CyGlass – Some Lessons Learned. Others Ignored.

Last week, Nominet chair Andy Green sent members a statement headed “CyGlass Lessons Learned”.

I’d say a better description would be Some Lessons Learned. Others Ignored (Swept Under the Rug).  The reality is that many lessons remain unlearned or unclear.

Improvement. But still lacks full transparency.

Let’s start with the positives. Getting any statement on something like this is an improvement for Nominet.  But it was only published on the Members Hub, behind what is effectively a paywall. That is the first problem with it.  I think the statement should have been posted on the Nominet website, so that non-members and media can see it. 

There remain transparency issues with Nominet that need addressing.  I will immediately work on that if elected to the board.

Big Unanswered Questions

Who was responsible for buying CyGlass

No one was, according to Andy Green’s statement.  There remains a total lack of proper accountability for the CyGlass disaster.  That’s a current and future governance failure.  At times Andy’s statement strikes almost an apologetic tone for the failed policy that gave birth to CyGlass and other failed commercial projects.  That’s wrong.  I think both the policy and the execution were abject failures.  I have always said so.  We need to know who supported it and who carried it out. Did anyone fall short of their duties.

Who was responsible for managing CyGlass

CyGlass cost around $600,000 a month of Nominet members’ money to run.  Who was in charge of that?  Both at executive and board level.  How clear was that when CyGlass was bought; and if it changed, how clear was that to the board.  What was all that money spent on.  There needs to be both collective and individual accountability to the members for such a catastrophically huge loss.

Who was responsible for how CyGlass was given away

CyGlass was given away, sold for $1 dollar to its existing management.  The same management had sold the company to Nominet for around $6 million little over 2 years before.  They had also burnt through $600,000 a month.  Andy says COVID was a factor.  But the need for digital security increased during the pandemic, as companies adjusted to new work environments.  My own contacts in the security space told me that the market for security companies was bullish for most of the time CyGlass was being actively marketed for sale.  Members need to have a clear picture of how a company that cost them $23 million turned out to be worthless and how it came to be given away.

Russell Haworth

Russell Haworth was Nominet’s CEO when CyGlass was purchased.  He continues to be a highly vocal fan of the company, including posting comments online and recently inviting CyGlass CEO Ed Jackowiak to take part in his podcast. 

What is Haworth’s connection to CyGlass.  This is an ongoing issue that needs to be investigated.  In my opinion, Haworth is arrogantly thumbing his nose at Nominet’s members and current management, showing no remorse for the mess he made.

Nominet Governance Changes

While Andy’s statement includes superficial changes and soothing noises, it falls short of proposing proper governance changes at Nominet to prevent another CyGlass.  That’s not good enough. 

This is the time to investigate what happened, learn the lessons and make the right changes to stop it happening again. 

That can’t be done without an investigation, giving a clear pucture of events, to be shared with the membership.  At the moment, we are long way from that.  There has been enough stalling.  We need to know the facts and we then need to make sure governance changes are proposed without any further delay.

CyGlass shows us that Nominet’s current memorandum and articles are not fit for purpose. We need to see what went wrong and then change them to stop it happening again.

This is the biggest reason we should review and learn from the CyGlass disaster.  We cannot let it happen again.

Why Investigate

There’s a time and financial cost attached to investigating what happened with CyGlass and the end of the Haworth commercialisation era at Nominet.  So why do it?

  1. Understand what happened
  2. Individual and collective accountability
  3. Confirm if any remedies are worth pursuing
  4. Learn and use for urgent Governance Changes

I say it would be time and money well spent.  The financial cost would be a fraction of one percent of what has been lost, so I do not think that objection holds much water.  While the time spent is valuable, learning and taking those lessons into the future.

We need to look forward, but not forget the past.

I agree with Andy Green, CyGlass should be a valuable learning experience.  At the moment it’s a $23 million loss that’s being swept under the rug and the truth kept hidden.  We cannot allow it to just be a total waste of money.

We must use the lessons from CyGlass to get the Governance Changes that are needed to stop it ever happening again. If I am elected to the Nominet board with that mandate from the members, I will get that done without any further delay.

Jim Davies