Every 39 seconds someone falls victim to a cyber attack.
We found that stat on Trava’s website while we were prepping for our interview with their CEO, Jim Goldman and it blew our minds.
That means in the time it takes you to listen to this episode of Get IN. 65 cyber-attacks will happen. By the end of the episode, you will learn a few quick tips on how to make sure you’re not a liability at your company.
Jim Goldman is the co-founder and CEO of Trava Security.
Trava is an Indianapolis tech company that helps protect small and medium-sized businesses from the potential damage of cyber threats. They are a Top 100 Tech Company in Cybersecurity and recently accepted their award onstage at Rally, the largest cross-sector Innovation Conference in the World.
Before co-founding Trava, Jim worked as a professor at Purdue for 20 years, as well as ExactTarget, Salesforce, and the FBI.
Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:
- [10:31] Starting a Consulting Company
- [19:55] Protecting Yourself from Cybersecurity Attacks
- [23:50] The Role of Industry Experience in Entrepreneurship Education
- [34:44] Changing target market and impacting the insurance industry
- [37:10] Growing a company during a pandemic
- [40:34] Trava’s Superpower… Company Culture
In our conversation with Jim, you will learn about:
- Transitioning from Academia to Industry: Jim’s transition from academia to the private sector, particularly during ExactTarget’s rapid growth phase, offers valuable insights for those considering a similar path.
- The Power of a Strong Team and Positive Culture: Jim highlighted the importance of building a company where everyone loves to come to work every day, a principle he and his co-founder prioritized when building Trava Security.
- Cybersecurity Quick Hitters: As a former cyber forensics expert for the FBI, Jim shared his unique perspective on the nature of malware and cyber-attacks, emphasizing the need for individuals and companies to be vigilant.
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If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. You can also follow us on Spotify. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Wednesday here on Get IN.
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
- Purdue University
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud
- Ventrax Laboratories
- Portland Glass
- High Alpha
- AgriNovus Indiana
- Agribusiness Council of Indiana
- Jim Goldman
- Dan Hanrahan
- Gerry Hays
- Scott Dorsey
- Matthew Bressler
- Rob Beeler
- Mitch Frazier
- Nate Spangle
- Matt Hunckler
- Christopher ‘Toph’ Day
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Matt: From the crossroads of America in the Hoosier state of Indiana, this is Get IN, the podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now in the heartland. I’m Matt Hunckler, CEO at Powderkeg, and I’ll be one of your hosts for today’s conversation. I’m joined in studio by co host Christopher ‘Toph’ Day, CEO at Elevate Ventures, and Nate Spangle, Head of Community at Powderkeg.
And on the show today is Jim Goldman, co founder and CEO at Trava Security.
Jim: Turned around, pointed the dry erase marker at Scott, and I said, Scott, I want to run this company for you.
Matt: That’s awesome.
Jim Goldman is a co founder and CEO of Trava Security, and it is a company that helps protect small and medium sized businesses from the potential damage of cyber threats. They are a Powderkeg TOP 100 tech company in cybersecurity. And Recently accepted this award on stage at rally, the largest cross sector innovation conference in the world.
And before co founding Trava, Jim has done some really interesting things. He worked as a professor at Purdue for 20 years. He also worked at exact target Salesforce and the FBI. So today we’re going to talk about cybersecurity and what even non technical people need to know about the space growing a business and raising capital, even in a terrible economic environment.
Staying grounded while scaling a fast growing startup and so much more. Jim, thanks for being here and welcome to the show.
Jim: Oh, it is my pleasure.
Matt: We are really excited for this because Trava has been doing some amazing things and it’s been fun to capture little snapshots in the journey, but I think this snapshot in particular is going to be really exciting just on the heels of winning your top 100 tech company award and having a really successful presence at Rally.
Jim: Thanks. We were shocked by the award. Obviously, very pleased as well. We were
Matt: excited to hear about it and excited to hear too about some of your success at rally. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Jim: Yeah. First time at rally, it was the first time. So you never know what to expect, right?
The inaugural year. Yeah. Inaugural year. And so We went in not knowing what to expect, but my goodness we had many great conversations and we’ve got some good leads and may lead to some opportunities. So really couldn’t be happier.
Matt: Us too, even amongst all the things that we were doing with the awards and interviews, we had some tremendous conversations.
