malicious code and other weaknesses. Both, internally and externally developed applications (used in BYOD), can be analyzed, allowing organizations to protect their employees and IT assets from external threats.

App-Ray’s fast and accurate scans enable organizations to analyze each and every new version of all applications that they distribute to their customers. Modules developed by subcontractors and 3rd party libraries can also be scanned to detect any potential security issues that could affect an organization’s customers. By scanning all new revisions, App-Ray lets you detect possible regressions in a timely manner, which also saves development costs and resources.

The EU fairly recently changed data regulations for companies, impacting startups in particular. Where do you see the trend going: will people try to protect their personal data or will they eventually be fine with a transparent society?

It depends on what they get in exchange. I think for most people transparency would be acceptable because they think there is nothing they have to hide. However, I am telling you that everybody has secrets and full transparency would cause a chaotic world. On the other hand mass collection of personal data (PII) is not something I could live with. GDPR is an awesome way to regulate this – in case it will be effective. Time will tell. But I am sure that enforcing GDPR and finding the culprits would be tough without tools like App-Ray.

Talking about finance: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We have put in some angel money and went through an accelerator in Slovenia (ABC Accelerator). This funding was enough to achieve our cashflow breakeven. Right now we have enough financing to be able to experiment with suitable business models and customer groups. Obviously we need to raise more money in Q2-Q3 2017 (Series A) to be able to scale up in a faster and more effective way.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Our product is quite a niche one and not many companies have the capability to do it on their own. At the moment we have 6-7 competitors globally and about 20-30 companies who would need a service like ours in their portfolio. So we are quite sure that an acquisition will happen quite soon. Right now our focus is product development, finding a scalable business model and ramping up sales a bit.

What do you look for in team members & why would they join your team?

I am looking for people that I can work with. The main thing is the fire in their belly…we’re looking for a self-driven personality who achieves our goals no matter what; someone who can rally next to me and make things happen. As for skills I would rather go for a generalist who is willing to learn and adapt than a subject matter expert.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

It is definitely building the right team. I am smart and can work 14-16 hours a day but without a proper team the company wouldn’t be where it is now. I think the best way a CEO can spend his or her time is interviewing candidates and convincing them about the vision and values their company stands for. I have assembled quite a senior team but the issue was – and sometimes still is – motivating them.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

We got quite a few awards and appraisals, have done nice sales deals but the most memorable parts are when I see our team working together in perfect accordance. This makes me proud of what we have built so far and where we are going. Also, as a geek I find a lot of joy in seeing our product developing to a fuller potential (based on the feedback from our customers) and the moments when I start exploring this after a new release makes me happy, too.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

We are part of a bigger organization whose effort is to identify and promote best practices for developing and delivering more secure and reliable software and services. We are a crucial part of this process, responsible for seamless and security issue-free coding and safeguarding privacy.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Never give up. Things are happening a lot slower than expected. You need to find strength to go through hard times (there will be hard times for sure). Your product, your customers, your vision, your team and fellow entrepreneurs can help a lot in this. So keep these links and conversations open and try to keep the right balance.



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