Cyber Spotlight: Zalia Labs

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and we’ll be profiling some of the industry’s superstars to help bring attention to this very important sector. Canberra’s home to some some of the most innovative leaders in cyber the world over — get to know them here!

This week we spoke to Samantha Lengyel and Josh Fourie, the founders of Zalia Labs. Learn about what they do, what they’re proud of and why Canberra is the best place for them (and you!) to do business.

Tell us about your company. When and why was it founded?

Zalia Labs was founded in 2020 to build tools that amplify trust in Artificial Intelligence. Our mission is to help businesses become AI champions that can build trust in AI across the business for better utilisation and adoption of emerging solutions.

What products and services do you provide?

Our product, Decoded.AI, empowers data teams to rapidly assemble many varying and in-depth explanations of their work, so that teams from across the business can easily understand, audit and work with advanced AI systems. For our customers, exposing their team’s complex AI work for a security or compliance audit becomes as easy as subscribing to our SaaS service and pressing ‘share’. By using Decoded.AI, everyone gets the information they need, in the format they want, and with minimal effort, enabling our customers to do their jobs faster.

Tell us about the skillset and dynamic of the team.

Our team prides itself on a diverse set of skills that let us think differently about problems. We come from backgrounds in cyber-security, linguistics, computing, strategic studies and the law. We rely on each other and are strong believers in pair-based work that forces different perspectives on a problem to collide and drive innovative solutions to difficult problems.

Tell us about the current cyber landscape in Australia.

Security technology has outpaced the business adoption curve, so products are increasingly focusing on usability, learnability and deployability. There are a lot of great solutions, but businesses are struggling to develop the ways of thinking needed to use those tools. Cyber has a big challenge in learning how to effectively communicate complex solutions to diversely skilled teams but the landscape is slowly changing to meet that need. Products that increase the diversity of skills in cyber are a part of the next wave of effective cyber-security tools that will increase business adoption and grow the talent pool.

What advice do you have for startups and businesses around cyber security?

Setting the bar for cyber-strategy can be really difficult. When are you secure enough? You can spend years building and re-building systems and practices to make yourself as secure as possible but that investment is underutilised unless you communicate about it to your customers. By promoting your efforts to keep their data safe, you can make customers excited about sharing their data assets with you, enabling your business to deliver more remunerable value to more customers.

What are you most proud of so far?

We are proud of, amongst other things, being a part of the GRIFFIN Accelerator, receiving the ICON grant in 2020 and receiving support from the ACT Government Cyber Security Business Accelerator. But, more than anything, we are proud to be a part of a community of entrepreneurs made up of conversations, innovations and collaborations between diverse business communities both in Australia and overseas.

What quote or philosophy do you stand by?

In 1922, Lippman wrote that “the real environment is altogether too big, too complex and too fleeting for direct acquaintance… so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations… we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it.” People must rely on a “picture in their heads”, an “insertion between [a person] and [their] environment”, upon “interior representations of their world” so prevailing that, when they challenge it, “comes the sensation of butting one’s head against a stone wall.”

  • Walter Lippman, Public Opinion, Chapter 1, (1922)

* gendered references have been changed

Why do you think Canberra is a great place to do business?

The businesses in Canberra are overwhelmingly and consistently of high-quality, with founders of prolific companies making themselves available to people even at the earliest stages of their journey. In our view, Canberra is likely the best place to build a business, with both the ACT government, CBRIN and the business community providing untold levels of support to early-stage entrepreneurs. This is why many businesses born in Canberra, stay in Canberra.

If you’ve attended any Canberra Innovation Network events or participated in our programs, how have they helped you along the way?

We have participated in virtually every program and event administered by CBRIN that has been made available to us, from IACT, to GRIFFIN, to Idea to Impact, to the advanced workshops. It’s important to highlight how much these programs have improved our pitches, our product and how we do business. Everything that CBRIN offers has been of astounding quality and value. They cannot be recommended or commended enough.

Thanks, Sam and Josh! We appreciate your insight, share your love of CBRIN, and are so happy to hear you’re growing!