Brno success stories: Flowmon Networks – from an academic spin off to a global player in networks protection
Flowmon Networks may be considered Czech first academic spin-off. The company belongs to the global top three in its business sector, has a turnover of about USD 15 million, 30% growth and 1,200 business clients in 45 countries worldwide.
We spoke with Flowmon Networks CEO and co-founder, Jiří Tobola, about the ups and downs of doing business from Brno and the key factors to their success. His is the 7th in a series of interviews with the personalities behind notable Brno companies that operate internationally.
Jiří was one of the Invea-Tech co-founders, originally a research project realised in 2007 by CESNET (association of Czech universities providing the schools with internet access). Back then, they rather naively aspired to compete with Cisco. It took two years to finish a pioneering journey of spinning a company off academic institutions (two Brno universities still keep a stake) and sorting out intellectual property ownership.
Now, the company has a physical presence in 15 countries; from Japan (major clients include two ministries, banks and several prefectures) to countries in the Pacific and Europe. Newly, they founded a daughter company in the US. Currently, they employ 130 people worldwide, 100 of them based in Brno. About 40% of revenues come from the Czech market.
Flowmon Networks helps protect computer networks against cybernetic threats, DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks and traffic overload through monitoring and analysing the network performance. Its competitive advantage is scalability, using machine learning and heuristics. It enables IT professionals to improve performance and reduce risk across datacenter and cloud environments.
In 2012, the company already had partners and customers on five continents. A year later, it acquired AdvaICT company, specializing in network behaviour analysis. In 2016, another company was acquired – FerretApps, focusing on monitoring applications. That enabled a solution to deployment for large e-shops and ERP systems.
In 2015, the original company Invea-Tech was split into Flowmon Networks and Netcope Technologies, created out of a former department developing and manufacturing hardware solutions (FPGA – integrated circuits designed to be configured by customers) for the acceleration of networks and applications.
Flowmon’s business model still relies mostly on the sale of software licences and the payments from support & maintenance, but Jiří sees the future in the subscription SaaS model (Software as a Service). Flowmon is also ready for deploying technology solutions in the cloud environments (already in use by Amazon, Microsoft and Google).
Flowmon was recognized by Deloitte Fast 50 as one of the fastest growing technology companies in Central and Eastern Europe, and that for three years in a row. It has also been selected in the ACE Top 100 most innovative European companies and several times featured by the prestigious Gartner ranking. Their technological partners are big IT companies like Cisco or IBM. Their clients include names like KIA, E.ON, O2 and several banks.
The company was born among university researchers. Thus, it’s no surprise it still has close ties to Masaryk University and Brno University of Technology. Experts from Flowmon Networks consult bachelor & diploma works. The company grew by 20 people every year, and some of them have always been graduates.
#brnoregion is an important element of the company’s continuing success. Jiří remains thankful for their incubation by the South Moravian Innovation Centre and advice & support from the local UNIS company.
“The pool of technical talent in Brno is a huge advantage,” Jiří is convinced. And as it became the standard in our series of interviews, he also doesn’t fail to complain about the poor travel connectivity of the city, and mentions missing a highway to the Vienna airport. “Nevertheless, foreign guests are always pleasantly surprised by the pulsing friendly city and safe streets,” he finishes
Jiří Tobola graduated from the Faculty of Information Technology of Brno University of Technology. He worked as a researcher at CESNET where he implemented a number of European research projects. When Flowmon Networks was founded in 2007, he became the CTO, later assuming the position of Head of Sales. In 2018, he rose up to be the CEO. In his free time, he enjoys playing squash, running, and freediving.
Flowmon Networks in numbers
|Turnover (in mil CZK)||189||248||312|
|EBITDA (in mil CZK)||21||-2||19|
|Employees in Brno||56||85||101|
|Share of R&D costs (in %)||15||15||18|