Kitchener-based Agilicus has landed a contract with the federal government that gives the cybersecurity startup a chance to demonstrate the value of its secure network-access technology.

It’s a big win for the four-year-old startup.

“You get validation of your approach, you get feedback on your implementation and you get to announce the Government of Canada as a reference customer, all of which has great value,” said founder and CEO Don Bowman.

Launched in 2018, Agilicus uses “zero trust” architecture to enable organizations to provide remote access to specific files, systems and networks in a secure and seamless manner.

With the rapid growth in remote work, most organizations now have several tiers of staff, partners and contractors who need access to files and networks. Virtual public networks (VPNs) are a popular choice, but Bowman said zero trust technology allows an organization to provide access to specific files and systems on a need-to-access basis, rather than providing access to all of an organization’s files and systems within a VPN.

“Agilicus’ novel Zero Trust Network Access platform empowers any organization to provide single sign-on, with existing credentials, to any resource, using any device, without a VPN or client, simply, securely, and economically,” the company said in a news release.

The contract announced today is with Shared Services Canada (SSC), which delivers IT services to other federal government departments and agencies. The agreement was facilitated through Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC), an initiative that streamlines the often complicated and expensive government procurement process to stimulate research and the commercialization of innovative technology.

Companies like Agilicus must still prove the value of their products, but the program gives them a tryout in the big leagues.

“You have to show that you're a viable company, you’ve got a source of funding, that (your product is) not just vaporware, and you have to show that you're doing it in Canada, and you have to show that it's innovative,” said Bowman. 

Agilicus made it through the qualifying process and was then permitted to reach out to individual government departments to pitch its secure network-access technology.

“Once that's done you get pre-qualified, which means that you meet all the criteria, and then there's a dating service – you can go to any government department and say, ‘I think you have this problem, I'm qualified, you want to test it?’” said Bowman. “And that went very well for us. We reached out to, gosh, like 65 departments, and we had 30 people respond and set up meetings within the next day or two.”

 That level of interest provided additional validation that the Agilicus zero trust platform was addressing a real need – in government and in any organization with distributed workers, contractors and partners.

 “We are thrilled to be working with SSC, who lead the way in delivering modern, secure, innovative IT solutions that support Canada’s federal organizations and their digital programs,” said Agilicus co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Angelo Compagnoni. “We are grateful for ISC and SSC’s commitment in furthering Canadian innovation and their recognition of our Zero Trust Network Access platform.”

Bowman and Compagnoni previously worked together at networking company Sandvine, which was sold to private equity firm Francisco Partners in 2017 for CDN$562 million. Bowman was previously a co-founder at PixStream, a video-over-internet startup that was sold to Cisco for CDN$554 million in 2000, the height of the dot-com boom.

In discussing the founding of Agilicus, Bowman noted that PixStream was started by several colleagues who had worked together at the former Hewlett Packard facility in Waterloo. After Cisco acquired PixStream, a number of the former HP friends went on to launch other successful tech companies – such as Sandvine, Auvik Networks, Trusscore and Agilicus – and to invest in other startups.

“That's what you need for an ecosystem in a city – you need big companies that have talented people who work together and who shed that (talent) to start new things,” he said.