Big backers’ U-turn sends Edith Cowan cybersecurity firm into administration

Perth-based cybersecurity company Sapien Cyber, based on technology developed at Edith Cowan university, has entered administration after two big customers who were also major shareholders went elsewhere for protection against cyber threats.

Prominent Perth businessman John Poynton, who has long been involved with Sapien and became chair in October 2023, said its entrance to administration was unfortunate.

Poynton said a financier arranged to back the company immediately withdrew its support after two major clients, who were also shareholders, ceased to be customers.

Sapien Cyber is based at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup campus.

Sapien Cyber is based at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup campus. Credit: Lauren Pilat

The business based at ECU’s Joondalup campus offered products to understand where a company’s software and hardware was vulnerable to cyber attacks and automatically detect and investigate those attacks.

The outlook for Sapien was cautious but not without hope in December when its annual report for the 12 months to June 2023, revealing a $3.6 million loss and about $700,000 in cash, was signed off.

It noted that directors were confident that the company could pay its debts and continue as a going concern provided it could increase revenue from existing and new customers, raise more capital, and increase its profit margin.

The departure of two shareholders from its clients list toppled one of those pillars and the resultant withdrawal of finance broke another.

Woodside bought a 10 per cent stake in Sapien in 2019 and its chief technology officer Shaun Gregory joined Sapien’s advisory board.

“The sophistication of Sapien Cyber’s technology platform has the potential to deliver a comprehensive and multi-dimensional cybersecurity solution to protect Woodside’s operating assets,” he said at the time.

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