A combination of innovation, talent and investor-savvy has propelled a Stellenbosch tech firm to the forefront of the international mobile security and authentication industry.
Entersekt protects digital service providers and their customers from digital banking and payments fraud, particularly when transactions take place on mobile devices. Smartphones are emerging as the primary platform for conducting a growing range of banking and other kinds of transactions. Securing these transactions is crucially important. So too is enabling new forms of payment on the mobile phone, and Entersekt is currently strongly focused on easing the process banks face when introducing diverse new payments capabilities to their apps.
The company was founded in 2010 and it now processes close to 200 million app connections on its servers every month for clients in 45 countries.
Schalk Nolte is Entersekt’s CEO and joined the founders – four engineering students – in 2009. His international experience and relationships in the telecommunications industry were invaluable in growing the business.
Principal funding came from Ramzi Mansour and his Lagos-based investment company. His interest in the business was sparked after he was the victim of credit card fraud. When Nolte approached him as an investor, and explained authentication, he took the plunge with an initial stake of US$250,000. Ramzi now chairs the Entersekt board of directors.
“Eight years ago, selling brand new authentication technology to banks and financial institutions was difficult,” says Nolte.
“At that point, the company consisted of one guy with a telco background and four students still at university. We had no network into banks, but we were proposing to write security software and sell it to them. We may have been naive, but we were passionate and we were determined.
“Naivety can be a good thing in first-time entrepreneurs. Many wouldn’t even attempt to start their own businesses if they knew upfront the challenges they might face. However, signing up our first customer, Nedbank, in 2011 was a big milestone for us, and the company has grown steadily since then. We’ve been profitable for over two years now and have recently closed another round of investment which is more than we need to sustain our accelerating growth going forward,” says Nolte.
Entersekt’s core business around mobile app security and authentication is a key component in the burgeoning mobile transaction space which is shifting into high gear as people use their smartphones for a diverse range of financial services and payment types.
Mansour says Entersekt’s success is a good example of how a community of empowered youngsters can find a place on the world’s technology stage with strong leadership, intelligent investment and a passion for what they do.
“We now have offices all over the globe – including the US, the UK, Netherlands and Germany – and we are continuing to expand rapidly. Engineering remains in Stellenbosch. Development costs are lower in South Africa, and we also have a sophisticated banking environment here that has already experienced and overcome many of the security challenges that international markets are only beginning to encounter,” says Nolte.
“We work hard to ensure we attract and retain the right people and that new staff members are comfortable within the company. Culture fit is crucial. Candidates are interviewed several times, new employees from all over the world spend time in Stellenbosch, and a culture committee makes sure who we are, what we do and how we do it is communicated to everyone.”
Mansour’s role as chairman is to guide the growth of the company. He and Nolte are bullish about the company’s future.
“It’s an ongoing and exciting journey with Entersekt. Last month they had just under 200 million app connections on the servers. Even greater opportunities lie ahead and a lot of amazing technology is still waiting to be developed. The scope for growth is massive,” concludes Mansour.