The RSAC 2015 Innovation Sandbox contest served as Cybereason’s debut to the security community. At the time, we were a 20-person company that had just moved into its first office. For many of us, that marked our first time participating in a major security conference.
As we prepare for another appearance at RSAC, it’s hard not to notice how much our company has changed in two years’ time. Here’s some of what we have learned during our journey from the Innovation Sandbox to a global cybersecurity company:
- Fail fast and change course faster: Don’t fear failure. It’s the only way you’ll learn what you don’t know and improve. Going to the edge and pushing beyond it despite the risk of failing is the only way you’ll achieve something greater. Staying in your comfort zone can make you complacent and not think of ways to improve your product. This perspective is particularly applicable to startups. In those environments, you’re always learning, adapting and being an expert in an area of business you previously knew nothing about. But by the time you have one area figure out, you soon realize there’s another subject you need to master. By taking a risk, failing, learning from the experience and immediately changing course, you’ll learn more and achieve excellence at a much faster rate.
- Nurture your employees: Startups are often focused on getting folks in the door to build, market and sell their product. Those are all important components for success. But we believe that nurturing those employees so they - and their institutional knowledge - stick around is equally important. Build out a full human resources team (a process we recently started) to help your employees grow their careers and handle any job-related concerns that may crop up. And, despite everyone’s best efforts, those concerns will inevitably crop up. Processes are still being developed and employees are still trying to learn each other’s communication styles. But we believe that open communication and having approachable workers (read on for more on both of those topics) are a great way to counter these growing pains.
- Speak freely: Employees should always be free to ask each other and their managers questions. Not only does this approach build relationships between people, it provokes thought and can lead to different perspectives being shared. If you have an office, get out of it and communicate with people face to face. Office walls can sometimes serve as needlessly protective barriers. No technology can substitute an in-person conversation between co-workers. Often, it’s the casual interactions between colleagues that lead to the most knowledge being shared and the creation of ideas. And don’t fear challenging questions. That means people are really listening to what you’re saying and thinking about how it impacts their role and the organization.
- Hire people who are already approachable: Ideally, a company shouldn’t have to talk about the approachability of their employees. They should already be approachable. If employees don’t feel comfortable interacting with each other, then they probably won’t collaborate. Not only could a fear of engaging your co-workers hurt your product, it can also foster a negative office environment that no one wants to work in. Since most of our communication is nonverbal, use your body language to show those around you that you’re open to talking to and working with them. One people feel like they can approach you, they will.
- Move forward with the courage to question everything: Move aggressively and quickly while also questioning your decisions. Question it all. Asking if you’re doing the right thing and assessing the path your company is on helps validate decisions and adds a sense of direction to the forward momentum. The goal is to balance the fast-moving aspects of a startup with some guidance. Organizations that only forge ahead without conducting some introspection will likely fail and not realize it since they’re too busy charging on.
Be sure to check out this year’s Innovation Sandbox Contest. In addition to learning about technologies that could impact information security, you may even get the inspiration or advice you need to start your own infosec company. And from there, you may create a startup that grows into a global security company.