Our call with founders Edward Carroll and Jeremiah Smith started with the small talk you might expect from those in the startup space: there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
But while chatting about their new venture, Asheville, North Carolina-based Edison Marks, I’m fairly convinced they have somehow managed to bend our understanding of time and add a few hours to the day.
That seems like the only possible way they could have gone from idea to product in just a matter of months. That, or the two have stumbled on a timely and important problem to solve in the cybersecurity space.
Carroll and Smith, who grew up as childhood friends in North Carolina, saw a “pretty interesting opening to leverage behavioral science to make [small businesses] aware of the cybersecurity problems they are facing,” Carroll told Hypepotamus.
That “aha!” moment came in July of 2021 while Carroll was looking at ideas for his master’s capstone project. The two won an NC IDEA grant in October, which Smith said was “validation that the concept had weight. That’s when we recruited our CTO and began executing on a series of milestones. We moved really fast in those three months.”
Central to Edison Mark’s mission is to make managing cybersecurity as easy as monitoring your credit score. “Our real secret sauce is not just presenting a score to someone, but presenting it in a manner that properly nudges that individual to take action without creating an increased stress scenario,” added Smith. “All we do is worry about your cybersecurity health. We want to give you one place to go to continually monitor and improve that health without the overload.”
That looks like giving you peer-to-peer comparisons so you can see how similar businesses are doing on their cybersecurity or giving you bitesize tips (like how to enable a password manager).
Using behavioral science in a business setting is something many people are already familiar with. “Credit Karma is a fantastic example of behavioral economics being used every day for good,” said Smith. “People stress about their financial health and financial well being, but Credit Karma is trying to do is not give you too much [information] all at once, but give you exactly what you need that is going to be most valuable right now to you, given where you are in your financial life cycle. We’re doing the same thing for cybersecurity.”
The concept hinges on Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s research and writing, which has been implemented across the business and consumer spaces for decades.
The team is rolling out its first group of beta users in the coming weeks, which will center on managed service providers as a way to help the team test and scale to small businesses more quickly down the road.
“Cybersecurity is a long game. So taking small actions every day or once in a while to help improve your stance are all opportunities,” added Smith.
The team is also focused on ensuring that the behavioral science approach to cybersecurity is a positive addition to small businesses owners, many of whom have struggled during the pandemic and cannot afford the take on any pricey cybersecurity attacks. “We want to be able to give back to the community and make small businesses more secure,” added Carroll.