Getting a startup off the ground is time-consuming and resource intensive, but don’t let this prevent you from focusing on the importance of security. A multi-faceted approach to security will keep your business safe and protected for years to come.
Security: A Principal Point of Focus for Successful Startups
You have a group of close friends and family members who love you and are encouraging as you launch your startup and build it into a sustainable business. You’re a member of different professional networking groups in the area and find the healthy collaboration with other business owners to be enormously powerful. You’re even involved with other alumni from your MBA program and they frequently check in to see how things are going.
In most cases, entrepreneurs do a good job of surrounding themselves with supportive people. (There will always be the haters and detractors, but they’re typically kept at arm’s length.) And while there are plenty of benefits that come from having a supportive group of people around you, it also has the tendency to prop you up and make you feel like everything will be fine.
Optimism is needed as an entrepreneur, but sometimes you need to look through the lens of pessimism and understand that everything won’t always be fine. You’re operating in a broken and hostile business world where ravenous sharks are looking for a single drop of blood to track you down.
Cyber crime rates are going through the roof. IP-related theft is soaring. In many major cities, commercial properties are being targeted by burglars at higher rates than ever before. Some startups even report employees stealing ideas and running off with them.
While it’s great to take an optimistic approach to business and surround yourself with people who encourage you and tell you that everything is going to be fine, you have to be practical and proactive.
Security is one of the single biggest concerns to your startup’s well-being. If you don’t prioritize a multi-faceted approach, you will fail.
5 Issues You Have to Proactively Confront
A lot of entrepreneurs and founders know there are security risks, but don’t do anything about them. Instead, they figure security is something they’ll handle “down the road.” Quite honestly, you don’t have this luxury. You need to handle it now. Specifically, you need to deal with these five issues:
According to a report from Ocean Tomo, the average S&P 500 company’s total value consists of 87 percent intellectual property (IP) and just 13 percent tangible assets. In other words, if you’re going to get serious about protecting your business, you should probably start with protecting your IP.
A recent study by Deloitte shows that IP-related theft is a growing concern, especially among tech businesses. Of those surveyed in the study, 32 percent of professionals don’t even know if their company has suffered IP theft in the past year, while 12 percent are certain they have.
“Getting over IP theft involves figuring out what company secrets were accessed, by whom and when, where they may have been distributed, how a company, its customers and partners could be impacted by the IP theft, and explaining what happened to investors, while also figuring out what legal action to take, and how to tweak IP to regain a competitive advantage if one has been lost,” Lora Kolodny writes for TechCrunch.
Sound pretty messy, right? Well, you can avoid most of these situations by proactively implementing a plan that enhances IP protection on the front end. It all starts with getting good legal protection, including patents and trademarks. From there, you have to be careful with how you safeguard your IP and who you let come into contact with it.
Data breaches are perhaps most concerning to startups. If you listen to the news and read the headlines, you’ll notice that breaches happen on a daily basis. And contrary to popular belief, large corporations aren’t the primary target. Many hackers focus on smaller businesses and startups because they know they’re more vulnerable.
There are way too many data security tips to mention in this article, but one of the most proactive things you can do is establish better policies and guidelines surrounding file sharing.
“While consumer sync/share tools may be widespread among your users for personal sharing, organizations need to carefully vet the security and encryption practices when it comes to sharing business data,” data management expert Ann Fellman says. “Organizations need a clear understanding of where data is stored, if it’s encrypted and ultimately, who has the keys to the data.”
Encryption is something else you need to focus on. While this technically doesn’t do anything to prevent a data breach, it ensures that the data is useless and indecipherable should it get into the wrong hands.
Everyone wants to talk about cyber security, but what about physical security? Whether you have commercial office space, warehouses, distribution facilities, or retail stores, you have to take proactive steps to prevent things like break-ins, theft, and vandalism.
Video surveillance is a good place to start. “You can’t be everywhere at once, but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” explains Ray Lodi of CCTV Camera World. “You need maximum visibility at all times and an advanced video security system can give you the sort of remote viewing capabilities that you need to stay on top of your facilities.”
Smart security solutions are also a good idea. For example, smart locks and alarm systems can allow you to remotely secure, arm, and disarm your facilities in real-time.
“Visitors and contractors can also pose a high risk to your business if they are left to their own devices and allowed to wander the building or premises at ease,” entrepreneur Adam Bennett points out. “Making sure all visitors sign in upon arrival, and issuing them with a photo pass and lanyards is a straightforward and cost-effective procedure to implement.”
Employee Theft of Ideas
When there’s money, power, or prestige involved, people who are otherwise honest have a tendency to snap. You may think you’ve done a good job of hiring ethical people for your startup, but don’t assume they always have the company’s best interests in mind. Employee theft of ideas is quite common and you need a strategy for preventing it.
For starters, you need strong legal agreements in place with anyone who works for your company. This may include non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, and non-solicitation agreements.
Don’t just have your employees sign these agreements and move on. Clearly explain what they’re signing and be stern about the consequences. If someone breaks one of the terms, make an example out of them. This might sound cold, but it’s how you establish respect for authority.
It’s also important to think about limiting access. Just because an employee is a member of your company, doesn’t mean they need access to all of your equipment, files, programs, etc. Operate on a need-to-know basis and don’t open yourself up to unnecessary amounts of risk.
You have some control over your own employees, but what about the copycats that tend to arise when a startup experiences resounding success? How do you protect your startup from these parrots?
Honestly, the best approach is to build your brand as fast as you can. While not always true, the brand that’s first to market has a much better chance of establishing itself as the industry leader. Secondly, you need to focus on the quality of your product and what makes it unique. Anyone can come out and undercut you on price, but it’s hard to mimic a unique feature that your product possesses.
Deal With Security Now
John Davis, chief security officer of Palo Alto Network’s federal division, believes too many businesses have adopted a reactive approach to security over the years – essentially conceding that hackers and criminals can always find a way in. In other words, they’ve just accepted the idea that they’ll regularly hear, “Clean up on aisle 9” over the loud speaker, rather than finding a way to prevent the spill in the first place.
“We believe that you can actually get ahead of a lot of that,” Davis says. “Now you might not be able to prevent everything, but we think you can make significant progress in terms of preventing the threat in the first place so that you can make better use of your people, time and resources where in those cases where you do have a problem to go find it and do something about it. But you can take a lot of that off of the radar screen up-front if you have a prevention mindset.”
Security can be overwhelming – any entrepreneur, business owner, or CIO can attest to this. But just because something is overwhelming, doesn’t mean you should avoid it or push it to the back burner.
Now’s the time to step up, take action, and develop a strong and stable foundation upon which your startup can grow for years to come.