Giving away something for free turned into a big money opportunity for Atlanta-based Curricula.
The cybersecurity training platform launched a free version of its plan last November as a way to give back to the community and drive more awareness around security issues.
“The moment we launched that we were approached by several strategic inbounds, as well as VCs, private equity, and everything in between,” CEO Nick Santora told Hypepotamus.
That ultimately opened up a conversation with Huntress, a Maryland-based SMB-focused managed security platform that has helped over 68,000 businesses with cybersecurity needs.
Today, Huntress announced it has acquired Curricula for $22 million.
That is an impressive number for a company that was bootstrapped for its first five years and raised a $3 million Series A at the beginning of 2020. The timing of the deal is also something to note. M&A deals have fallen by nearly 26% year-over-year as companies brace for an uncertain second half of 2022, according to a recent analysis by Reuters.
But Santora said it was ultimately the right time to start a new chapter at Curricula.
“There were a lot of people looking at us. But ultimately when we sat down and we aligned ideals and cultures and values and where we wanted to take the company…we found this was more than a perfect fit [for Curricula],” added Santora. “We have somewhat of a combined customer base. [Huntress] is there to protect from threats and attacks on the endpoint, and we’re designed to help the actual employees using those endpoints. We think that together these two products complement each other so well that it’s almost like a 1 + 1 = 100.”
LESSONS LEARNED FROM CURRICULA
Curricula was bootstrapped for the first five years before joining forces with the small private equity firm RCP Equity for its Series A. Santora added in a blog post that he had to take out personal loans and make other massive personal sacrifices to keep Curricula going.
Along the way, Curricula created its own animated world to help explain the tricky and ever-changing world of cybersecurity to businesses of all sizes. DeeDee, a 5-year-old villain hacker, became the face of the brand and helped make security training more fun and relatable.
Along with creating a new cast of animated characters, Santora built up a team of close to 20 working remotely across the country or in Atlanta Tech Village, according to LinkedIn.
Santora said the Curricula team, including the founders, will stay on board as they “scale” following the acquisition.
“It was probably the biggest challenge in my life to get a company from absolutely nothing to where it is today,” Santora said. When asked about what the high point has been building up the startup, he said it was “bringing together a team of people that probably would have never been each other.”
“We weren’t the biggest name on the radar. We basically bootstrapped and worked really hard to get where we are and we stayed under the radar on purpose,” Santora added.
Now, Santora is dishing out some free advice to other founders looking to scale an idea.
“It’s not about idolizing fundraising rounds as the only form of success that exists. It’s just a milestone to achieve. We think that there are plenty of opportunities for startups to partner up with organizations that are on the rocket ship…and together they can look at opportunities to combine products, vision, teams, or missions to make something bigger than themselves.”