As part of our “They’re doing data” feature, Yosra Jarraya, co-founder of Astrachain, looks back at the launch of Astrachain, the company’s major challenges for 2022 and answers the crucial question, “how do you make a place for yourself in the data and security industry?”
BigData.co.uk: You launched Astrachain in the midst of a pandemic, how did it go?
Yosra Jarraya, co-founder of Astrachain: the decision was made in the summer of 2020 in the middle of the Covid crisis. We launched the start of R&D in partnership with the University of Lorraine in September 2020. What you need to know is that my co-founder Gilles Seghaier is none other than my husband and we had some ideas in mind for a while. The Covid allowed us to do two things: first, to spend more time at home and brainstorm, and second, to challenge the established order of things. The uncertainty around us made it feel like a lot of things could change at any moment, and we said to ourselves, “let’s not wait any longer.
And can you remind us what Astrachain consists of?
Our idea is to give companies back control over their sensitive data. Our very first idea was to create a private blockchain system within companies. By confronting this idea with the market, we made it evolve, not on the principle but on the execution mode. Today, the market is open to the use of the cloud, there is a real “move to cloud” because the solution allows to increase the elasticity of the data and to accelerate its use. At the same time, there is data that is so sensitive that companies refuse to put it in the cloud. There are different types of data and in particular data that we call “sensitive”. This is confidential, secret, personal, regulated data that companies tend to bunker as much as possible, and which will be managed by themselves or by a trusted third party. There was nothing between these two proposals. We focused our efforts on bringing this sensitive data to the cloud without sacrificing its security. That’s really what our technology is for today. The idea is to no longer be in a solution of dependence on storage providers. Today, the relationship is a bit unbalanced between them and companies. When you have your data with a supplier, you find yourself subject to the vulnerability of your supplier. Astrachain is a solution to this problem.
Who are your first customers?
Today, we have a little less than a dozen customers, it’s still the beginning. Nevertheless, we are very proud to be there. We’ve had a few pre-orders even before the launch, and we’ve been able to do a few POCs while our product was being finalized. I’m not allowed to name the customers yet, but we’ve identified some use cases. The first use case concerns the protection of identity data, but also health data. We are also working on confidential company data that may be linked to the RGPD regulations, but also to business secrecy, stock market law, etc. This data sensitivity means that we are in contact with fairly high-ranking people in companies.
How did you manage to convince your first clients?
First of all, my co-founders and I have between 10 and 15 years of experience in the sector. Then, we simply proved ourselves, by launching tests on data that were not sensitive and by passing the technical audits. In addition, we launched an ANSI certification on data fragmentation to provide the necessary assurance. We are also in discussions with suppliers to ensure data storage.
Does this mean that you currently have no sales force?
At the moment, we are still a deep tech, so the first recruits were not sales people. We have 15 employees, 12 people are in the “product” team, including 3 PhD students specialized in very specialized subjects. Finally, today it is essentially the three founders who are the company’s sales force.
What are your most important short-term challenges?
Our challenges are to continue to convince new customers of the relevance of our solution, not necessarily large accounts. We can consider from the customer feedback that we have proven ourselves, so it’s a fairly commercial period ahead.
What are the major difficulties you are facing?
Without any tongue in cheek, it’s really the fact that you have to detect companies that are ready to start innovating. Fortunately, there are some, but that’s really our difficulty as a startup. We have to detect those who are not followers