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Happy 5th Birthday SafeStack – From start-up to stay-up

When a child turns 5 in New Zealand, they may graduate out of their pre-school education and start to school.

It’s a pretty big deal as a parent. Your small person has survived and thrived long enough to begin their journey towards adulthood. Other people become part of their world and start shaping their future. I won’t lie, when my daughter reached that age a few tears were shed.

Today SafeStack turns 5.

Today we graduate from start-up to stay-up company.

It’s been a challenging few years but despite all the ups and downs, my little company is ready for its next stage.

So, what has the past 5 years taught me and what will the next 5 hold?

Five lessons learned

Personal care is mandatory

Running a small business (or start-up) can consume you if you let it. It is an emotional rollercoaster and not everyone comes out the other side in one piece. SafeStack is no different. There were times when I truly believed that it would be better to stop fighting and just give in. Out of all of those challenges however I have learned not to quit on a bad day, not to lose faith just because a plan didn’t work out and not to hold onto things too long.

Never lose your why

Success isn’t always about huge profit. SafeStack hasn’t grown to be a 40 person mega-consultancy. We don’t have a fancy office, nor do we have a spot on any fast-growing company hall of fame. Success for SafeStack has never been about that. We have helped people, many people and many companies (big and small). We have worked to innovate and reach organisations that have never engaged security before and we have championed the fast paced, small budgeted, big dreamers.

Team matters

Hiring badly can destroy any organisation. Hiring remains one of the hardest problems I face day to day and hiring the wrong people can devastate an otherwise happy and functional team.

Communication is crucial

The security space is complex but mostly a communication problem. While technical tools and solutions will always be a great selling point, the reality is, people need to feel heard, to understand the world of risk around them and to have channels to get support when they need it. Without empathetic, inclusive communication security will always lose.

It takes a village

I am incredibly grateful to all the people, partners and friends who have been part of these 5 years. Some have walked with me for the full stretch, others have come and gone. Some have chosen to leave and sometimes life got in the way. Each and everyone of those people has given me an incredible gift and I will never been able to express my gratitude for them and their impact.

For the random coffees, the open ears and the supportive hugs…. for the hard work, patience and resilience…. for the laughs and the tears and the ridiculously hard feedback to hear…. Thank you.

Five hopes and promises

Safe, happy and healthy as a priority

Wellbeing, happiness and health must be a priority and I am making a promise to myself and my team to bring this through everything we do. This starts today with onboarding myself into my employee support programs and living by the same policies they do day to day. I will dogfood my company’s employee experience and together we will make SafeStack an even safer, healthier place to work. I am also committing to being more visible with my efforts in this space. I find this stuff hard and I will struggle. I hope you will be there for my journey.

Security for everyone

Small, growing and fast-moving organisations remain one of the most interesting areas of security and one with the least innovation from a security perspective. I hope we can change this and bring practices to everyone, no matter the size.

Do less

SafeStack is stronger when we focus on what we do best and don’t over generalise. I promise to continue our path, helping fast paced teams and driving application security practices. I promise not to spread our services thinly, but to richly embrace just a few key areas that we are passionate about.

Be a force for good

We will continue to give back to the community through mentoring, teaching, open source code and other projects. I promise we will do so for the importance of the work rather than the publicity.

Never, forever

I hope that we can continue to try and make ourselves redundant. SafeStack works best when we find needs, develop services and then find ways to take ourselves out of the equation. I hope we can find ways to automate and develop our services to inspire independence and autonomy in our clients. I hope we can be a trusted adviser for the tough stuff but an enthusiastic cheerleader for the day to day.

Today we raise a glass and celebrate

Where ever this finds you today, I hope you will raise a figurative glass with us.

Here’s to the stay-up companies

Here’s to the quiet fighters and the remarkably unremarkable

Here’s to fighting the good fight and building the world you want to live in

Here’s to 5 years done and more to come