We’ll have to save some of that for a future episode. But today we’re here to talk about your journey, Jim. And I have so many questions because I know a lot about what you’ve been doing here at Trava, obviously with the partnership that we have. But diving a little bit more into your background being at Purdue for 20 years and before that you were in industry as well.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you ended up getting into higher education from traditional business world?
Jim: You bet. So I describe my career as a zigzag. And I’m a big proponent of zigzag careers, when I talk to younger people, as opposed to, straight up, one corporate ladder type of thing.
I’ve done a wide variety of different things. If you go back even further than what I was sharing earlier. My first job out of undergraduate was I was a middle school math and science teacher. That’s awesome. So that was my first job.
Nate: What was the one lesson you learned from teaching middle school math and science?
Jim: The sad part is it pays so poorly. If I could have supported my family, I’d probably still be doing it today.
Nate: But, the cybersecurity industry is grateful that you’re not still doing that.
Toph: I think that around middle school is when all the kids start to freak out about math, right?
Because you have that little thing called geometry. Yes. The theorems. theorems happen?
Matt: Yes. Good, I get to know Pythagoras really well.
Jim: Yeah, algebra, geometry, trigonometry. Yeah, exactly. Fun stuff.
Nate: So then what brought you into In industry, in the private sector from being a school teacher.
Jim: What’s interesting is the computers were just starting to come into the schools.
And so I went back and I got an MBA in management information systems. And so that’s then what gave me the bridge into… Being a director of management information systems and industry, which is where I started.
Matt: Do you feel like that timing was really important? Because I think about that today.
I’m so grateful that I got introduced to computers as the Internet was taking off. I was the first year in college that people outside of Harvard could have Facebook. It was right on the cusp. And I think about people graduating today and all the AI tools that are out there. There’s these like pivotal moments.
Jim: I couldn’t agree more. Timing is everything. It’s these little windows of opportunity open up in the universe, and you have to recognize and be able to step into them.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah. Tell me a little bit about how you navigated that.
Jim: The whole opportunity at Purdue is a good example. When I was in industry, again, this is a history lesson.
This was before the internet, before TCPIP. The really hot computer at the time was the Digital Equipment Corporation, VAXs and MicroVAXs. And many companies could now afford computers that couldn’t have previously. Before it was, if you couldn’t afford a mainframe from IBM, you didn’t buy a computer.
And what happened was, I just happened to work for a couple of companies that had, regional offices across the company. country, each with these micro vaxes, et cetera. And so we had to figure out a way to get them to talk to each other. Today, people would say, what’s the big deal?
Back then, AT& T still had a monopoly. You couldn’t hook a modem to the network. And so it was a challenge to figure out how to get computers to talk to each other over long distances. I happened to do it.
Toph: How did you do that? Without getting too technical.
Jim: We’ll get a little geeky. It was these things called multi phase multiplexers, so you would basically chop up one digital line into multiple pieces and send little pieces of messages.
And that was over copper at the time? Yeah, exactly. That’s so cool. Yeah, exactly. So then what happened was, Purdue said maybe there’s something to this. And so they came up with this course that they called Data Communications at the time. And so they were looking for a faculty member to teach this one course in data communications.
Literally, it was almost on a whim, a, what the heck, I’ll send off a resume. That’s so cool. And long story short, I got the faculty position, and that one course turned into an entire degree program in network engineering, which we started very early on. I, I’m a paranoid individual by nature, so I started saying, there’s some security implications here.
Everybody thought I was ridiculous. Network security led to cyber forensics, started the cyber forensics program there. And yeah, the rest is history. That’s how the FBI thing came into. Oh, we got to go.
Toph: That sounds interesting. Math teacher, MBA to Purdue faculty?
Jim: Yes. To industry to Purdue faculty
Toph: And in an industry.
Who are you with an industry?
Jim: So I was with a couple of companies in in New England. One was called Ventrax Laboratories, early biotech, very early biotech. And then I was just with a regional glass company called Portland Glass.
Matt: That’s really cool. In those two decades working with all of those students, how did you encourage them to stay on top of the latest technologies and
I would imagine in any program. I saw this even at the business school down at Kelly School of Business kind of by the time you’re teaching it in the classroom, especially as a marketing major. It’s the social networks are their new social networks now, and the curriculum is based on what was 3 to 5 years ago.
I would imagine is pretty similar in technology. It was probably more about learning how to learn.
Jim: Absolutely. And that’s what I most tried to instill in my students is the need for lifelong learning, but, believe it or not, what we used, there were no good textbooks. I ended up writing eight college level textbooks in network engineering.
