Cloud managed content filtering for schools.
Managing Internet access at schools is a very hard job. On the one hand, you don’t want students accessing inappropriate content, or spending their time and the school’s bandwidth frivolously. On the other hand, you don’t want to restrict their learning opportunities, for example by blocking information on breast cancer, and you also want to teach students how to think critically about their own activity so that when they leave the protective environment of the school, they’ll have the skills to keep themselves out of harm’s way. You’d want such a service to be easy to use, administrated centrally, give teachers some discretion about what is or isn’t allowed, run on just about any hardware, integrate with Google Apps For Education, be really cost effective, and most importantly, help students learn from their choices.
That’s Linewize. The product is a cloud-managed firewall which doesn’t merely block all content that’s nominally off-topic, but rather gives both teacher and student visibility over the student’s allocation of time and attention so that the student can learn to behave responsibly with guidance. Rather than just creating content barriers that can inevitably be broken or bypassed, this product teaches kids how to evaluate and be accountable for their choices – a far better paradigm for creating critically thinking decision makers and content creators of the future. As a strong proponent of an Open and Uncapturable Internet, I believe the experiential education aspect of this product is a philosophical watershed.
Linewize is currently deployed in over 100 schools in New Zealand ranging from 70 to 2,800 students, and have customers in over 30 countries, growing at roughly 20% per month.
Their revenue model in education is simple: schools are charged ~50c per student per month with volume discounts. Sales are conducted mainly through channel partners, who are attracted by configuration setup and maintenance and the ability to cross-sell higher value services. There are some direct sales as well, as a result of schools downloading their open source firewall and then wanting to plug into the managed service.
They have a variety of other higher value managed network access services for business and government, using Managed Service Providers (MSPs) as a channel. One interesting use case for businesses is creating visibility of how employees are spending their time online. Early next year, they’ll be releasing a retail consumer product that allows parents to monitor and control their kids’ wifi usage. This is becoming a significant issue, as kids bring home their BYOD devices from school into a domestic environment that’s a lot less safe than schools.
Linewize brings together four things that I love: Open Source (their basic firewall, Open Edgewise, is GPL), experiential education, cloud-based managed services, and a highly scaleable global business model.
Cloud managed networking is rapidly becoming a big thing – look no further than the rise of SDN and Google Fi for examples of how these kinds of technologies are radically changing the way we think about network management. Linewize isn’t on the bleeding edge, but it’s well ahead of the curve. The resulting benefits are lower cost, lower reliance on specialist knowledge within organisations, and greater resilience.
Cofounders Scott Noakes and Michael Lawson are a strong team, and have been working together for the last six years. Before Linewize, they took Adscale Labs from startup to major trade sale, serving 300 million ads per day mainly in Germany along the way.
Scott says that things are about to take off in a big way, as they will soon announce an OEM distribution agreement with a major international player that will dramatically increase their footprint overseas, and particularly in the US market.
Linewize has been bootstrapped and funded by the founders, and has just hit break-even. They’re planning to raise capital in the first half of 2016 to fuel international expansion.
They’re also on the lookout for a customer facing network support engineer, so please contact them directly if you know anyone who might be interested.