Six months into his graduate work, Ian Folau had an epiphany during Professor Steven Gal’s Entrepreneurial Journey class. “My heart is racing,” he wrote in his notebook. After class he told his wife of ten years, Miranda, “I don’t want to interview with Google this afternoon. I don’t want to interview with anyone anymore. I want to start a business.”
“I know,” Miranda replied. “That’s who you are.”
Folau, who spent nine years as a manager in the U.S. Army, found a kindred spirit in Nwamaka Imasogie, a former software manager and engineer at Chevron. Together they co-founded GitLinks, an open-source risk management tool for digital developers.
While Folau heads up business development, networking, and chatting with potential customers, Imasogie oversees engineering and software development — “thinking through the entire user experience,” she says.
“We built a system to track open source and risks automatically.” — Ian Folau, MBA ’16
GitLinks began as a capstone project at Cornell Tech in February 2016. Working with teammates Nicolas Joseph, MEng ’16, and Bonnie Ding, MBA ’16, Folau and Imasogie brainstormed a search engine that generates a trust score that evaluates the quality and reliability for open-source software. Last spring, the venture won a Cornell Tech Startup Award, providing $80,000 of pre-seed funding and access to the Cornell Tech co-working space in Midtown Manhattan. (Joseph and Ding have moved on to other ventures.)
Prior to its public launch in May, GitLinks has retooled its focus to monitor three vital elements in open-source software: security vulnerabilities, restrictive licenses, and maintenance activity. “It is physically impossible for humans to manually track all of the open source a company uses for these risks, continuously,” Folau says. “We built a system to track open source and risks automatically.”
The prototypical GitLinks client is a “mature” company with 200-plus employees that builds software, tech products, or web applications. “The younger startups,” Folau adds, “are probably just hacking things together.”