SXSW Startups: Secure Code Warrior
Fifty innovative startups have been chosen for the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event on March 10 and 11. Winners in each of 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB. Network with all the finalists from 11 am to 1:30 pm on Monday, March 12, at SXSW Accelerator Demo Day, at the Hilton Austin, Salon C. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event (as well as the Demo Day) takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.
A finalist in the Security and Privacy Technology category, Secure Code Warrior makes software development better and more secure. Chairman and founder John Fitzgerald answered questions about the his startup’s proven suite of secure coding tools. These tools sit within one powerful platform that moves the focus from reaction to prevention, training and equipping developers to think and act with a security mindset. Learn more when the London-based company pitches at 9:30 am Sunday, March 11, Hilton Austin, Salon AB.
What does Secure Code Warrior hope to achieve in 2018?
2017 was our breakout year. Our target of $250k MRR by year-end was achieved. This represented a 7x growth year-on-year. We now have 60+ clients. This includes 10 of the top 100 Global Banks. In 2018, we’re looking for at least a 3x growth in MRR and turning the 13 Top 100 Global Banks who are currently evaluating/piloting our solution into clients. We’d like to have 30 to 40% of the Global 100 banks as clients by end 2018. We have positioned SCW as the leading preventative secure code solution and 2018.
What is your competitive advantage?
I hate saying this because it sounds arrogant but, so far, we haven’t seen any credible competitor in our space. The key for us is that we’re addressing the two fundamental problems. First, helping developers build the secure coding skills they need in an way that they want to learn — competitive, hands-on, gamified learning using real code. The second area is that we’re then following the developer into his work environment — his IDE. There, our tool Sensei detects when the developer writes insecure code and alerts him in real time. And, if the developer wishes, Sensei can auto-fix the insecure code. An easy way to think about the help that the developer gets in his IDE from Sensei is Spellchecker for Secure Coding.
What inspired your team to apply for SXSW Accelerator?
We learned about SXSW Accelerator when Chris Valentine reached out to us. We’re very grateful. We’ve been so focused on building a great solution that would get traction in the marketplace. This was one of those great moments when someone connects with you and causes you to stop and think “wow — didn’t expect that someone like Chris at SXSW would think that our mission to change the world of coding was a message that might resonate with his audience.” Then, once we thought about it for a short period, we got really excited about the opportunity to take a very geeky subject public.
What are the goals for Secure Code Warrior at SXSW 2018?
First off is to win the Accelerator Pitch event. After that, meet as many smart folks as possible who have any type of interest in our space. Relationships formed that are built around mutual respect are the best possible. Business is done between people in organizations. People in organizations do business with other people that they like and admire. You can never meet too many smart and interesting people.
Has Secure Code Warrior been involved with other pitch events?
We were part of the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab in 2017-Q1. Accenture’s partners in that endeavor included 25 of the global leading financial services and insurance organizations in London. Currently, we’re part of the GCHQ Cybersecurity Accelerator and work closely with GCHQ and NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) in London and Cheltenham. Both the FinTech Lab and the GCHQ Accelerator afford us many opportunities to pitch to national cybersecurity organizations, the press and potential clients.
Tell us about your previous experience at tech conferences.
I’ve been involved in conferences since 2005 when I joined SANS Institute. At Secure Code Warrior our focus has been very targeted. What are the events that provide the best opportunity to deliver a message to the right audience for us? What events allow us to meet and speak with folks at the right level that we want to do business with? Therefore, we’ve focused on events such as RSA Security, BSIMM, OWASP APPSEC (U.S. and E.U.), Accenture Kaleidoscope, SINET, SaaStock Dublin and (ISC)2 Security Congress USA.
How long has the Secure Code Warrior team been together?
Pieter Danhieux (CEO & Founder) and I (Chairman & Founder) have known each other since 2006. Pieter and Matias Madou (CTO & Founder) have known each other since University. Pieter and I started looking at the problem together in 2013 but didn’t start building the solution until start of 2015. Matias was working on an aligned vision product since 2015. In 2017, the three of us decided to merge these efforts — Matias merged his team into SCW.
Have team members previously been involved with other startups?
I worked with SANS Institute for almost 10 years. During that time I did an internal startup called SANS Securing the Human — founding the business with Lance Spitzner. We built this business from zero into the global leader in three years — as validated by Gartner. Pieter is a co-founder of the leading cybersecurity consulting practice in Belgium — NVISO.
Secure Code Warrior is based in London. What kind of impact has Brexit had on the startup/tech ecosystem?
Our field of interest in cybersecurity. This is a global problem. Brexit has had little impact on us. Regarding the rest of the startup/tech ecosystem in London, my impression is that the impact is limited for those organizations that are addressing global problems.
If you weren’t involved in building Secure Code Warrior, what would you be doing?
Solving a different problem in cybersecurity. This is the only industry I’ve been involved in that really gets under your skin. Every day you wake up and think — I can do GOOD today and also do well. It’s hard being a Founder. But not as hard as it would be without that sense of helping make the world a better place.
Which tech industry trend do your think is most underrated?
I think my own area in cybersecurity fits that description. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries at present. However, so much of the industry is focused on reactive product development. Reacting to what attackers are doing, what someone else has built, etc. This industry needs more Elon Musks — folks who think beyond feature creep and don’t just think outside the box. They think outside the grid. We’re facing one of the biggest problems of the past 50 years. We need great thinkers engaged in solving the threats.
What has the startup experience taught you about life?
It makes you humble. It teaches you the value of hard work. It makes you appreciate that nothing is better than working with very smart, motivated colleagues to solve a BIG problem. And you must be constantly focused in. Otherwise somebody smarter than you will drive right by you and you will be left in their dust.
What does your work-life balance look like?
I have a sporting passion — rugby. I’ve played, refereed and administered the sport. Two to three times per month I go out on a Saturday afternoon to referee a game. It’s the only time that I can completely stop thinking about work and, at the end of a game spent chasing/refereeing 30 fit committed athletes playing a bruising competitive game, I am physically tired but mentally completely refreshed. It’s a great feeling and I often have some great insights as I drive home. I’m also very fortunate that my wife is so forgiving of my obsessive focused-in nature when it comes to work. Without that level of support, I would either be very lonely or doing something else.
Person, company, thing or goal. What inspires your team to work harder?
Always has to be the GOAL. Vision and mission are critical. You gotta get that right. The right people around the wrong vision/mission won’t achieve anything. The right people around a great vision/mission can change the world.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before you began the startup journey with Secure Code Warrior?
So much. That’s the beauty of being in a startup. The journey and the learning. It never stops. And, if you think it has, that’s probably the signal to get out. I never worry about mistakes made so long as I can look back and be confident that we made the best decision at the time with all the information that was available to us. 20/20 hindsight vision is, in my opinion, a very dangerous thing for any startup. It sucks the energy out of you.
Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, AfterNow, ARwall, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, FanFood, FutureFuel.io, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Moms Can: Code, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, UPGRADED, USHR and Vochlea.
Or, click here to browse the full lineup of startups for SXSW Accelerator 2018.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.