Jamie Akhtar, aside from being the CEO and co-founder of CyberSmart, is a veritable titan of the cybersecurity industry. From cutting his teeth in New York serving as CTO for investment firms and gaming companies, to turning his attention to the underdogs, Jamie has a refreshing and unique take on the industry at large.
Can you tell me a bit about you and your background?
I’ve been obsessed with technology for as long as I can remember. Since the time I first switched on a computer, I’ve always loved building (and occasionally breaking) things. My obsession has taken me on a pretty wild path, from wearing a white hat as an ethical hacker to being the CTO of several organisations. It all culminated in me founding CyberSmart five years ago.
What drives you to pursue Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is something I’ve always been passionate about but there’s more to it than that. It’s also a sector where I can make a real difference. CyberSmart was founded because we looked at the cybersecurity landscape and felt there was something missing.
There are plenty of cybersecurity tools designed for large enterprises with big budgets, but next to nothing for small businesses, who make up 99% of the UK economy. We started CyberSmart to bridge that gap and help every small business protect itself. It’s an ambitious goal, but it certainly motivates us!
What is unique about working with CyberSmart?
It’s all about the people. It might sound cliche but we really do have an incredible team of people, all experts in their field, from the customer success team through to research and innovation. CyberSmart is made up of people who really care about protecting small businesses and it’s what makes the company what it is. We really couldn’t do it without them.
What can you tell me about CyberSmart’s origins? What motivated its launch and its current trajectory?
That’s simple, 58% of all cybercrime targets small businesses. Yet, SMEs are often an afterthought in the cyber sector. Most of the options out there cater to enterprise-level companies with big budgets and in-house expertise, leaving SMEs underserved and under-protected. It was clear to us those small businesses needed something different.
As for our current trajectory, we’re growing rapidly. In the last year alone, our revenue and customer base have doubled. But, as far as we’re concerned, we’re just getting started. We won’t stop until we’ve helped every small business get the protection they need.
A consistent problem in Information Security is stress and burnout. A Voice of SecOps report found that 46% of cybersecurity professionals know at least one person who left cybersecurity altogether in the past year due to stress. Do you feel that this is one of, if not the, most prevalent issue in the culture of cybersecurity? How does CyberSmart plan to or currently address it?
Yes, it’s certainly an occupational hazard given the relentless rise in cybercrime. But it’s one that we work very hard to address. First and foremost, CyberSmart needs to be a place where people enjoy working. We’re trying to solve big problems and no one can do that if they’re feeling burned out or stressed.
To counter this, we’ve trained several members of staff to be mental health first aiders, give all employees free access to Spill (a mental health service), insist that no one works more than their contracted hours, and offer flexible working as standard. As I said previously, CyberSmart would be nothing without its team, so we make sure we value them, in actions rather than just words.
Who needs CyberSmart’s product? Who is your end user?
Any small business that wants a simple, comprehensive and cost-effective way to improve their cybersecurity and stay safe. The beauty of our product is that it removes the need for cybersecurity knowledge, access to experts or deep pockets to protect your business.
How do you stand out from what’s currently on offer in the market?
In all honesty, what we’re doing is unique. As far as we’re aware, nobody else in the market is combining round-the-clock protection, staff training, cybersecurity certifications and insurance in one product. We’ve empowered thousands of customers by offering complete protection to small businesses in a way that no one else is.
How big of a factor is time and effort when it comes to implementing cybersecurity within SMEs? Are companies simply unwilling to switch to a safer method of cybersecurity because they believe there is too much time involved?
That’s certainly part of it and time to value is one of the most important metrics (for us, it’s measured in minutes). Cybersecurity does have a reputation for being complex and time-consuming. But there are other factors in play. It’s also partly down to a simple lack of awareness about the importance of good cybersecurity practices (although this is changing). And, also cost. A lot of the options out there are simply too expensive for small businesses, however important cybersecurity is.
Where do you see CyberSmart in the next 5 years?
Obviously, some of our plans will have to stay under wraps for now. But broadly, we want to reach as many small businesses in the world as possible and accelerate our expansion into other markets while continuing to enhance the product and our position as the category leader. The great thing about CyberSmart is that our products are applicable just about anywhere there are small businesses at risk of attack.
Is Zero Trust well enough understood when you’re speaking to customers or is there still an education process around it?
At the moment zero trust is more suitable for organisations with a sophisticated approach to cyber risk management. It definitely has applications for SME security, but we’re not there yet. In lots of cases, we’re working with small businesses with little to no cybersecurity knowledge so we work on getting the basics down first. Particularly when those basics can protect an SME from most of the cyber threats it’s likely to face.