WinMagic is an Ontario-based company that develops robust encryption and intelligent key management solutions designed to protect valuable data wherever it resides across all devices and operating systems in the modern business environment. The primary goal of WinMagic's President and CEO, Thi Nguyen-Huu, is to provide customers with an unparalleled cybersecurity experience.

We sat down with him at WinMagic's headquarters in Mississauga to get his thoughts on a number of issues facing companies in the cybersecurity space.

Tell us about some of the events in your background that led you to create WinMagic?

I am originally from Hue, Vietnam where I was born and raised. I completed my undergraduate studies at the Technical University in Konstanz, Germany, and began my career as an applications engineer with Siemens AG, working there on embedded systems software. In 1989, I relocated to Canada where I founded a consulting company. That work led to opportunities in cryptography - the art of using codes and cipher systems to protect confidential information. Cryptography was somehow very logical to me; I found it amazing how code could be used to solve real world problems.

A few years later, in 1997, when the opportunity presented itself, I founded WinMagic based on identifying an unsolved need in the industry.

Why did you choose Canada?

The number one reason I moved to Canada is its diversity, safety and inclusive culture. Not only does Canada offer the perfect environment for a good work-life balance, but also a strong infrastructure from which to build a successful business. We attract and retain top talent at WinMagic because we believe a lifestyle that celebrates diversity and work-life balance is important.

Thi Nguyen-Huu, President and CEO, WinMagic

Why did you decide to take on the challenges found in the world of cybersecurity?

I am inspired by challenges, and I have always created my software with sophistication in mind. That means writing short and simple software codes to solve complex problems.

We chose to pursue and be innovative around the most ambitious need – full disk encryption (also known as endpoint encryption). Competition in this domain can be intense, but we thrive on that.

From first providing software encryption 19 years ago, we have evolved to offer full key management on any platform, including meeting the security needs that arise with cloud adoption. When you incorporate multifactor authentication through smartcards, tokens and biometrics on top of encryption, you can protect against any threat, and give enterprises complete control over their keys wherever data resides.

The World Economic Forum's Global Risk 2016 report cites cybersecurity as one of the top commercial risks facing digitized business models today – the financial services industry has been particularly impacted by the imperatives of cybersecurity. Do you see WinMagic as a partner or a disruptor in financial services?

We bring disruption to the industry because we have always been an innovator in our market, raising the bar and making possible the things that people said could not be done. But in the end, our goal is to provide our clients with the means to get things done securely, with our solution actively working in the background of the existing ecosystem.

We work with major tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and IBM as well as many companies in the financial industry. We are also an active contributing member of the Trusted Computing Group (TCG), a not-for-profit organization formed to define, develop and promote security specifications for computers and networks. As enterprises are adopting cloud solutions, they are looking to partner with third party vendors to regain control of their data. They need trend setting and innovative companies like WinMagic to achieve this.

What are the most important trends in cybersecurity?

The most prominent trends at the moment in technology are the adoption of cloud-based solutions, and the movement to a Bring Your Own Device environment within organizations. For banks and fintech companies, flexibility, speed to market, and cost control are vital.

Right now, the common thought is that the internet is inherently insecure and that hackers are winning. The perception is that companies have to spend a lot of time on defense, and that there isn't much that can be done about it. However, when a security vendor like WinMagic works together with financial institutions, and others, we can more easily identify where threats exist and address them effectively.

Our technical knowledge and years of experience developing end-point security helps us protect nearly any device, and is 90% applicable to the cloud. This gives us a great advantage over new entrants to the market as well as cloud providers that simply don't have the knowledge or technical capability to deliver robust security for cloud users.

A recent study highlighted the challenges and opportunities for growing the Ontario cybersecurity industry and partnering with large financial institutions. What has been your experience?

Financial services companies in Ontario put a lot of effort into planning. They want to make sure they are in control of their data and deriving the most benefit out of the cloud. This security-first approach has generated many successful joint ventures.

Has being in Ontario helped your business?

Ontario has been a good place for us to build our business. The IRAP and SR&ED programs are incredibly helpful. At WinMagic, we believe the right technology will always win and that can only be achieved by working with the best and brightest minds in the industry. The University of Toronto Professional Experience Year program brings in outstanding engineering students who can be hired full time. The University of Waterloo Co-Op program is also a great source of brilliant minds. Our location in the Toronto-Waterloo fintech corridor puts us right in the epicentre of fintech innovation, with endless opportunities for business partnerships. Our focus is global, with sales worldwide, but our innovation and our work is done locally.

We're able to deliver cybersecurity solutions to the world right here from Ontario.

What advice do you have for young fintech entrepreneurs looking to make their mark?

Entrepreneurs need to work hard, take on responsibility, and most importantly, have the confidence to change things for the better. They need to learn from successful individuals in the industry while keeping up with adoption trends and drivers – not to mention regulatory and compliance changes. Tenacity is the key to success, but always remember, if you find the right people, hang on to them because they could be the people that solve tomorrow's problems. They will help make great things happen for you!

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Sector/subsector: 

November 25, 2016

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