An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Rob Simopoulos (co-founder) of Defendify, which was honored in our:
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Maine
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Maine
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Portland (Maine)
Tell us the origin story of Defendify – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
About 5 years ago, we saw that most small and midsize companies did not have a robust cybersecurity program because it was expensive, complicated, and would require cybersecurity professionals on staff. Getting a holistic cybersecurity program in place was critical, but not within reach for these organizations, so we set out to solve this problem.
We originally started as cybersecurity consultants, with our teams performing testing and assessments, delivering employee training, building policies and plans, and so on. We began to grow quickly but thought it would be valuable to build a software platform that could deliver all the solutions we were providing. Our vision was that if we could deliver our services through a single cloud application platform, we would help more companies worldwide, with a lower investment, and deliver the benefits of a dashboard. That was when Defendify, The All-In-One cybersecurity platform, was born.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
So far, I have to say the biggest hurdle was the COVID pandemic. On the growth side, we were lucky as we experienced exceptional growth through the pandemic, but there were significant decisions to make when it started. With so much uncertainty in the spring of 2020, our teams moved to work-from-home, tightened up on spending, and saw many of our prospects doing the same. Our team began to focus on understanding what our key markets were doing and where they needed help. The result was that we released a freemium version of Defendify to help IT teams move to work-from-home securely. This package called “Defendify Essentials” included three free tools that would allow an organization to assess their cybersecurity posture and receive ongoing alerts to help protect them. Looking back, we were able to help organizations around the globe improve their cybersecurity at no charge during what ended up being a very tough time for many. Today, many of those customers are now paying clients with expanded Defendify platforms in place.
What does the future hold for Defendify?
The future is bright. Thousands of companies in over 20 countries use Defendify. Our team is growing rapidly, and we are building new features and modules within Defendify that will continue to expand our suite for customers. IT teams and IT service providers are struggling to find easier ways to implement and manage comprehensive cybersecurity programs, and Defendify is helping solve that problem.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Maine?
Let me start by saying Maine is an amazing place to live and work. My family and I moved here from Toronto about ten years ago, and we have loved every moment. Maine’s startup scene has an amazing community, but it is still a little bit of a national secret that entrepreneurs should know about. Some of the great things include a startup founders’ community that regularly meet with organized group sessions to discuss business challenges and strategies. We have Startup Maine, which is an educational group that sent our company and other startups to exhibit at TechCrunch Disrupt a couple of years ago. On the funding side, the Finance Authority of Maine has an unbelievable tax credit program that incentivizes out-of-state VCs and private investors to invest in Maine’s startups. Currently, investments in approved startups provide investors 40% of their investment back in tax credits or cash, making fundraising much more accessible. The Maine Technology Institute provides grants, development loans, and guidance to early-stage startups. Venture groups locally include Maine Venture Fund, who provides funding to many of the companies here. The Maine startup ecosystem provides so many resources to enable entrepreneurs to go from idea to flourishing business.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just do it. So many people have great business ideas but get frozen and do not execute on their vision. Fear, procrastination, and several other factors hold them back from moving forward. As an entrepreneur, you must break through, take action, and just do it. Whatever that great idea is that you have, it is time to make it happen. Don’t be one of the people in your later years who say, “I had that idea…I wish I did it”. Be the one who goes and does it! Make your dream a reality.