Spotlight on the CyRise teams: The Cynch story
We’re edging closer to Demo Day and four months into the program, we’ve grown to know our cohort pretty well. It’s time to shine a spotlight on each of the teams so that you can get to know them as well as we do. We want to start with Cynch.
Entrepreneurship is demanding, no matter the vertical you’re in, but there’s something uniquely challenging about playing in the cyber security sector. Those in the industry know that a security breach is a very real risk to them and their company. Others are less aware, but that doesn’t make the risk any less real or the impact less debilitating.
Think specifically of small business.
They make up 97% of all business in Australia. Talk to most cyber security experts and they’ll advise you to keep a safe distance from the SMB market. Why? Because before you can even begin to offer them a cyber security solution, you first need to make them aware of the risk.
Enter Cynch Security, an SMB-focused solution from a co-founder duo who care deeply about educating and training small business leaders to be cyber resilient. For Adam Selwood and Susie Jones, it’s about the people at the centre of the business. It’s the small business leaders who are often forgotten.
‘For a small business owner like an accountant’, says Susie, ‘a data breach and the realisation that client information has been compromised soon becomes the worst day of their work life — in some cases, it can be the end of their career.’
For a small business owner, that business is their identity. It’s the result of years of work; it’s expertise and energy and reputation. All of this can be dismantled instantly when they’re the victim of a breach.
The seed of Cynch
The need was first identified in 2015. Adam was introduced to Have I been pwned?. Entering his email address he could see his details had been compromised. ‘It’s that moment of knowing your info has been breached,‘ says Adam, ‘it lifts the veil. It exposes you to a new reality. But then there’s a feeling of ‘what next?’. Luckily I had the expertise to work out how I could safeguard against this, but for most people, there’s nothing to suggest how you could resolve the problem or even avoid it.’
Fast forward a few years and Adam and Susie found themselves working alongside each other in the Innovation arm of Auspost. After careers in the corporate world, that taste of innovation lured them into entrepreneurial life.
Helping small business owners sleep at night
The Cynch dashboard provides steps that can be completed by the business owner or delegated to their team members in as little as 5 minutes a day. It’s not about building a new solution or creating a new dot; it’s about connecting the dots. It’s training a behaviour and prioritising tasks, so that they’re not only more secure, but equipped to handle a breach should it ever happen.
‘10% of small businesses experience a breach, but 100% need a cyber security solution that’s right for them’, explains Susie. ‘With Cynch, small business leaders can sleep well at night knowing their business is cyber resilient’.
Bonded by a distaste for bureaucracy
The majority of Adam’s family works in small business. It’s fostered in him a deep and genuine care for those who have the gumption to run their own business, and an understanding that they shouldn’t be expected to have the technical expertise to understand cyber security. Susie is an agitator — never content with the status quo and comfortable shaking things up in order to make a difference, determined to succeed in providing good to those who are largely underserved. Spending much of their respective careers circumventing or rewriting process, Adam and Susie bond over a mutual distaste for bureaucracy, shaking off unnecessary rules in order to get shit done.
Susie writes the list. Adam maps it. This co-founding team is complementary. Her first step is to detail the problem. His first step is to visualise it. They discuss the details until they’ve manoeuvred their way from their naturally opposing approaches to a middle ground that always has their customer at the centre. The art of compromise has been honed by their approach to communication, always ensuring they understand and are understood. They talk often and always and in more detail rather than less. Silence breeds uncertainty, which was highlighted for them when Susie was away in Israel for the CyRise mission in November last year; Adam working in Melbourne, part-time at Auspost and part-time at Cynch. Due to time zones and busyness, communication was limited. There was a perceived divide in approach that was unfounded, spurred simply by the silence. Their first in-person conversation after Susie’s return showed they were actually very much aligned. The approach now? Constant Slack updates, emails, and in-person conversations to get on the same page, to hash things out and to sharpen ideas.
Complementary skill sets underpin a successful co-founding team
We’ve heard it from VCs, and here at CyRise, it’s also one of our philosophies: we invest in people not product. A product still needs to pique our interest, but more important than having a fully-functioning vehicle is having drivers who are agile, motivated, sharp, and open to being challenged.
In a co-founding team, the spotlight is not only on the individual’s character and coach-ability, but the team dynamic. Adam and Susie are a tenacious duo with a shared vision. Different in many ways, but focused on the same end goal, they are fierce in their support for one another and show compassion and understanding when navigating each other’s quirks and challenges. This is the same compassion that they hold for small business leaders. It’s an example of how the personal values of the founders are realised in their product. Cynch holds people at its centre, genuinely wanting to do good, to have an impact, to improve the lives of the small business owners who are the lifeblood of our economy.
‘Never fast enough!’
The Cynch pace is impressive, maintained and energised by an incredibly trusted and connected co-founder relationship. Each day they ruthlessly prioritise their tasks. This helps maintain focus and pace. Naturally people who want to ‘smash’ through tasks, these two hold themselves to an impeccably high standard with the motto ‘never fast enough’.
‘When I’m having a bad day, what pulls me out of it is knowing how many small business are themselves having a bad day because they’ve experienced a cyber security incident.’ says Susie. ‘The faster we move, the quicker we can slow down the problem’. They’re spurred by empathy.
Adam explains further: ‘Once you’ve seen there’s a problem, you can’t un-see it. Our pace won’t change until we’ve made the impact we need to.’
When the pace kills you
That pace, however, can be hard to maintain. A few weeks ago, the pace broke Adam. ‘I freaked and walked. I could see what was two weeks ahead and I didn’t know how we were going to get there. I could not see a path to that point. There were so many things to be done and I felt an overwhelming pressure of not moving fast enough. I closed my laptop and walked. I actually couldn’t speak.’
Sensing the distress, Susie followed Adam out the door, the two of them ending up at the pub with a couple of beers. This is Cynch in its natural habitat. Two comrades, at the pub, troubleshooting shit.
‘This is the benefit of being different’, says Susie. ‘Different things will tip you. We’re triggered by different things. When one is having a bad day or a challenge, the other is there with a clear head to help resolve the problem.’ In those moments they’re able to support each other. ‘It’s so refreshing to partner with someone who is so different, but who you also gel with. I’ve had my bad days too, and Adam knows how to support me when I need it.’
‘Those moments that break you, or almost break you, they’re the moments that bring clarity.’ adds Adam. ‘They’re hard, but they’re useful.’
When the pace pays off
Four months into the program and Cynch has validated the problem, carved out a target customer market, and crafted and launched a product. With the first customers excited by and engaging with the program, they’re gathering all-important customer feedback, ironing out kinks and continuing to develop the Cynch platform. Are you a small business? Or know a small business that could benefit from Cynch? They’re currently offering a free 30-day trial for their membership that’s definitely worth signing up for.
Honesty, Humanity and Connecting the dots: Celebrating the Cynch values
The Cynch approach to educating the unaware is a compassionate one. A common, and often patronising response to a small business who has experienced a breach would be, ‘Didn’t you know?’. Simply put, SMBs don’t know what they don’t know. Cynch meets them where they’re at, and with Adam and Susie’s sensitivity towards the time, budget and knowledge-base constraints of small business owners, it’s clear that people are at the centre of all they do. Dot by dot, these co-founders are helping underserved businesses increase their cyber resilience so their livelihood and reputation are protected. Despite the majority of the industry keeping their distance, Cynch are offering a cyber security solution for SMBs. They’re doing it for the underdog.