Security breaches, compromised data, and cybersecurity have become routine subjects of our daily news. The “Creeper Virus” made its debut in the early 1970s, but the term “computer virus,” didn’t enter our lexicon until 30+ years later. Phishing, malware, and ransomware are nefarious schemes that make even the most seasoned network professionals shudder.
Denial of Service is a newer form of cyber attack which disrupts activity to create pandemonium, typically in high-profile servers like banks or hospitals.
One growing trend is the number of data breaches reported each year since the 1980s when they began to be cited with some regularity. Data breaches may target personally identifiable information (PII), personal health info (PHI), payment card info (PCI), more valuable data. Data breaches were not officially tracked until 2005 at which time 136 were reported by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Data breaches are getting bigger and more brazen
We all remember the 2012 Experian breach of 200 million records; the largest reported data breach until Verizon was hacked in 2014, compromising more than 700 million records. Here are some stats that will terrify you:
- Since 2005, there have been more than 5,000 breaches of over 10 billion individual records.
- A staggering 8 billion records were exposed through breaches in 2019 alone.
- One out of three victims of a data breach later becomes a victim of identity theft.
- In December 2019, 267 million records on Facebook were hacked. In January 2020, the UN servers were hacked. Then came LabCorp; not to mention 250 million records breached at Microsoft.
It only takes a few bad actors to threaten the financial stability and credibility of the world’s largest companies. One major challenge that smaller companies constantly struggle with is the lack of expertise required to ensure the design and operation of a safe IT infrastructure. Grit Daily caught up with Konstantine Zuckerman to learn more about CYBRI and how their marketplace for cybersecurity is bringing safety and relief to the masses.
Grit Daily: Thanks for taking some time with us today, Konstantine. Tell us about your path to entrepreneurism.
Konstantine Zuckerman: I’ve been thinking about building a marketplace for over seven years with the goal of enabling smaller companies and individuals to have the same security benefits that enterprise companies do. Small and medium-sized businesses deserve the same success and support that larger companies have with network security. Around 2016, I realized how big the global cybersecurity issue was. A year or so later, I decided that I needed to do something to empower and enable smaller businesses to fight against the threat of cyber attacks. I had been working in tech for nearly a decade, so the marriage of technology and cybersecurity came naturally to me. The one-stop-shop marketplace model already existed and had been proven to be a model for success – but it had not been applied to cybersecurity despite the need for it. So I built it.
GD: What makes you a good fit for an entrepreneur and how did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
KZ: I’ve been in tech for most of my professional career and operated independently so this wasn’t new for me. For the first year, I used my own capital and resources to build CYBRI. Having launched and managed my own company in the past, I knew what it was going to take to be successful. I also recognized the fact that I needed to focus my effort on something that I was truly passionate about and would be more meaningful for everyone involved. For me, that meant helping smaller businesses battle the growing threat of cyber attacks. I’m a serial entrepreneur; I identify a problem or need and create a business around the solution.
GD: What’s the question that you wish people would ask you?
KZ: I’d like to be asked what my vision is – it’s important to know and care about what goes on beyond the day-to-day operations. I like to talk big picture. It’s what gets me going every day.
GD: I always ask that question! Konstantine, what’s your vision for CYBRI?
KZ: My vision is to truly make CYBRI the one-stop destination for all businesses, large and small, to get access to cybersecurity products, monitoring, support and talent that they need to be successful in this battle. Essentially, I’d like us to become the ‘GoDaddy of cybersecurity.’
GD: I’m always interested in how people come up with the names for their company. How did you arrive at yours?
KZ: I believe in short URLs. My wife coined the name. I own many URLs related to this business but they’re all quite long and not as easy to remember. At first, we purchased CYBRI.co, then CYBRI.net but we later hired a domain broker and purchased the .com domain once we were established. Our goal was to have something memorable but not too generic or gimmicky.
GD: Every entrepreneur that I’ve spoken to has pivoted at least once, if not more. Have you pivoted and, if so, what did you change?
