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Three CISOs Share Why and How They Embrace Startup Tech

Janey Hoe's avatar

Janey Hoe

By Janey Hoe, Vice President, with Neetta Shetty, Portfolio Development Manager

A CISO's job is never done.

As if the steady drumbeat of high-profile cybersecurity attacks wasn't enough to occupy the full attention bandwidth of CISOs these days, there's also the endless daily challenges of developing, refining, and implementing strategies and technologies that keep the intruders at bay.

I believe that innovative thinking has always been and will continue to be the difference-maker when it comes to all the ways of keeping private information secure. But innovation is transitory and maintaining a business posture that promotes innovation is not easy.

As CISO, you've already surrounded yourself with a strong team of innovative thinkers, but is that enough? If you're like most CISOs, I imagine you also look to the startup security space to find additional avenues of creative problem-solving. And you're right to do so.

But the landscape cybersecurity startups and innovation is dynamic- that is the nature of security. Even after you or your associate identifies a startup with the potential to round out and strengthen your current technology stack, your work has only just begun. You need to engage with them, help guide development, and weave their product into your existing architecture. In short, creating productive, long-term partnerships with startups is a committed process.

I firmly believe that in the long run, it's well worth the effort.

So how does a CISO engage startups in a way that best meets their company’s evolving needs? When Cisco Investments developed its 2021 edition of the CISO Survival Guide, we posed that very question to dozens of CISOs who participated in the report. The prevailing sentiment was first make a meaningful commitment to sourcing and after that, opinions diverged.

For Trina Ford, CISO of AEG Worldwide, the next step is to take a holistic look at the technology you have in place. "You have to strike the right balance between mature and emerging technologies and be ready to adjust constantly. Having an agile approach helps ensure you are adapting to shifting business priorities as well as preparing for external factors that may force immediate change, like with the COVID-19 pandemic."

Addressing how technology considerations affect your decision on which companies to embrace. According to Ford’s security leader, "As a CISO, when you look at your security stack, you want to ensure that you are adopting leading-edge technology while identifying areas of overlap to drive optimization and efficiencies that best support your business's transformation."

Dustin Wilcox, the CISO at Anthem, approaches relationships with startups with the specific goal of nurturing a genuine, long-term partnership. "When I go to an early-stage startup, it would be wrong for me to expect a fully-formed product. What I need is a product that meets a minimum viable use case. Then I have to be willing to work as a design partner with that startup to get it to be everything I need it to be."

The desire to develop a long-term partnership with startups is common among nearly all CISOs surveyed for the 2021 CISO Survival Guide. In fact, 99% of respondents stated their companies were open to working with a security startup. For more information about startups in the security space, read my article 2021 CISO's Survival Guide to Emerging Trends in the Startup Ecosystem.

The need to grow a working relationship with a startup company into a more profound, long-term partnership fuels the approach taken by Jason Lish, CISO at Lumen Technologies. "Over the past several years, I've seen CISOs focus on consolidating and relying on companies that they already have established relationships with to make acquisitions that plug tech holes," Lish said. "It's easier to have a handful of strategic partnerships as opposed to trying to navigate the entire marketplace and put the pieces together ourselves."

These insights are just a few of the many we have available for you to consider. To learn more about embracing and engaging startup companies, as well as a full range of top security trends of interest to CISOs, download the full 2021 CISO Survival Guide report here.

Contact us here to learn about embracing startup teach and engaging startup companies.

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