Zach Eikenberry, CEO of Hook Security, grew up in a county in Indiana where there were more pigs than people. He went on to become the first person in his family to attend university. Upon graduating from Purude University with a dual degree in philosophy and economics, Eikenberry received a single job offer at a medical records company. During the interview, he was standing on the warehouse floor overlooking a sea of empty desks. Puzzled by the sight, he came to learn that the company had previously laid off most of its employees during an economic downturn. In that moment, he realized that all he wanted was job security, and that the only way to get that would be to hire himself. Eikenberry has not written another resume since.
Over the years, he ran a software company that handled federal contracts and went on to found a few consulting firms. In 2011, Eikenberry opened NEXT School, a middle school and high school program that trains young people in entrepreneurship, so they, too, can hire themselves one day.
After retiring from that project in 2018, he connected with his longtime friend Adam Anderson, who was concerned with the way corporations trained employees to recognize cybersecurity threats. Eikenberry said, “It sounds like we took all the bad ideas from public education and moved them into corporate education.” Anderson agreed, and together, the duo founded Hook Security to fix corporate education and training in cybersecurity.
Eikenberry wears many hats at Hook Security, serving as CEO, CFO, Chief Fundraiser, Chief Strategy Officer and controller. He describes his day-to-day as removing roadblocks for his employees so that things can run more smoothly. He brings the same drive he had for NEXT School to Hook Security, stating, “I wake up every day attempting to solve a one size fits all training problem, which is the same problem we have in public education, where young people get the same training on the same day batched in classes down the factory line without any consideration for their individual circumstances.”
While Eikenberry understands the value he brings to the business, from his experience in education and the fact that he likes, “to solve big problems with complex variables… problems that have irreducible complexity,” he always gives credit where it is due. His LinkedIn page recently listed all the things one of Hook Security’s Client Success Managers accomplished in one day, adding, “She’s killing it!” He understands that the PhD advisors on Hook Security’s board give him a better idea of how to move forward with effective corporate training modules. They help him recognize the issues that the industry is facing, such as “training delusion” and “coverage,” or covering too much material in different ways, which dilutes the impact of the training itself.
Hook Security is currently in the process of launching a nonprofit to sponsor more research on how people are socially engineered and manipulated through technology. Eikenberry wants the nonprofit, “to bring all the psychological security research to the marketplace, so that we can start showing other companies how to leverage how our brains actually work into security training.” Beyond corporate training, he hopes that the nonprofit can help people differentiate between authentic and inauthentic news stories.
Zach Eikenberry believes in Hook Security’s capacity to create a new market category by shifting the thinking around training, psychological security and recognizing and responding to manipulation. Ultimately, he says, “we’re bringing a new point of view to an industry, who keeps trying the same things over and over again, and trying to build better mousetraps.”