For veteran entrepreneur Adam Anderson, getting a good laugh out of you during a cybersecurity training is the sign of a job well done. That measurement, he says, stems from his fundamentally different vision around what it takes to teach employees about cyber threats.
“We say security is way too important to be taken seriously. When you take something seriously, you go into fight or flight mode and cortisol goes through the roof. And when you have that fight or flight response, guess what shuts down? Every part of your brain that’s capable of learning, curiosity, and creativity,” he told Hypepotamus.
Anderson is the founder of Hook Security, a Greenville, South Carolina-based training platform that focuses on psychological security as a way to teach critical cybersecurity issues.
The startup is taking on the very premise of how traditional cyber awareness programs work.
“The whole problem with the [cybersecurity] industry is that at the beginning…we should have given it to marketing or HR. It is a human problem, not a technology problem. But because it had the word cybersecurity in it, we gave it to IT. Now, IT is really good at protecting data at rest, in transit and in use. What they’re not great at is understanding how humans respond to certain things,” he added.
Changing The Cyber Training Landscape
Hook is a culmination of Anderson’s over 20 years in the cybersecurity world. He started his professional career as a security engineer and Y2K consultant (yes, remember that?) before ultimately jumping into entrepreneurship. Hook was born because he saw that most cybersecurity awareness training is “actually causing risk and not preventing risk.”
Hook has been going after the SMB (small-to-medium sized business) market, but has reached an inflection point. The startup’s pipeline has had more enterprise clients than they were expecting recently, something Anderson attributes to the lack of solid alternatives available for compliance-heavy companies.
Anderson admits the new potential customer pool has brought about new entrepreneurial challenges for the growing team.
“It is as if all of the sudden we’re playing jazz music and somebody came in with a different instrument we didn’t know how to play with. But that is the thing I love about entrepreneurship. Every couple of years, you’re gonna have to change what you do and how you do it. The last three months have really been about how do we keep up with our growth and do it in an elegant way that practices psychological security. It is important that we practice what we preach. How do we make sure our employees are healthy and our customers are healthy while we’re riding this train?”
Helping Anderson conduct that train is Zach Eikenberry, an educator-turned-entrepreneur and Hook’s CEO based in Florida. Bringing on a non-cybersecurity professional was key for the growth of the company, Anderson explained. Eikenberry founded several entrepreneurial-focused high schools and middle schools and understands the challenges that come with creating engaging training programs.
The team is now 13 people strong. This August, Hook closed a Series A funding round from the accelerator program Tampa Bay WaVE.
Cyber in the Southeast
Anderson has started multiple cyber-focused companies over the last 20 years in the Southeast, which he describes as “fertile ground to build a better kind of tech company.”
The “edutainment” aspect of cybersecurity training is of critical importance to the growing cybersecurity scene. 221 Southeast-based cybersecurity and network security startups have raised outside funding over the last two years, according to Crunchbase data, underlying the national trend towards a more security-focused world. One of the bigger headlines from the region recently was Curricula, an edutainment-style company using animation for cyber training, getting acquired for $22 million in July.
As for Hook Security, the team is set for a busy month across the Southeast. After taking home the Judge’s Choice Award at NEXT Venture Summit in Greenville, Hook secured a spot on the Venture Atlanta stage next week.