Rising Star GuardSquare
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We’re increasingly using apps to manage our lives, including our purchasing and banking. But these apps are hugely vulnerable to cybercriminals. GuardSquare helps protect both these apps and their users. We asked co-founder and CEO Heidi Rakels what sets her business apart from other providers of security software.
“Security products are not usually good for app performance,” she explained. “Ours is the only solution that makes apps not only smaller, but also faster. No one else can do this.”
The GuardSquare solution is applied to an app once it has been created. It works by making the source code impenetrable to hackers, while also providing live threat monitoring. “It’s ideal for banking and other apps that handle sensitive data,” said Heidi. “More than 70% of apps are not fully protected. Creating a solution like ours is very complex, but we’re very focused on users and want to make it as simple as possible for our customers to use.”
GuardSquare: Finding global success by staying focused
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Ours is the only solution that makes apps not only smaller, but also faster. No one else can do this.

This simplicity is derived from years of experience in developing multi-layered software security, initially as a free product. Co-founder and CTO Eric Lafortune originally released ProGuard, an open source optimiser for Android and Java apps, in 2002. A commercial product followed in 2012, which led to the founding of GuardSquare.
“Today we employ twenty-seven people, four of them in the US,” said Heidi. Over a quarter of the company’s revenue now comes from the USA. GuardSquare also has resellers in South Korea, Japan and Australia. “India would be an interesting place to open an office. It would be for sales, not for development. We do all our development in Belgium and we plan to keep it that way, although our workforce is very diverse.”
Moving from open source to commercial software was a challenge because not all customers liked the idea of having to pay, explained Heidi. “In April 2016, we hired a really good sales manager who helped us structure our sales process. Before that, sales were chaotic. Now the company has changed completely.”
“Today our bottleneck is in engineering - finding good software engineers is a real challenge."”
Heidi, who says she’s a software engineer herself, not an entrepreneur, is very open about what she’s learned from leading a startup. “Things will go wrong. We solve these problems and move on, without wasting energy by looking back.”
If she could start again, Heidi would invest more in sales and marketing from the beginning. “We were product-focused for too long, wanting it to be really stable. If we’d put more into sales and marketing earlier, we could be one to two years ahead of where we are today.”
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We were product-focused for too long, wanting it to be really stable. If we’d put more into sales and marketing earlier, we could be one to two years ahead of where we are today.

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GuardSquare - key facts
  • Deloitte's Technology Fast 50 - Rising Star 2016
  • In a nutshell: mobile application protection
  • Sector: software
  • Main customers: financial institutions and e-commerce providers
  • Founded: 2014
  • International: US office, global customer base
  • Website: www.guardsquare.com
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Fast 50 stories, May 2017
Fast 50 stories May 2017
Heidi’s advice to other entrepreneurs is: “Keep focused. In the early days, you can lose focus to short-term opportunities that earn money, but they take your time from your main purpose. Later, others will try to profit from your success by presenting more opportunities, but through all these distractions, stay focused.”

Watch the video of GuardSquare
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Fast 50 stories, May 2017
Fast 50 magazine May 2017