As a student hacking into The Southport School's computer system, David Ruddock never imagined he'd turn those skills into a business and be rubbing shoulders with movie industry executives. From the moment he was given his first computer in Year 8, his world revolved around it, causing all his grades (except English) to fall. Mr Ruddock said he became the "rock star" of his computer class and it wasn't long before students started encouraging him to put his talent to ill-use.
"A student said, 'You should put a virus on the library computers,' which I gullibly did," Mr Ruddock said. "And then he got cold feet and dobbed me in so I got banned from computers for six months." He became friends with the school's IT administrator and turned the object of breaking the network password into a game. By the time he started studying programming at TAFE Gold Coast, people were asking him to help with their computer problems and he started Insane Technologies. He was asked by a friend to help out at a superannuation company which was having problems dealing with computer viruses, and it caused him to rethink what he wanted to do. "So I went, 'why am I learning to program? I don't want to write an account system for someone'," he said. "I seem to enjoy this lower-level networking and protecting sort of thing."
His big break came at age 22 when he was introduced to casting agent Maura Fay, who asked him for help with the IT system at Warner Roadshow Studios, now called Village Roadshow Studios. "The next thing I'm being introduced to the head of the studio, now Lynee Benzie, who was brought in to build a website which turned into a network security system," he said. "It's one big network and the goal was we could have multiple productions out there at the same time but we don't want them in the same network, so we created a segmented system just to make it easier for people to sign in." The system is still used by the studio today. Mr Ruddock has also provided IT support for a number of big-budget movies including Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The business grew strongly to number 12 employees, but in 2009 Insane Technologies nearly went under. Mr Ruddock said he thought the business was making a small profit, but it turned out to be a loss. "When I finally found out ..I did have a bit of a breakdown and had to make the decision, do I call it quits and go get a job elsewhere and file for bankruptcy?" Mr Ruddock said despite a tempting job offer from a friend he decided to push on, took out a loan to pay the debt and downsized the company to three employees.
Another decision he credits as crucial to turning things around was hiring a business coach. "Anyone out there who's starting a business or thinking of starting a business go find a really good coach," he said. "Don't try and do it on your own." His company is now back on its feet, providing IT services to a range of small businesses on the Gold Coast including medical practices and accounting and law firms.
He said a mistake many businesses made was to believe that because they are not a big business, they won't be targeted by hackers looking for private client information. "As a follow-on consequence of that they are one of the biggest targets because the cyber criminals know that they are not spending money (on IT security) and they go, 'These guys are not protected, let's target them'." Mr Ruddock is looking to expand outside the Gold Coast. "I'm disappointed about the issue that happened because it was a big setback, but proud of the fact we overcame that. "It would have been easy to bail out and go work for someone else.