Break­ing tech bar­ri­ers Snapt is a lo­cal tech start-up that of­fers high-end vir­tu­alised and cloud-based load bal­anc­ing, web ac­cel­er­a­tion and se­cu­rity soft­ware. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a large cap­i­tal in­jec­tion, Snapt plans to ex­pand its in­ter­na­tional client base.

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lo­cal­tech start-up Snapt, which makes web­sites and servers run bet­ter, more se­curely and stay on­line, has se­cured $1m in fund­ing from for­mer telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­torgen­eral and well-known busi­ness­man Andile Ng­caba’s Con­ver­gence Part­ners. The cap­i­tal will al­low it to ex­pand its op­er­a­tions and build its brand in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Snapt, which was founded in 2012, has grown over 400% an­nu­ally and cur­rently serves 10 000 cus­tomers in 50 coun­tries, in­clud­ing In­tel and NASA. Head­quar­tered in Jo­han­nes­burg, where it em­ploys 15 peo­ple, Snapt opened an of­fice in At­lanta last year. About 60% of its cus­tomers are in the US.

“[Our cus­tomers are] any com­pany or ser­vice that has a web­site that is crit­i­cal to its busi­ness,” says CEO Dave Blakey. In more tech­ni­cal terms, Snapt of­fers “high-end vir­tu­alised and cloud-based load bal­anc­ing, web ac­cel­er­a­tion and se­cu­rity soft­ware”.

Re­li­able web­sites of­ten re­quire “bal­anc­ing the load” by hav­ing more than one server, so users are redi­rected to other servers with op­ti­mal per­for­mance in the case of a server go­ing off­line or un­der­per­form­ing. Some of its clients who run larger web­sites, says Blakey, have hun­dreds of servers to en­sure a con­tin­u­ous on­line pres­ence.

“As soon as you have more than one server, you need an in­tel­li­gent so­lu­tion to send users to the right server. What if you have two [servers] and one goes off­line? How do you make sure the users go to the one that is on­line and if it is slower, how do you make sure they use the faster one?” says Blakey.

“The Snapt prod­uct sits in front of busi­ness­crit­i­cal web ap­pli­ca­tions or servers and mon­i­tors the per­for­mance, and if they are mis­be­hav­ing it will take ac­tion, and alert the client.”

Snapt prod­ucts also en­sure there is web ac­cel­er­a­tion, which re­duces the size of web­pages and thereby the load on the server, en­abling pages to load faster. Com­pa­nies like Ama­zon and Google spend a lot of time do­ing re­search on how to im­prove web ac­cel­er­a­tion since a slower web­site means they lose huge amounts of money, he says.

Snapt’s se­cu­rity prod­ucts in­clude an anal­y­sis of a po­ten­tial cus­tomer’s web­site and de­ter­min­ing the type of se­cu­rity fea­tures that will pro­tect it from any on­line se­cu­rity breaches.

The com­pany’s prod­ucts are unique be­cause, un­like many of their com­peti­tors who use hard­ware-based soft­ware, Snapt’s of­fer­ings are vir­tual ma­chine (VM) and cloud-based.

“Our com­peti­tors have huge dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels and have to ship very ex­pen­sive de­vices, which need main­te­nance, to var­i­ous parts of the world. We sell our prod­ucts on­line. You can go to our web­site and down­load a trial right now and be run­ning in five min­utes. It’s a very dif­fer­ent busi­ness model from that point of view. Be­cause we lever­age open-source soft­ware, we are able to go di­rectly to the client at a much more com­pet­i­tive price point,” ex­plains Blakey.

Snapt’s prod­ucts are cheap in com­par­i­son to its ri­vals’, and cus­tomers can opt for monthly or an­nual billing op­tions. “And you can can­cel at any time, you are not locked in and you get a free trial,” he says. This is a strate­gic move on Snapt’s part, as it of­ten tar­gets smaller com­pa­nies with the hope that as their busi­nesses ex­pand, they will con­tinue us­ing Snapt soft­ware.

The com­pany also pro­vides 24-hour sup­port and the tech peo­ple from clients’ sites can re­ceive help around the clock.

Be­ing the smaller, rel­a­tively un­known com­pany that com­petes with some of the world’s tech­nol­ogy gi­ants has been chal­leng­ing for the busi­ness, Blakey says. The in­vest­ment from Con­ver­gence Part­ners will help to build brand aware­ness.

Blakey says it is clear that there is de­mand for Snapt’s prod­uct, “but the chal­lenge is that we are com­pet­ing with the big tech com­pa­nies that are well known. We have a brand aware­ness prob­lem, and it takes money to mar­ket in the US and Europe and trade shows are quite ex­pen­sive.”

He says their goal in the next year is for all po­ten­tial cus­tomers to con­sider them as an op­tion, just as they would the big com­pa­nies com­pet­ing in the same space.

“The chal­lenge is that we are com­pet­ing with the big tech com­pa­nies that are well known. We have a brand aware­ness prob­lem, and it takes money to mar­ket in the US and Europe.”

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