Cyber security incidents are increasing every year and Covid-19 has only aggravated it.
In 2020 it was reported that it cost the average cost of a cybersecurity attack for Singapore businesses $ 1.7 million for default, which highlights the growing need for companies, regardless of size or industry, to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts.
As cybersecurity becomes even more important, a digital security company based on its own production software, working hard to meet the growing needs of the market V key.
Founded in 2011, V-Key offers a range of innovative products that enhance banking and government-level security, while offering convenience and ease to all users with any level of familiarity with digital security systems.
A cybersecurity startup is growing in Singapore
V-Key first started by replacing the hardware chips in the banking world.
“Our major local banks were one of the first to digitize their services ten years ago with digital banking, but it wasn’t until very recently that banks removed physical hardware tokens,” said Raymond Lee, director general operations of V-Key.
These physical tokens made it very difficult what V-Key envisioned as a perfect user experience. People had to bring a token for each bank or account, and they often got lost or ran out of battery.
To solve this painful point, V-Key continued to invent and patent technology to securely authenticate a user’s identity in the digital world, effectively replacing hardware with software.
“That was our‘ a-ha ’moment when the company was founded,” Raymond said proudly. Thanks to their technology, the major banks in the region have begun to eliminate two-factor authentication (2FA) physical hardware tokens instead of software tokens.
Starting with the support of the Singapore government
As V-Key celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, Raymond has looked back on the company’s monumental growth so far.
V-Key is the inventor of internationally patented V-OS software. It is a new virtual secure element that offers advanced cryptographic and cybersecurity protections that until now was only achieved with expensive hardware solutions.
Essentially, V-OS is the reason we can securely log in to our digital banking apps just with our phones, without using separate hardware devices.
However, as a fledgling software company, one of its first challenges was to ensure that its technology was safe, reliable, and globally certified.
“The first thing you have to do as a software company is to differentiate yourself (from others). Our way of differentiating ourselves was to make sure the technology was globally certified, so there was a lot of investment, ”Raymond said.
Its efforts soon paid off and V-Key finally had a solid solution that was recognized by industry regulators across the region, including the Singapore Monetary Authority (MAS).
Raymond is grateful that organizations such as Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and government entities gave a lot of support, which allowed them to be among the first to be accredited, giving them “a lot of stature in the industry”.
The rigorous certification process helped them build trust and credibility among regulators and consumers, making it easier for them to sell their cybersecurity products to companies, especially banks.
You can’t fly alone: how V-Key spreads its wings abroad
In its quest for recognition, V-Key sought support from the Singapore government in many facets, which helped open doors for the company to participate in many business pilots.
Thanks to the opportunity to connect with local businesses, V-Key experienced a “meteoric rise in the Singapore landscape”.
“We started doing a lot of work for the local banking sector and some government ministries,” Raymond said.
“We were very successful in the local market, which was a wonderful thing, but the world is much bigger than Singapore. I fundamentally believe that every company in Singapore has no choice but to expand, ”said Raymond, as he shared what led to his regional expansion journey.
Like in Singapore third fastest growing company in 2019, V-Key has successfully expanded to 14 countries. While Southeast Asia remains its largest growth area, they also have customers in the Middle East, India, Japan and Taiwan.
“When we bring a Singapore brand to Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia, and we tell companies that our technology is backed by MAS and used by Singapore’s largest banks. V-Key’s credibility was more easily validated, ”said Raymond.
Still, organic expansion has always been arduous. Some of the internal struggles V-Key faced consisted of building the team and trying to evolve in the region.
“It is always a challenge to find the right talent, both locally and internationally. We are fortunate to have very strong partners in ESG, which has helped and guided us in foreign companies, ”Raymond said.
Another hurdle V-Key faced was the expansion of use cases for its products, so it enlisted the help of ESG to develop products for further expansion.
Their market officials provided them with a macro view of cybersecurity, growth industries such as banking, finance and insurance, as well as start-up economies. These valuable contributions helped V-Key in making product development decisions.
However, Raymond said he believes running a business and scaling new businesses overseas at the same time was an uphill battle.
“Like many companies grown in Singapore, our growth ambition drives our strategies to drive business and we must always think of the best ways to grow and grow quickly.”
To alleviate their struggles, V-Key took advantage of ESG Overseas Center’s vast network of global officers to help it expand overseas.
For example, when V-Key expanded into the Middle East, ESG agents introduced them to partners from different countries.
“This opened the doors for us to various ecosystems, otherwise we would have to start from scratch without their help.”
Expanding growth and innovation
Raymond stressed that it is important to “tick all the right boxes” in the first two or three years to make sure the company is ready to hit the market. This includes creating a credible product, local accreditation and global certification, creating a customer base, and creating a solid use case.
When it comes to expanding abroad, the company must also ensure that it can expand with the same use cases and the same value proposition.
For example, a unique problem statement that V-Key helped solve is the application of cardless ATMs, common in countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Basically, its user authentication software allows people to withdraw money from ATMs only with their smartphones.
“You’d think that should also prevail in Singapore because we’re moving digitally. But for every Singapore ATM, if you don’t have your card, you don’t even bother to line up (because) you can’t get money. But when you’re abroad, you can do it ”.
Coming up with new applications in different use cases is just one aspect of the scale of the business. Diversifying its revenue, gaining more customers and growing and learning as a company also play an important role.
In fact, this boot is part of the third intake of Enterprise Singapore’s SG Scale-up program.
This program involves the involvement of the level C management team with the guidance of industry experts.
“We started a collaboration project in the creation of a digital trust platform that aims to form ecosystems of local partners who seek to generate trust around their digitization efforts. V-Key was part of the cohort (of the program) where we found our first pioneering group of (business) partners, ”Raymond said
“Our team has learned to expand our growth strategy and position V-Key for a much broader market, branching out and expanding the company’s product portfolio.”
Raymond added that he expects to see tangible effects from the program as it pushes the company around the world over the next year or so.
V-Key is also constantly looking for better, faster, and more efficient ways to solve problems.
“Innovation in the technological space is the vital axis of any technological company; if you can’t innovate in the technology sector, you really aren’t in the technology, ”Raymond stressed.
If you want to know how Enterprise Singapore can help foster the growth of your business, visit www.enterprisesg.gov.sg/keepgrowing and make an appointment with one Business consultant for the SME center.
This article was written in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post