Cybersecurity is a lucrative industry, with the market‘s revenue expected to reach $162 billion by the end of this year. But, as history has shown, plentiful capital does not always translate into market success.
So what's the secret to building a successful cybersecurity firm? It starts with believing passionately in your mission, ReversingLabs CEO Mario Vuksan told an audience at the Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Vuksan was speaking as part of the first Entrepreneur Micro Summit this week at the Black Hat conference. The summit featured a number of seasoned cybersecurity leaders sharing their stories with the next generation of entrepreneurs, to further technological innovation in the cybersecurity industry.
Veteran cybersecurity entrepreneur Justine Bone, chief product officer at Redjack, co-chaired the event with Caleb Sima, CSO at Robinhood. Bone said Vuksan was chosen to lead off the summit’s lineup for good reason:
“Mario is proof that much of successful entrepreneurialism is about patience, commitment, and good old-fashioned hard work, in contrast to the 'overnight’ and somewhat unrealistic expectations many folks have.”
In his Black Hat session, Vuksan focused on how security companies can grow while also maintaining their dedication to both product quality and customers.
Focus on the product for sustainable success
Recalling ReversingLabs' journey, Vuksan said it began with him working alongside the company's co-founder and chief software architect, Tomislav Peričin, more than 15 years ago. When referring to ReversingLabs’ humble beginnings following the 2008 recession, Vuksan did not sugar-coat the reality of the company's start: “This path is not easy and is not straightforward.”
A timeline of ReversingLabs’ growth included both highs and lows over the course of several years. And the moments of imperfection for the company, which proved its resilience, led to ReversingLabs’ sustainable success almost a decade after the company’s start, Vuksan said.
One contributing factor through it all was dedication and a positive mindset:
“What has gotten us through is the belief in what we are doing.”
To have their ideas succeed, Vuksan said, entrepreneurs must remind themselves that they believe in what they have created. He noted that in addition to a positive mindset, the product itself is what matters.
“If you want to survive, your technology has to be solid.”
Entrepreneurs' efforts will only be as strong as the products they are pushing, Vuksan said. Having a quality product that customers are loyal to and that can endure the sudden shifts in the cybersecurity marketplace is essential to organizations' path to sustainable success, he said.
Leaders have a responsibility to their people
What matters most to Vuksan as a CEO is people. That includes his customers, but also those who fuel the company’s success: employees. Companies and their products will thrive under the collaborative efforts of your team, he said.
“You as a founder are responsible for all of the people working for you, as well as their families.”
Of course, cybersecurity leaders must always be customer-centric, going above and beyond to understand what will help make them successful in the long term. By continually asking the question, “What can we do for our customers?” a company can stay aligned with their needs. That, in turn, will pay off in customer loyalty, which can help a small company navigate difficult times, Vuksan said. That was the case with ReversingLabs early on, he told the audience at his Black Hat session.
“On the customer side, you really have to understand where they are coming from.”
That's why leaders who are people-centric in their goals and commitments will likely fare better than those who are not, he said.
Companies need to grow alongside emerging risks
In a volatile marketplace such as cybersecurity, where the actions of malign cybercriminal and nation-state groups often fuel sudden changes in customer demands, the ability to pivot is critical, Vuksan said. He and ReversingLabs co-founder Peričin understood early on in ReversingLabs’ journey that their mission was getting more challenging.
“The organization has grown, but so have the risks. Trusting software is a really difficult proposition.”
Vuksan acknowledged that while ReversingLabs had seen growth and success over the past decade, cybercriminals were also thriving on lapses in the software security space.
In recent years, software supply chain attacks have only gotten worse — and more complicated for organizations to handle. The difference between the supply chain attack on SolarWinds and 3CX, happening three years apart, is evidence of the problem, which ReversingLabs aims to solve.
In addition to the rise of threats such as software supply chain security, leaders need to stay abreast of global factors, such as Russia’s war on Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that their ideas and products are resilient.
[ See ReversingLabs Chief Trust Officer's post: Do you trust your software? Why verification matters ]
The journey continues
ReversingLabs has grown into a leading software supply chain security company, with over 300 employees and a growing customer base. Vuksan said he believes that a continued belief in the mission and technology of the company, as well as consistent dedication to the people fueling the company’s success, will continue to propel ReversingLabs’ growth.
Security leaders planning their path to success can learn from ReversingLab's journey, Vuksan said.