Allen Shay is the co-founder and president of CyberSpa, a Baltimore-based software technology company that develops tools for automating hard drive replacement and offers PC services through its business and charitable partners. CyberSpa’s service delivery solution, FreshStart, enables providers to offer best in class PC service through an automated program that takes about an hour to perform, but only about 15 minutes of hands-on time.
Q. How did CyberSpa get its start?
A. We started up almost five years ago. The company is focused on developing very specific tools for supporting and servicing and providing security solutions for Microsoft PCs. We are now on our second generation set of products. We have released those products commercially, they are in the market, and we are in an expansion mode now.
Q. What inspired you to start the company?
A. I am a bit of a part-time serial entrepreneur. I took time out from corporate life about 15 years ago to start up a company that focused on technology that was being spun out of an NSA program. I was involved in and I set up my own company—my second startup company— to help the defense intelligence community (which has been my primary market for 35 years) to find and acquire interesting cyber security technologies from around the world. That company was called Prescint. And in the process of that, searching and going to Israel and London and places all over looking for the latest and greatest in cyber technology, I came upon an idea that just would not leave my head. That idea became CyperSpa, so I sold Prescint and started up CyperSpa with the help of good friend of mine and an angel investor and have not looked back since.
Q. How would you characterize the early days at CyberSpa? Were there challenges in securing investments?
A. When we first got started, a good friend of mine—who was one of the senior executives at Booz Allen—put in a quarter of a million dollars in investments. So I invested in the company, obviously. From that point on our investors were mostly people that came out of the tech community and who we were familiar with cybersecurity and the kind of IT defense market that I had worked with over a period of time before. When I told them what we were building and why it was pretty easy to attract people, they said “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. There is a need for that.” So it was really mostly friends and family through the industry.
One of the interesting investors that we have is the Abell Foundation. Abell looked at us over four years ago and did a very thorough analysis of the company. They felt like we were little early on then, and I think they were right. Now that we have released our second generation product and have been in the market for a good while, delivering tens of thousands of services, they were able to come back and take another look at us. This time they said, “Well, this really makes sense.” And they made a investment.
Q. What stage is the company in right now?
A. 2015 will be a big growth year for us because the last four years has really been primarily paid pilots and testing of the technology. We have been paid by a couple Fortune 100 companies to test and evaluate the technology over the last three years, but now that it’s in the marketplace. We are already collecting revenues now, shipping out hard drives with the software on it and license keys to service providers all over the country. I should say not just all over the country—we have customers in Canada and Australia, so we are actually delivering our license keys and software in other countries as well.
Connect with Allen Shay on LinkedIn.