The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) sent a clear message to businesses last summer, when it fined British Airways a record-breaking £183m for allowing hackers to steal the data of more than half a million customers. And it did not take long for that message to be reinforced: the next day, the ICO issued another fine, this time £99m to Marriott hotels, for also failing to protect the personal data of many millions of guests.
Several smaller fines have followed, but the ICO’s attitude towards data breaches is a stark step-change from the box-ticking exercises of old: businesses today must take data protection and secure communications seriously or face hefty consequences.
Armour Communications, founded in 2015, is a specialist in mobile data security and compliance, offering businesses government-grade encryption for secure communications across voice and conference calls, messaging video and data-sharing. Well aware of the stringent data-related requirements of government and private entities, the company is now making this expertise available to the private and commercial sector, with the support of a £2m investment from BOOST&Co.
End-to-end encryption is not enough
Current directors David Holman and Andy Lilly, who founded the company, recognised that there was a need for more robust solutions for enterprises that deal with data. There are plenty of encrypted communications applications for the consumer market, such as Whatsapp, but professional enterprises, corporations and regulated industries all require platforms where privacy and security is guaranteed through enterprise-level management, extending well beyond end-to-end encryption.
Armour’s technology was originally developed for government and public sector organisations, designed to be compatible with all manner of smartphones and tablets so that employees can continue to communicate via their existing devices, but in a far more secure manner. The high quality of Armour’s government-grade technology has brought the company a variety of data security accreditations (FIPS, NATO and NCSC CPA), which enabled it to be used operationally to protect secret military and intelligence communications, giving the business real potency when it commercialised its offering for the corporate market.
“We are delighted to be working with BOOST&Co,” says David Holman, director at Armour Communications. “Their investment will enable us to fast-track innovative new developments to our family of products and bring them to market quickly. We can also move ahead with plans to recruit for a variety of positions so that we can significantly increase our market presence.”
“Armour Communications is a fantastic example of a small business that has carved out a space for itself in the secure technology sector and is competing with established brands,” says Kim Martin, the BOOST&Co principal who led the deal. “The business is recognised for the quality of its offer and the experience of a management team who are thought leaders within their industry.”
Martin speaks highly of Lilly, who is the current chair of the Secure Chorus Technical Standards Committee, and Holman, who has also sat on various government and industry committees, including the Central Information Assurance Products and Services Co-operation Group (CIPCOG, chaired by the Cabinet Office). With a wealth of experience and knowledge, the pair are able to guide the business through market trends and ensure it is at the forefront of technical and regulatory developments.
The investment feels like a partnership
Historically, Armour has relied on internal cash generation and organic growth to fund product development, so the £2m growth loan from BOOST&Co is an important milestone – the business working with an external lender for the first time.
And the deal does feel very much like a partnership, according to Martin. “It was really important that BOOST&Co understood the culture of Armour and what the business is trying to achieve,” she says. “Andy and David took a long time to make sure we were the right fit as a lender, demonstrating once again their precision and attention to detail regarding Armour’s future strategy.”
The investment will be used to enhance Armour’s sales, marketing and business development. The business relies on a lot of inbound leads and referrals, prompted by its exceptional reputation, but, the extra capital will enable it to be more proactive and invest in outbound lead generation, as well as targeting blue-chip organisations that need a robust security solution for their communications.