KZ: While I was running my software development company, I recognized the need for cybersecurity which, although related in some aspects, was going to be a big pivot. Going in, I knew that I had a lot of learning to do and would need help building something sustainable and impactful. I obtained my MBA from Brown University, then earned my Cybersecurity Certification from Harvard University which required a substantial investment of time (2.5 years) in order to become fully prepared to launch and run CYBRI. The CYBRI Board is of great importance to me and our company as they are traveling all over to learn about the market need and guide us with what they are learning.
GD: What’s the greatest challenge you’ve encountered thus far?
KZ: Independent learning: when I ventured out at 18 to start my first company, I did not have parents or other mentors guiding and supporting me. By the time I was 22, I was renting a whole floor on 6th Ave running an e-Commerce development company. Methodically, I took one step after another towards bigger and grander goals to create more of a positive impact on the world.
GD: What do you wish you did differently in your life?
KZ: Nothing. I have been deliberately thoughtful about everything that I have done. I was born in the late 1980s in Ukraine, I witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, came to the USA to build a business and taught myself how to be an entrepreneur. In hindsight, starting young was a very good plan.
GD: How are you changing cybersecurity?
KZ: I’m not changing it. This field is complicated. What we’re changing is who has access to the talent and tools needed to ensure cybersecurity safety. Smaller businesses (SMBs) were previously locked out of the field without the resources needed to protect themselves: 43% of SMBs are hacked as a gateway to the big enterprise guys who are the clients of the SMBs. If there is a breach, the SMB’s reputation often becomes tarnished beyond repair, leading to the business folding.
GD: Market research identifies findings that are critical to focusing business priorities. You’ve taken a twist on cybersecurity by offering a marketplace for it, tell us about your market research efforts that identified this need.
KZ: Before I went down this path, I attended numerous conferences and workshops to learn about the market and what was working versus not. Next, I tapped critical talent with experience in cybersecurity to advise me. As founders, we need to surround ourselves with people who know the industry better than we do. We reached out to Gartner analysts to understand trends and prepare for what was coming next. A lot of handshakes were required to understand the risks and what it would take for CTOs, cybersecurity officers, and investors to believe in what we were doing. The DreamIt Ventures Acceleration Program had a tremendous impact on our path: only seven companies were accepted from more than one thousand applicants. They put us in front of CISOs of BNY Mellon, J.P. Morgan Chase, BlueCross Blue Shield, Amazon and other large organizations who helped sharpen our offerings.
GD: At the FundingPost 2019 pitch event, you were the only startup that had representation from their Advisory Board there. Tell us about the importance of selecting the right Board members.
KZ: Advisors must offer a blend of strategy and knowledge. My first advisor was unofficial but guided me and made critical introductions. Then we brought in Jack Briggs, a retired Major General from the U.S. Airforce; who brought in leadership and business operational knowledge to help polish our offerings. Next came Pavan Jagtiani, who was the Global Head of Network and Security Build Services at Citigroup, to guide our product offering and make strategic introductions. You have to find people that can provide value more than just their namesake.
GD: Tell me about your funding journey. What stage are you at and how have you funded your startup to date?
KZ: We are currently in a seed round. To date, we’ve raised capital from angel investors but we’re now looking for more seasoned investors. We want strategic investors who can bring more to the table than just capital.
GD: Many entrepreneurs struggle with pitching. What tips do you want to share with others on how to deliver a good pitch?
KZ: Once a company has clients and real traction for a real proof of concept, things are going to naturally fall right into place. Getting the first few customers separates ‘wantrepreneurs’ from real entrepreneurs because investors value execution. Do not jump to take money right away or you will become diluted: if you do too many fundraising rounds, the founders will eventually abandon the company because there’s no more value left to extract; and that’s a deep hole to dig out of. Be cautious about who you work with; as soon as you take money, then you’re married. And divorce is not easy! Get good attorneys who can structure things properly so that you don’t short sell yourself and don’t oversell the vision.
GD: How do you think cybersecurity will change over the next 5 years?
KZ: Automation for monitoring, detection, and cloud will continue to play a greater role. A mere $100 is all that you need to launch a huge ransomware campaign that is tough to intercept and halt. AI and machine learning will be utilized for nefarious gain to launch and manage these cyber attacks. Assessment and testing will likely become automated to a greater extent but not 100%. Cybersecurity is also about how fast your machines respond to an attack and speed is improving every year. In closing, you must stay protected!