Ottawa’s Bluink cracking password to global e-commerce security market

Tech startup on pace to book 2017 revenues of $1.5M, eyes deal with Visa
Bluink founder Steve Borza is looking to raise $2 million in new funding. (Photo by Mark Holleron)
Bluink founder Steve Borza is looking to raise $2 million in new funding. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

Ottawa tech startup Bluink is on the brink of a breakout with password management and authentication software it says is one-of-a-kind in the market.

While many people use the same or similar passwords for multiple account logins, password managers generate, store and retrieve super-strong passwords to better protect one’s digital identity. Meanwhile, two-factor authentication is becoming the standard among websites such as Google and Twitter due to its extra level of security, and federated-identity technology allows web users to link their electronic identities across multiple accounts for greater ease of use.

Bluink offers an all-in-one solution that has all three of those features, setting it apart from competitors such as Duo, LastPass, Okta and Ping Identity, says founder and CEO Steve Borza.

“They quite often do one or two of the things we do,” says Mr. Borza. “But if we look at our competitors, there’s no one with the complete suite of solutions.”

The firm has been developing its technology since 2014, and now it’s ready to reap the rewards from its first sales cycle. The bootstrapped startup has passed the proof-of-concept and pilot phases with its initial customers and has now reached the large-scale deployment stage. Bluink has begun generating sales, and the company expects revenues to hit $1.5 million this year.

“That’ll move us well into the black,” says Mr. Borza.

Bluink’s initial target market is the financial services sector, where customers have plenty of reason to guard their personal information. Mr. Borza made the trip down to California recently to work on a proof of concept with Visa, a client he says would be “huge” for his company.

“They’re a premier name in financial services, so I’m pretty proud that they find our solution compelling and unique enough that they want to use it,” he says. “They’re a well-respected name in financial services and they have a very deep IT security knowledge … If we get through all the hoops with Visa, it’s a massive win.”

Mr. Borza says his trip to California also included talks about an upcoming financing round, in which Bluink will be looking to raise $2 million in fresh equity.

Origins

The firm originally started in 2010 as an R&D consulting company. A couple of years later, it pivoted to developing and selling a shift-scheduling product for SMEs, mainly restaurants.

In 2014, Mr. Borza recruited an ex-CEO with whom he had previously worked who was developing an early version of the software that Bluink sells today. He saw enough potential in the product that he changed the course of the company, banking on a unique software solution that promised “bigger (customer) targets and bigger dollars per customer.”

The password management market is expected to be worth US$710 million by 2019, while the larger identity and access management market is anticipated to be worth nearly $15 billion by 2021, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets.

As a customer of a financial-services company, “you have something to protect,” says Mr. Borza. “This is a solution that a bank can roll out to their customers and allow them to strongly authenticate while using banking systems or confirming transactions.”

Dom Fedronic, Visa’s senior director of identity and access management, calls Bluink’s technology “the Swiss Army knife of authentication.”

While business from big-name firms such as Visa would certainly be a boost, Mr. Borza says his ideal endgame is to have large players white-label Bluink’s solution – such as companies that provide software to the managed service provider market, or large software security firms such as Cisco Systems, BlackBerry and PayPal – and he says a number of those types of companies have already approached him to begin talks about doing just that.

“We don’t see ourselves building a sales force. We see partnerships with security and network companies, and white-labelling our solution with them so they can sell it through their channels,” Mr. Borza says.

“Visa is a great marquee brand, but if I can do a white-label with a company that has 40 Visas in their sales stable, that’s where my efforts should go.”