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Swiss IT consultancy spins off software startup

Seclutions CEO, Roland Heer.

(Roland Heer)

Ergon Informatik AG, an information technology consulting firm that develops high security web applications for online banks and trading applications has spun off Seclutions AG, a software company.

Seculitons AG will package and commercialize software developed by Ergon engineers who worked on projects requiring the development of highly secure web and Internet solutions. The startup's first product is a software package it calls Secure Entry Server (SES). Heer says that SES represents a "new approach to securing web applications and email."

Ergon Informatik is a ten year-old software project management company that carries out projects in a range of application areas, including Internet security solutions. It grew revenues to SFr21 million, an increase of 46 percent, from 1999 to 2000, putting it at position number 183 in the top 300 IT firms listed by Computerworld Schweiz 2001.

Ergon has hired The e-Firm, a company founded by Fantastic Software co-founder Peter Ohnemus, to help it spin off Seclutions and to raise capital.

Packaged software

The business of selling packaged software is quite different than consulting work and industry insiders believe that Ergon has done the right thing to spin off the company, although some wonder about choosing The e-Firm, as the corporate finance consultancy to help launch the company.

Actually, it is Peter Ohnemus that has the insiders buzzing. The entrepreneur has a clouded reputation within the Swiss analyst and press community for hyping software, typically his track record with Fantastic is what insiders refer to.

But Seclutions CEO, Roland Heer does not see Ohnemus' reputation as a negative thing. Heer believes that Ohnemus' business partners, contacts, and experience outweighs any cracks in his credibility.

The e-Firm also participated in the SFr1 million startup capital raised by the founders. A further SFr11 million is being sought from venture capitalists by September of this year.

Founding shareholders of Seclutions are Patrick Buckhalter, CEO and founder of Ergon Informatik, plus the development team, Professor Dr. Ueli Maurer, a cryptography expert from the ETH and Peter Ohnemus.

Heer who has been managing Xemics SA, a fast growing semiconductor spinoff from the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microsystems (CSEM) in Neuchatel, for the past two years endorses the software.

Firewalls

Firewalls just look at traffic and user administration tools can only authenticate a user without considering the traffic information, but this software combines these functions in one management tool, says Heer, who worked for a security software firm before going to Xemics.

There is also an "airlock" or "gateway" component, which the company has patented, meant to prevent an attacker from exploiting protocol flaws to gain entry, he told Swiss Venture Update.

Only time will tell if Seclutions can escape the consultancy roots of its parent company and become a successful international software vendor, two very different business models.

By Valerie Thompson

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