Date: 08/12/2019
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THE SECRET TO GROWING YOUR SECURITY STARTUP

This week is RSA 2017 and I am counting hundreds of vendors exhibiting in San Francisco. This doesn’t count the others still in stealth mode and off the main show floor. They are all looking for the right formula to survive and grow. But what is that formula? In fact security startups aren’t much different from other startups, when considering the secrets to business success. My own background includes two technology startups. But the best advice I heard on how to grow a business came from a talk given by serial entrepreneur Kevin McGovern. This was: “catch the wave”.

Mr. McGovern was one of the founders of SoBe soft drinks, a leader in the nutraceutical beverage market. Did anyone really need another drink? Yet, SoBe indeed caught the wave when it was sold to Pepsi for $325m. How do you catch the wave in your startup? You need preparation and constant 360 degree vigilance of the market.  

Some years ago, I tried surfing on a trip to Hawaii. I wasn’t successful, but there are some lessons learned.

  1. I hired a world champion surfer to train me. Good idea to find a mentor; maybe not the right person to train a beginner.

  2. I found out that the beach was rocky…I didn’t have water shoes to make it navigable.  So minus one for lack of preparation and equipment.

  3. I did have a good surfboard, rented from the pro. So plus one for preparation and equipment.

  4. I hadn’t read anything or watched any training videos on surfing ahead of time. So minus one for lack of preparation.

  5. I gave up after one lesson, when I was unsuccessful.  Minus one for lack of persistence. Surfing is harder than it looks.

To be a good surfer, you will need 360 degree vision. Backwards to pick the right wave, and forwards to see where you are going. The same is true for any security startup. Watch where you are going, but keep your eye in the rear view mirror to watch for firms gaining on you with new technology. Be prepared and stay out in the water!

For a short introduction to preparing and running your security startup, I recommend serial entrepreneur Milton Chang’s book: Toward Entrepreneurship.