Ten years on from three Three Men in a Shed

Joe Hoy, one of our Founders, reflects on ten years of Forensic Analytics.

Ten years…it’s a long time…520 months, 3650 days… and 150 published releases of CSAS.

Ten years ago, Summer 2013, I had more dark hair than grey; Barack Obama was ensconced in the White House and David Cameron was at Number 10; the details of the referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU were first published; Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United; Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon….and three blokes in a shed in Bedfordshire were toiling away to create the first of those 150 releases of CSAS.

It wasn’t really a shed, it was the room above my garage, and the three blokes – Martin Griffiths, Andrew Hausler and me – weren’t really all working in there – we had the Internet, they worked from their own sheds – but the ‘three blokes in a shed’ idea resonated better than the truth and that’s the myth that stuck.

The very first version of CSAS, even before it was called ‘CSAS’, originally it was called the ‘CDR Browser’, was designed to import and parse CDRs and output the result to an excel call schedule – no saving the data to a database, no maps, no Analytics, no bells and whistles, just fast accurate parsing to help users get access to cleansed data quickly.

Once we saw the first demo version working, however, it got us thinking – why don’t we add a map to view the cell site locations? Why don’t we create an output method that lets people create their own templates? Why don’t we automate more of the analytical process? And gradually, with a lot of help and encouragement from prospective users, the rudimentary CDR Browser began to evolve into something more like the fully featured CSAS we know today.

Along the way we’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position to ask some fantastically knowledgeable and talented people to come and work with us; we’ve been given the opportunity to provide services and support to a wide array of principled and motivated customers, who constantly find inventive and innovative things to do with the tools we provide them with; and through our support of those customers, we’ve contributed in a small way to activities that have done a lot of societal good.

It’s not been easy and some of it hasn’t been fun – in fact I’m occasionally asked if I have any words of advice for people looking to start their own business and my advice is ‘don’t’ – quickly followed up by a less negative explanation of ‘don’t start your own business unless you’re prepared for how difficult it might be sometimes’.

For us, though, the good outweighs the bad, the fun eclipses the drudgery and the knowledge that there’s always something else that we can add to our products to make them more useful, more efficient, easier to use, suitable for a wider range of users, keeps us coming back for more.

Each of those 150 CSAS releases*, with many more to come, has been crafted based on consultation with our users, on input from our own analytical experts and on their combined ability to look ahead and tell us the updates we need to make to keep ahead of changing technologies and tactics.

The three blokes in a shed may have become dozens of people spread across several countries but the itch of curiosity that drove us in the early days is still there and still will be in another 520 months 3650 days and 150 releases.

* for those with a burning desire to know – 52 published releases of CSASv1, 89 published releases of CSASv2 (so far) and 9 published releases of CSASv3 (so far)

If this resonates with you, let’s discuss.