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Cyber security startup finds warm welcome in US

LANDING PADS CASE STUDY

Cyber security startup finds warm welcome in US

Australia’s first subscription-based cyber security collaboration platform, Security Colony, is built on a simple philosophy: solve a problem in one organisation, share the solution with others.

‘Security Colony takes millions of dollars of cyber security investment across the market and makes it available to companies for a small annual subscription fee, saving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and weeks or months of effort,’ says Nick Ellsmore, co-founder of Security Colony and cyber security consultancy Hivint.

Security Colony’s resource library contains the reports, templates, guidelines and procedures generated by cyber security consulting projects undertaken by Hivint. The company’s maturity assessment tool allows organisations to generate a tailored threat and risk profile, and recommends pragmatic solutions.

Ellsmore understands that organisations are traditionally reluctant to share too much information with their counterparts, citing issues of trust, privacy and competitiveness. Ultimately, though, very few organisations want to ‘compete’ on security, and the cyber security industry has rallied around the principle of collaboration to lift the level of security economy-wide. With innovative organisations leading the way, the platform has resonated.

Key Australian subscribers include Atlassian, AMP and ME Bank and, following Security Colony’s participation in the Australian Government’s Landing Pad in San Francisco, several high-profile US organisations.

The Landing Pads program provides market-ready startups and scaleups with immersive, 90-day residencies in global innovation hubs including Berlin, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore and Tel Aviv. The program allows startups to share ideas, develop business models, and benefit from Austrade’s extensive global network.

Security Colony was one of five companies selected to take part in a cyber security—focused program at the San Francisco Landing Pad in early 2018. During the Landing Pad residency, Security Colony received tailored access to investors, mentors, and corporate leaders such as Microsoft, ForgePoint Capital, Cisco, and Symantec.

At the end of its residence, the company joined 60 Australian cyber security delegates in a business mission designed around the RSA Conference. As part of the mission, Security Colony also had the opportunity to pitch to an audience of venture capitalists, cyber industry and enterprise customers at the Australian Cyber Security Demo Day. The mission was led by Austrade in partnership with AustCyber (the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network), the ACT, NSW, SA and Victorian state governments, and Data61.

Distance learning in San Francisco

‘We have always had aspirations to grow the Security Colony business internationally, and the US market is both the largest cyber security market in the world, and also the most mature in terms of consuming online services,’ says Craig Searle, co-founder of Security Colony and cyber security consultancy Hivint. ‘It was a great opportunity to learn and improve our product.

‘San Francisco is the birthplace of so many world-changing innovations, and has such a vibrant ecosystem of innovation and development that it was an obvious choice to help us learn from the best.’

The Landing Pads program connected Ellsmore and Searle with major tech companies, potential partners and venture capitalists, enabling them to glean expert advice on growing their subscriber base, improving their sales process and strengthening their selling message.

During their time in the program, they signed up FitBit, San Diego Association of Governments and the Tacoma School District. They also secured a partnership with TechData to deliver a module within their suite of ‘RECON’ services. One of the largest software distributors in the world, TechData bundles up offerings and provides them as a suite. TechData’s latest ‘RECON Policy’ offering is built around the Security Colony platform; it is a deal that gives Hivint access to millions of additional customers.

Security Colony now has a dedicated team in the US continuing to build the business and manage the TechData relationship. The company maintains its Melbourne headquarters and offices in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

Fostering connections and camaraderie

Security Colony also signed a contract with fellow Landing Pad participant, VideoMyJob, to streamline its video development.

‘Online content is becoming more and more video-centric, and the ability to rapidly generate new cyber security video content helps further differentiate Security Colony,’ says Ellsmore.

That cross-pollination was a big positive: ‘The ability to meet, network and do business with other Australian cyber security companies was invaluable. The camaraderie that forms, and the knowledge gained from each other, is just as valuable as the external contribution,’ he says.

Communication equals conversion

Ellsmore says just being in the Bay Area was a plus, as it exposed them to a range of startup founders, both within the Landing Pad and the broader San Francisco scene, and informed how to rapidly grow a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business.

He says one of their biggest learnings from the Landing Pad was ‘a strong understanding of how to communicate the purpose and value of the product to increase conversion rates from free users to paid users.’

Looking ahead, Ellsmore anticipates that Security Colony’s activity in the US market will grow in the next year or two as the company works to set up partnerships similar to the one with TechData.

Domestic expansion also continues, with a new office planned for Canberra.

Both Ellsmore and Searle agree that one of the key benefits of the Landing Pad program is not necessarily the ‘landing and selling’, but rather, landing in a new market and learning from it.

‘We learned that our product is genuinely internationally relevant,’ says Searle. ‘It reaffirmed that our business model was unique, and once we refined our sales and marketing messages and could clearly communicate the problem that Security Colony solved, we saw the strong demand for it.

‘Being in a new market enabled us to tweak and improve our product and services – leaving us with a better offering in the end,’ he says.

Recent news

In early October 2018, the consultancy Hivint was successfully acquired by Singtel Optus – a move that will facilitate the company’s global plans. Ellsmore states: ‘Looking forward, there’s an amazing journey ahead of us now that we’re a part of the Singtel family. There’s no borders in cyberspace, and our vision for Hivint was always to be a global player – a vision that will now be greatly accelerated under Optus “Trustwave brand”.