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‘Households need cyber protection’

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Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov says as the firm has a base in Singapore, it is in a good position to seize the global cybersecurity market. Finding talent, however, is a challenge worldwide he adds. ACRONIS/THE STRAITS TIMES

‘Households need cyber protection’

As devices from watches to washing machines get smarter and more connected, there is an increasing need for ordinary households to protect their devices from cyber threats.

“In many cases . . . families, especially in Singapore . . . have more devices at home than the average small business,” said Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov in a recent interview.

“Because everybody in the family has a laptop, tablet, smartphone or multiple smartphones, [and there are the] smart home [devices], smart TV, routers, video streaming box,” he added.

“The fact is that they need protection for all of these devices, but they are not . . . thinking about it just yet.”

The cybersecurity firm, which has bases in Singapore and in Switzerland, is the latest unicorn – a private start-up with a valuation of at least $1 billion – in Southeast Asia, after it raised $147 million in an investment round led by Goldman Sachs in September.

Beloussov noted that protection is key as people are at risk of having their privacy as well as security compromised by attacks on their devices. This is happening because of the fast-growing nature of the computer industry, where the number of devices is increasing exponentially.

He said Acronis is on track to grow 30 per cent this year and is expected to expand another 50 per cent next year.

The new round of investment will help the firm expand its network of partners – including web-hosting companies, telcos and IT service providers.

It has 20,000 partners globally and aims to expand that figure to between 30,000 and 50,000 in the next three years.

More aggressive hiring and acquisitions are also on the cards to expand the engineering workforce in Singapore, Bulgaria and the US.

While the firm was founded in Singapore 10 years ago, and Beloussov set up its second headquarters in Singapore five years ago, he said its business and workforce are global.

About 140 out of the firm’s 1,500 staff are based in Singapore. Others are spread out over 20 offices in different parts of the world.

Highly fragmented market

US market intelligence firm International Data Corporation said global cybersecurity-related spending will hit more than $100 billion this year and is projected to surpass $133 billion in 2022.

Beloussov pointed out that while the market is large, it is also highly fragmented, and most systems, applications and data are not well protected.

“We want to consolidate this market and offer better protection to all of the devices,” he said.

He noted that while Acronis is only a small firm with an annual revenue of around $250 million, it is well poised to seize the global cybersecurity market as a firm in Singapore.

“The good thing is Singapore is so friendly to the world. You can do business globally and do business with the world,” said the Russian-born technopreneur, who is now a Singapore citizen.

While Beloussov is confident about Acronis’ prospects, he said challenges remain. The difficulty in finding talent tops the list.

He pointed out that as tech transformation is happening rapidly everywhere, there is constant global competition for staff.

It does not help that the world is becoming unfriendly, he added, citing tensions seen in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, as well as divisions in Europe.

As it has tripled its workforce in the past six years, the firm is also experiencing a lot of growing pains, said Beloussov.

“It’s very challenging, we cannot grow faster, but in order for us to do everything we need to do, we need more talented people.”

Initially, he did not need to think very much about nationality when he hired. He took on people because they were talented.

“Now we have to think about it. A lot of countries are controlling how many foreigners you have – this is definitely a challenge,” he said.

But Singapore is still a much more focused and pragmatic country, he said. “For a talented, highly paid engineering job, it’s not so difficult [to hire a foreigner]. So Singapore is neutral, which is unique.”

In this regard, he feels that Singapore has a high potential to produce more unicorns.

“We are a unicorn out of Singapore. There are about a hundred unicorns in [Silicon] Valley, there’s the same potential here [in Singapore],” he added.

THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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