Investment to boost innovation in a mature sector like security is as crucial as funding exciting new technologies like wearables, Internet of Things and robotics. Once upon a time innovation was all the rage in the security industry as exciting young companies emerged to carry the torch for a sector that was battling the big viruses of the day like Code Red, and the infamous ILOVEYOU, Bagle and MyDoom worms. Words like nation-state attacks and cybercriminals didn’t exist, but the race was on to develop technologies to beat the creators of mass-mailing worms and amateur hackers.

So is the fairytale over? What happened to those young upstarts with their clever technologies and ambitious plans, challenging the status quo and giving the big guys a run for their money? In our industry, firms like Postini and MessageLabs dominated in their day, respected for their focused dedication to email security. They were successful, perhaps too successful, and eventually acquired by larger players like Google and Symantec, and more recently McAfee in the case of MX Logic.

We have seen it over and over again and never more so than in email security where it creates mixed emotions – on the one hand for companies like us, a competitor has gone; on the other, the product innovation, knowledge and passion has gone with it. Innovation is the lifeblood of the industry, but we are unlikley to see it from larger companies that acquired these specialists.

But we must continue to innovate even in a mature area of the industry like email. Of course, there are those that have been predicting the death of email for the past few years. We’ve heard this since the day we started our business over 14 years ago – so perhaps the question is ‘what is the point of innovating in a dying sector’?

Contrary to some opinion, email is not a dying sector but a protocol and functionality fundamental to the use of a global internet and the facts concur. Industry analyst The Radicati Group points to the continuing growth of the the email market in both numbers of users and value. The company’s Email Market Report 2014-2018 estimates there are over 2.5 billion users worldwide, and this is expected to grow to over 2.8 billion by the end of 2018. Worldwide revenues will top $12 billion by the end of this year and will nearly double to $23.5 billion by the end of 2018, with an average annual growth rate of 18%.

For pure-play security specialists there is no better time to be innovating to capitalise on this still growing market. Plus, with Gartner predicting that by 2015, more than a third of security controls deployed by small or midsize businesses will be cloud-based, cloud specialists should see this as a clear signal to be developing solutions that meet specific market requirements. Businesses want the freedom and ease of use that cloud-based email services provide, but they also expect the same security functionality and performance that they would get with on on-premise solution.

Smaller independent firms have the advantage of not only being specialists, but also free from the constraints of big business, free to innovate and to collaborate with others. As an example, we have been working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the past 2 years as part of a strategic migration onto Amazon’s global cloud computing backbone. This collaboration and integration with AWS is a key element of our strategy to provide security and reliability as a cloud-based email security specialist.

There are also opportunities to go beyond this and think ‘outside of the box’ and take email and security into new areas ripe for development. With the start of 2015, it’s a good time to be an innovator. Whether it’s a new market, a growing one, or a mature one like email security innovation has never been more needed or more open to opportunities.