Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Some hackers exploit weaknesses in a company’s security to make money. But other hackers do so to help companies find their weak points.
It’s called “ethical hacking.” Local cybersecurity company SCYTHE has created a platform that emulates cyber attacks, using the work done by ethical hackers, to help companies find their own gaps in security.
“We collect all the information about new attack types, usually written up by the ethical hackers, who are called security researchers… [and] we break down the attacks into the individual steps so that our customers can rearrange the order,” says CEO and founder Bryson Bort. “This lets them make their own attacks so that they can test how effective their security is. The more different ways they can run attack steps, the more they understand how well everything works on their end.”
There’s growing demand for this tool, says Bort, who is hiring folks to meet that demand and add capabilities to that tool — to make it even easier for customers to test out their security — using $10 million it raised in Series A funding last November. This rapid growth, Bort says, has taught him the importance of ensuring team members feel valued and included and have room to grow professionally.
“I think that a lot of founders don’t alway realize when they start a company that while the technology can be unique, it’s really the people who make a company successful,” he said.
Bort — who served as a U.S. Army Officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom and one of 2020’s 50 top cyber leaders according to Business Insider — founded the company in 2017 to develop an idea born from his work at GRIMM, a cybersecurity consultancy he also founded.
And he wanted to make sure the companies were linked — with a sense of humor.
“SCYTHE was a product that came out of work we were doing at GRIMM,” he said. “GRIMM is a services company where it’s about people. SCYTHE is a product, a tool that GRIMM would use. When I created SCYTHE, I wanted to show that the two were connected but also show their differences.”
The two companies are also linked through a mythical motif, so to speak. Unicorns.
“We did an annual T-shirt contest for the industry event DEF CON, the largest hacker conference in the world,” Bort said. “I came up with the idea of the grim reaper riding a unicorn because I liked the juxtaposition. The design blew up because other people also saw the humor.”
When he started his second company, he decided to incorporate unicorns into the logo and branded merch, which benefits “chubby unicorns,” or endangered rhinos. And Bort says the majestic, single-horned fantasy creature sums up what SCYTHE does and its goal.
“It just really feels like it’s the best way to describe the company,” he said. “We’re doing things no one else is doing and plan some day to be a literal unicorn startup.”
Unicorn startups are privately held startup companies valued at more than $1 billion, and are so named to underscore their rarity. (Arlington has one unicorn: woman-led financial technology company Interos.)
SCYTHE is hiring lots of positions to continue working toward that goal.
Around 50 full-time employees currently work for the company, and this year, SCYTHE will be adding to the team within the United States but also abroad.
“There is just so much demand for what we’ve built and we need to scale the team significantly to meet it,” Bort says. “That demand is coming from other regions around the world so that’s going to be a part of our continuing transition as we grow.”
He says the team hires folks based on how they fit the company’s culture: kindness, passion and having fun while working toward that vision.
“We work hard to be the change we need to have in the industry” when it comes to work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, he said.
“I want everyone to feel included at SCYTHE,” Bort continues. “Building out that culture takes a lot of work and is something throughout all of our leadership we’ve been very conscious of through our rapid growth. We measure success not just in dollars but also in employee satisfaction. It’s about giving them a place where they feel accepted and appreciated.”
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