A home-grown IT start-up that is pioneering the management of records using artificial intelligence is poised to spread its wings overseas after rapid growth in Australia.
CEO Rachel Greaves and partner and Chief Technology Officer Gavin McKay launched Castlepoint Systems about 18 months ago. Since then the company has grown from just them to a 16-strong outfit with 20 clients across government and business.
They were set to move into new offices earlier in the year and had planned an overseas trip for this month (May) to spruik their products but the COVID-19 crisis intervened. They are now managing staff remotely and looking at delivery options that don’t require a personal presence.
Ms Greaves said the company’s focus now is on the export market and there had been a lot of interest in the UK and Europe.
”We’re now using our time and extra resources to develop other options for delivering the solutions that have even less reliance on consultancy, so we really can deliver it anywhere in the world without human contact, which is really going to help us scale,” she said.
While the couple is thinking big, they are hastening slowly to manage the company’s growth and the popularity of their single-point records management solution that unlike every other system doesn’t copy or move any of the data and is totally invisible to users.
Castlepoint says it takes records and regulatory control to the information, a solution born out of the couple’s experience of working with government and then in IT consulting from 2012.
”It wasn’t really about the technology or the project management or anything that could have easily been addressed,” she said.
”It was about this fundamental issue of just the model not working and really not likely to work.”
A policy analyst and auditor, Ms Greaves knew what the requirements were and after pulling them together told her tech-guy partner to ”make it go”.
The first solution was great but really only worked with one technology, and ”we realised pretty quickly that the problem of information control is across the whole organisation, it’s not just one system, not one part of a document, it’s everything”.
”That’s when Gavin developed the AI solution,” Ms Greaves said
In a world drowning in data, Castlepoint developed a product capable of reading and tracking every bit of information.
”Our brand of AI is natural language processing and machine learning, giving the machine a job that a human would otherwise have of reading every word in every single document. We have to use that now. People cannot scale across all the data we have,” Ms Greaves said.
She describes it as a Data Castle.
”You can have in the centre of a network kingdom, a castle at the top that can oversee and have command and control over everything underneath,” Ms Greaves said.
“You don’t have to bring those people, and their data and processes inside the castle wall and into the system. You can let them operate at will in the network using the most efficient tools they want to use. They shouldn’t have to use naming conventions, metadata tags or labels, or have to save only in a certain place.”
The process took two to three years, working after hours while still running the consulting business. To make matters more complicated, Ms Greaves fitted in two babies.
After road testing it with clients, Castlepoint launched the tool at the end of 2018 and completed its first implementation in January 2019.
Revenue has practically doubled year-on-year and staff quadrupled last year, helped by obtaining low-interest finance from Epicorp, an ACT Government investment fund for entrepreneurs.
The only challenge has been keeping up with demand.
While the Castlepoint product started as a record management tool, it also has applications in compliance, discovery, security and risk management.
The move of government work to home during the pandemic only reinforces its value in maintaining the integrity and security of information.
In what will be music to Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s ears, Castlepoint intends to stay and become a big Canberra company, the sort of operation that he and many others hope will finally diversify the ACT economy.
Ms Greaves said the knowledge economy needed to be built in Canberra but failing to comply with regulation could limit that growth.
”Even a small business in Canberra can be brought to their knees if they have a serious breach of their own IT, or personal information that belongs to clients,” Ms Greaves said.
”A lot of organisations here service the government and if you provide any services to government you’re bound by the Privacy Act. There are serious regulatory obligations how you handle information.”
Castlepoint sees itself not only growing its own business but guiding others to expand safely.
”We’d like to provide some kind of assurance, whatever data you have we can tell you what obligations you have so you can manage your own IP, high-value data and your risk. Control it to grow safer, more sustainably,” Ms Greaves said.
She said Australian companies had to export early due to the limited opportunities for growth in Australia
But given the power of the technology, that doesn’t mean Castlepoint will do business with anybody and in any country.
It has a strong corporate responsibility policy that guides its business choices, and the company has already rejected one potential client.
”When looking at international expansions were being quite selective about the type of client we will work with,” Ms Greaves said.
”That’s also which countries we want to grow into and how. We’re quite cautious about working with governments with poor human rights records, multi-nationals with poor ethical value sets or issues with rule of law.
”Once you have that visibility across all of your data there is a lot you can do with it, and we can’t control what our clients do once they have the technology but we can have control over who our clients are.”
The couple is also a keen sharer of information, setting up a series of free webinars with industry and other high-flyers from around the world during the COVID-19 emergency, including Mr Barr. They had no problem filling weekly slots until 30 June.
In fact, while at present Castlepoint does not have any real competition in the market, it expects and wants others to emulate its model.
Ironically, it’s the human factor that really makes the difference.
”You can’t patent a lot of this stuff,” Ms Greaves said. ”You’ve got to have more than great technology. We’ve got great technology and really deep subject expertise.
”We don’t worry too much about other people emulating the technology because if you don’t understand the regulatory environment, understand the pressures on organisations, and security, if you don’t know all of that stuff you can’t use the technology to make improvements.
”Deliver the right concepts and values and it won’t matter. In fact, more should be taking on the model. Everyone should be doing it.”
To view the free webinar series go to the Castlepoint website.