1 year has passed… what have we accomplished?
Around 1 year ago, I started BinaryEdge (along with some other great people), this was a first for me. I had never opened a company before and I honestly had no clue what I was getting myself into: no business background, I was 26 and a pure security-geek-tech guy.
This post is not meant to be read as a “follow this example” or “How I left my job and went for my dreams”, it’s more a reference and notes for me, myself and I in the future.
Note: IF and its a big IF, I had to give you an advice, is when you are reading those blogposts, don’t forget the bling and show-off factors. Make sure you plan well and at least try to reduce the risk to acceptable levels. You will have plenty of events on the road you won’t be able to control and are high risk so let your mind be clear for those.
We started BinaryEdge with a really small team. At that time all we had was a prototype of our internet scanning and data product, we had done some conference presentations using it, we had done some beta testing with some clients and we thought it was something we wanted to pursue.
We started as a services and product company, however building stuff (software, hardware, wtv…) is what we liked doing and we wanted to focus on it.
So what exactly have we accomplished in 1 year ?
We started in March last year as I mentioned with the idea of a product, I started the process of transitioning into BinaryEdge full time straight way, and we had a few clients for consultancy work that paid the initial bills.
Note: There are some decisions I made here that could have been done better, I should have maybe considered doing the initial prototype->product development from back home. To give the reader a bit of backstory, I’m living in a country where I do not speak any of the main languages (German,French,Italian,Romansch), nor is it the most friendly country in the world if you are a startup. Switzerland is crazy expensive, however it is also the best country I’ve ever lived in. A decision between all members was that I would stay in Switzerland as there was a high potential for clients here.
This was an interesting time, at this phase there were critical people in my life that were super helpful and I will forever be thankful to them. Mom, Ana, Tiago M., Pekka and Gianni: from the bottom of my heart I will never be able to thank you all enough for the support you gave me here and continue to give.
A couple of months passed we transformed our alpha-level prototype into a beta-level prototype and we, as mentioned before, decided to go for an investment. At the time we met with a few investors, and after weighting our options we ended up with an amazing private swiss investor, which brought to the table not just money but a really useful network of contacts and business acumen.
We then became a full fledged product company: we were doing this for a product, and honestly the problems with consultancy is that it doesn’t scale and when you are doing it, it consumes all of your time. Had we stayed with consulting, we wouldn’t have needed an investment as security consultancy, at the time of this writing, pays extremely well and it’s fairly easy to get clients.
We focused on transforming and refactoring our prototype into a product and spent a few months doing it. After this process we opened up to accept beta *unpaid* clients (sometimes having feedback can be as valuable as money, and we had some feedback that definitely matched this). At this time we had already hired a few more people to help us in different things.
Note: At this time as a team we looked like this: 4 in Switzerland (me, Ana helping out on all administrative requirements, proof reading, data science and other tasks, as we call her The Swiss Army Knife, Roberto leading the data science team and helping build the architecture and Joao developing the backend), 4 in Portugal (Tiago M. and one more junior dev writing really nice code to do data collection on a distributed system , Filipa and Florentino one of the best combos we got, they really complement each other on the data science and deliver us some nice algorithms and techniques that are invaluable for the company, I see a bright future ahead for both) and 1 in the UK (Marco who has some really ninja skills in cloud systems and the heart of a lion when it comes to getting stuff done). We focused a lot on getting a good team with good foundations and with multiple skills sets that could cover different things and would allows to grow without having to hire more people in the long run.
After having refactored our product, we like every other company went into the market. This has been an absolute eye opening for me, as I never knew how much stuff a sales guy usually has to deal with… Our product, although it scales well, at this time needed a bit of an introduction to new clients (we have since tackled this issue).
Note: Our first product is B2B focused. We allow companies to scan the entire internet and their perimeters and get realtime threat intelligence feeds with this data.
Around this time as well, we started thinking about what we should do in terms of products in the company, that is when we decided to create Cyberfables.
Cyberfables was an absolute difference for us. As explained in the launch blogpost:
For far too long we’ve heard “The problem of security is always the user”, so we decided to put our heads to work to try and tackle this problem.
For the last couple of months we have been so focused on our B2B product that it felt great to start thinking about the complete opposite direction (B2C).
So we now have on our hands two absolutely different products. I know experts from business school might view this as a danger (we’ve heard a few times people saying don’t do B2B and B2C), but as am sure you read in the beginning, we don’t do things easy.
For Cyberfables I managed to get onboard two of the most amazing people I’ve ever worked with. They are the Yin and Yang of each other and two crazy smart developers. We onboarded as well a really cool designer, she has done some really neat work on illustrations and is helping us with the story telling component of Cyberfables.
That brings us to today. We have launched two products, both of them with clients. Currently Cyberfables is free,we have some really neat features planned that we want to add there in the near future. 40fy clients keep growing and the product begins to mature everyday more and more.
Life is hard, we still have huge challenges ahead of us, one of them for those of you that don’t know, is that not only are our two products the complete opposite of each other the teams are also completely different. The 40fy team is fully remote while most of the Cyberfables team is sitting with me in Zürich. That means that parts of my day are spent with the 40fy team like this:
While others are spent with the Cyberfables team like this:
I don’t know if we are doing everything right or the way we should, what I do know is that my team is giving everything they have for our products and clients and I am too.
Our team work and collaboration is what allowed us to go from a prototype to a full working platform on 40fy and on Cyberfables from this:
Which led to the last version that can now be seen on Cyberfables website and app.
The exact same thing happened with the 40fy team, we started with our prototype, turned it into a product and then started adding different features across our timeline:
No matter what happens I will always be proud of what we have achieved as a team and a company in the last year and what we will continue to achieve from here on out. We have some really nice plans for features and verticals where our products will be able to bring great benefit to our clients and we look forward to see them using them.
Bring forth another year and interesting challenges that we can tackle and push ourselves forward.
On the personal side, I’ve been reading a lot more which is something I wasn’t doing enough (I was too focused on technology and online time).
People see a lot of the bling and the perks (like working from home or sometimes being in Portugal working from some sunny place with the team) but they don’t see the other side, the one where a team of 3 or 4 stress for a week reviewing the latest blog post to make sure it is good and with high quality, they don’t see when I’m stressed waiting to hear back if a client has an interest in our product or not, or all the planning that goes into making all of this happen.
Life is hard, but I wake up every morning happy and excited for what the day is going to bring me. I don’t ever want to lose this feeling and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
I’m learning a lot and although we try to make most decision based on customer feedback and testing or data that we have sometimes there are decision where you do have to use a bit of a gut feeling. My job is enabling my team to be at their best, and they have been nothing but amazing.
PS: It’s a really weird feeling to see one of your products show up as an ad on Facebook!