Nettoken founders: Charlotte Slingsby and Simonetta d’Ottaviano
Back in 2019, we had the fantastic opportunity to speak to Simonetta d’Ottaviano, co-founder of Nettoken and get her perspective on women in tech as well as the general tech eco-system in the UK. We have caught up with Simonetta to check what has happened in the last two years and how has Nettoken flourished.
IL: Hi Simonetta, it is so lovely to catch up with you and Nettoken again, the last interview was done in August 2019, and a lot has happened over the past 2 years. It is simply wonderful to see Nettoken has flourished during the unprecedented period of our life, can you give us some updated news on the development of Nettoken?
SO: It’s so great to see you again too! When we spoke last time we were in a testing phase, now Nettoken is the first passwordless password manager fit for the whole family! It is available on the App Store for only £1.99 for a monthly subscription after a one-month free trial to experience the platform both on the web and a handy mobile app. ‘Password fatigue’ is the overwhelming feeling that most internet users experience for dealing with too many credentials through their scattered accounts. Nettoken makes users’ digital life much easier by providing a full overview of all the accounts they ever signed up to in one visual dashboard with easy password management across any device, as well as access sharing to fit families as well as small teams.
Nettoken requires no master password to sign in; just scan a QR code to securely log into other devices. My co-founder Charlotte and I are very excited for this phase as we prepare our next big release for the Autumn which will be a child-friendly family plan, appropriately designed to suit everyone in the household. We are close to completing a seed round to support us in the launch of this version.
IL: The pandemic has accelerated the world’s digital transformation, most of us have embraced the digital form of communication, socialising, working and e-commerce, how could we protect our digital footprint better, especially the older and younger vulnerable section of our society?
SO: Indeed the need to stay indoors because of Coronavirus has exponentially increased our digital presence as well as our exposure to cybersecurity threats. Equally, it has created further management challenges for our personal accounts. The last time we spoke, pre-pandemic, each one of us had already signed up to no less than 150 online accounts. As a consequence of living almost entirely online in times of lockdowns, this number has spiked up by 50 to 70% in most European countries and the UK. Having awareness is the first step to gaining control of our digital footprint, but most cybersecurity tools aren’t simple enough for an average audience.
As product builders in this space, I believe we have a responsibility to create solutions that not only combine security and privacy by design but also accessibility. This is an essential element to cater to all generations that are active online and help gain that awareness and control. It’s a central aspect of Nettoken’s ethos.
IL: Cybercrime and cyberbullying have increased dramatically during and after the pandemic, does Nettoken have any plan to combat the serious issues faced by all of us?
SO: Certainly, the issues related to our fast-growing digital identity aren’t limited to grown-up individuals. During lockdowns, there have been at least 100% more web and app visits in UK families, creating a dramatic increase in digital exposure to dangers, particularly for children such as inappropriate content, predators, and cyberbullying. Also, distance education has increased the need to create digital accounts for children with password management challenges for children, parents and teachers that existing cybersecurity products aren’t suitable to solve because they have been predominantly designed for businesses and a more tech-savvy audience.
Nettoken is the foundation to give individuals control of their digital exposure through productive password management and a visual overview to enable supervision for those who are more vulnerable online, such as children who require parental supervision to sign up to online accounts. By supporting families to gain control and awareness over their online identity, then we can significantly reduce the risk of more serious issues.
Our next launch is a child-friendly version of Nettoken to create a collaborative tool for parents and children to manage a child’s online accounts easily and securely until they are old enough to navigate autonomously and more consciously and no longer need parental consent to use online services. Parental consent until the age of thirteen is, in fact, a data protection standard according to the new regulation (ICO Age Appropriate Design Code).
Most parents are concerned and want to protect their children online, but don’t know where to start. By providing a child-friendly version of Nettoken, our goal is to empower parents to support their children as they grow online by facilitating digital parenting, and at the same time, create a secure and even playful environment. Parents and children can therefore jointly manage access and safely store a child’s account credentials.
IL: We discussed the issue of female funders accessing the funding in August 2019, maybe you can give us some news on the issues since we are more aware of this acute issue? Any improvements?
SO: This is still a very intricate topic. The amount of VC funding for female founders was already extremely low but in the past two years it has dropped to less than 2% despite female-founded businesses overperforming. A lot still needs to change but I agree with you that this subject resonates with more and more people which is a good sign. Charlotte and I have been a team for several years now and what I can say for sure is that you can trust a female founders team to be exceptionally resilient to reach their goals!
IL: As one of the very few female founders of a tech start-up, especially in the Cyber Security space, do you have any advice for our students in terms of career paths in computer science? Any particular skills or a course they should be learning?
SO: More than the exact skills my advice would be to choose a mission that you really think would make a difference in this space and that you are really into. That will give you the drive to try different techs and learn the skills you need to serve that mission and succeed.