Swansea student discovers how to fry spam

April 29, 2004

Thursday, 29th April 2004 – by David Williamson, Western Mail / Wales Online

UNWANTED emails plague the lives of millions of people everyday, but a 22-year-old Welsh graduate may hold the key to a spam-free life.

Andrew Downie is a recent graduate of University of Wales, Swansea, whose BopSpam service is winning fans with its innovative approach to the scourge of emailers everywhere.

What gives BopSpam the edge on its many competitors in the market, is that it studies a user’s email history to work out the probability of a message being spam.

This means that genuine emails have a better chance of getting through instead of being sent to a spam box.

The program is also innovative in that it stops the spam at an earlier stage in the process than many of its rivals. It filters them out at the central server level so they are not downloaded onto the user’s machine.

It is still possible to check your spam messages to ensure that no wanted email has been blocked, but Mr Downie said, BopSpam has so far proved 99.5% effective.

He is now working on a hotel booking system and hopes his company NetBop Technologies will eventually produce three or four products a year.

His programs have won warm reviews in the computer press, and he is hoping soon to take on two members of staff.

Mr Downie’s entry into the notoriously competitive software world has been eased through the WDA’s Graduating to Enterprise scheme and a Knowledge Exploitation Fund scholarship.

He has been provided with a mentor who knows the pitfalls which can trouble a fledgling e-commerce company.

Mr Downie encourages today’s students, who hope to set up a business after graduating, to contact KEF.

Nearly every college or university has a knowledge exploitation centre,” he said.

To be able to go in there and talk about ideas is a great facility.

They may say it’s a pipe- dream – it’s better to know that then, than when you graduate and then get told.

Having taught himself programming, his most recent challenge has been learning how to manage the financial intricacies of running a business and filing taxes.

It opens your eyes to the value of money,” he said.

Although originally from Cheltenham, Mr Downie decided to stay in Wales because of the incentives available and the contacts he had made in Swansea.

He predicted that the city will thrive as a centre for e-commerce.

He said,

“With all the recent developments that are going on, there is big scope for things happening.

I remember five years ago when I came here – I think things will change even more in the next five years.

He began developing the software while juggling studies in mechanical engineering.

I learned a big lesson in time management,

Mr Downie said he was glad he studied this discipline, because it had taught him the importance of a definite start and finish point in any system.

I think that gave me quite an advantage in being able to think things through,” he said.