Date: 28 Jul 2020
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Interview with Omaru Maruatona, CEO and Founder of Aiculus
Omaru Maruatona, founder and CEO of ICE71 Scale start-up Aiculus shares about the increasing need for API security post COVID-19, the start-up’s recent fund raise circa SGD1 million, and more.
Q: Tell us more about yourself.
I was born in Botswana Africa and moved to Australia in 2015 on a scholarship to study Software Engineering. Since then I’ve worked in Botswana in a diamond mine, then moved back to Australia where I completed an industry PhD in applied Artificial Intelligence. I’ve also worked for a global financial services company and a big four consultancy firm before I founded Aiculus in 2017. I am currently CEO of Aiculus and am responsible for the overall strategy of the company.
Q: What inspired you to start Aiculus?
I started Aiculus mainly because I saw a growing trend in the wide application and adoption of APIs and a gap in the way they were being secured. Globally, there’s been a massive uptake in connecting different systems and enabling digital service provision using APIs. Most countries have also moved to legislate the sharing of consumer data through open platforms such as Open Banking. Consequently, organisations have set up digital platforms to comply with these regulations and also to enhance customer experience. Given my background in software development, AI and Cybersecurity, I had a good idea of what it would take to develop a prototype to test the market so I took the leap of faith and went for it.
Q: Could you share with us some real-world client use cases of your technology?
Most organisations with APIs have one or two layers of defence or security. These security controls are mostly at the perimeter and typically check for authentication and authorisation in incoming API traffic. We are currently working with a large corporate organisation to provide a behaviour-based API screening capability to detect the use of stolen credentials and account takeover attempts. With the increasing number of successful authentication bypass attacks and attacks using stolen credentials, a proven way to stop these is to inspect authenticated API requests using some form of Behavioural Analysis. This is the value proposition of Aiculus.
Q: Congrats on your recent milestone securing close to SGD1mil in seed funding round led by Cocoon Capital! What were learnings from the fundraising? What did it take to get there?
I think every start-up has its own context and therefore things that apply to them may be different. For us, what really took us over the line in terms of securing the investment was that we had a host of people who could speak on our credibility. In addition, we did our research and made sure we had defendable facts on market size, competition, growth drivers and product differentiation, to mention a few.
Q: What are your thoughts about API security in the light of COVID-19? How relevant is this now – has the need increased or remains as important as ever, and why?
COVID-19 has compelled many companies to roll out massive work from home arrangements for employees. In addition, physical distancing measures have resulted in many people using digital services rather than the traditional in-person purchases for services. Because of this, the digital channel widened significantly and may never go back to pre-COVID-19 volume again. All this means that APIs, which power the communication between systems, are busier than ever and must be appropriately secured to sustain this new normal.
Q: You recently set up a Singapore office. It’s a progression that we see since your days in ICE71 Accelerate to being a member with ICE71 Scale at present, and we are proud to have been part of your journey. What are your thoughts about business prospects in Singapore?
Thanks, ICE71 has been pivotal in Aiculus establishing in Singapore. From the beginning, Aiculus was founded as a global company because the problem we are solving is global. Although we can technically serve any customer wherever they are in the world, our expansion has to be incremental in order to be sustainable. SEA is a fast-growing region in the world, so it made a lot of sense to be in Singapore since this is the financial hub of SEA. In Singapore, Aiculus wants to be a critical part of the cybersecurity ecosystem, offering a product that provides great value to organisations who are using APIs.
Cybersecurity is a set of attitudes, technical and administrative controls methodically deployed to help ensure a digital service is resilient from deliberate or accidental disruption.
– Omaru Maruatona
Omaru is a valuable member of the ICE71 community. His start-up Aiculus was in cohort 3 of ICE71 Accelerate and is currently an ICE71 Scale company.