And but again, the irony of how do you keep up or the lifelong learning thing is we literally used catalogs like data communications equipment. and I would look at catalogs and I would teach the students. Okay, here’s what this device does. Here’s how it works. And then gradually we started building laboratories that had that equipment in it.
Toph: that’s pretty impressive. Yeah, eight textbooks. So did you distribute those individually or did you go through one of the publishers? No, they were published by Wally.
Jim: Technically, I only wrote seven because one got translated into Chinese. So I didn’t write that one, but it’s pretty cool to see your name.
Okay. It’s all in Chinese and it says Jim Goldman. That’s great.
Matt: That’s awesome.
Nate: So while you were 20 years at Purdue, you’re a higher ed professor, was entrepreneurship something you were thinking about? Or were you just all in on what’s going on with network information, cyber security at the time?
Jim: Oh, I definitely was. And Purdue at the time was not nearly as positive about faculty being involved in entrepreneurship as they are now. What really struck me I don’t know, you guys have been around Indiana long enough, do you remember when we first started talking about the Indiana brain drain?
Oh yeah. That, all these students were getting these great educations, but there was no opportunities in tech for them here. And what really struck me was, even for the students that were still in school, like the juniors and seniors, they had tremendous skills already, but there was no part time work for them in their chosen field.
They were working at… So I thought, okay. Some it’s my old expression. Somebody ought to do something. Okay. I’m somebody. So I started a consulting company when I was a faculty member and I would employ my students as 10 99 and we do consulting work. That’s great. Oh, and what year was this?
So that would have been probably. 2005 to 2011. 2011 was my last year there.
Nate: So you started your career out in New England. Besides like Purdue and this open role, what brought you into Indiana? What was like, oh, I’ve heard some good things, some bad things. What were your thoughts coming from New England to Indiana?
Jim: So that’s actually a funny story. So I applied to Purdue, right? It was like around Thanksgiving. Didn’t hear a thing, not even a thank you for your resume, anything, right? So I’d totally forgotten about it. The next February, I get a call and they say we had 200 applications, you’re one of eight finalists, and we’d like you to fly out next week.
And so I’d forgotten about, like, where I even sent the application into or whatever. And I said, so tell me again, you’re in South Bend?
Toph: Oh, that’s great.
Jim: Ooh. Luckily, they still invited me to come and interview. Where am I going, South Bend?
Matt: Put me on the
Nate: Yeah. You had talked, I think I had done some research that you had early exposure to entrepreneurship through your grandpa.
Yeah. And tell us a little bit about like the family entrepreneurship gene.
Jim: Sure. Sure. Happy to. My grandfather immigrated from the Russian empire. Now it’s part of Ukraine actually. And he arrived in, I want to say 1907. He came over by himself, he was 16 years old and, in those days, you’ve all heard the immigrant story, there’s, no work for them, so they did what they could, and so he became a junk dealer, so he was an independent junk dealer.
Outside of Boston, at first he had a horse, then he had a truck and he would go into Boston and tear out the old boilers, from the office buildings, that kind of thing, and he’d bring them back to his yard, he’d break them apart, he’d put the cast iron over here, the brass over here, the copper over there.
And then he’d sell it. So he was, a pioneer, a metal recycler.
Nate: What are a few of the lessons that you learned around entrepreneurship, hard work from your grandpa?
Jim: That, that was it really. It was hard work. It was like, you can do this yourself. You don’t have to depend on anybody else.
Matt: I think it’s just so amazing to get to witness that. First hand, I was fortunate to have a grandpa who’s also an entrepreneur and then another grandpa who’s a farmer, which is kind of
Jim: 100 percent talk about independent businessman.
Matt: And it’s just like a paradigm shift and something I took for granted growing up was that, Oh, this is a totally legitimate career path and a lot of people don’t necessarily get that message and is a big part of why we do this here with getting in, telling these stories so people can hear and see.
Yeah, it’s totally possible, even if you’re a professor at the time.
Nate: Do you have advice for people that might be in higher ed? Maybe they’re a professor at, any of the esteemed universities around the country. That are wanting to keep the door open in the private sector, but they’re enjoying teaching.
But, Hey, after I do this, I want to join the private sector. What would you say to those professors?
Jim: I think you, it’s not like a either or right. You can’t wait and say, I’m going to do that later. You have to almost build those muscles over time. So you have to take that chance, step out, start some kind of entrepreneurial activity, even if it’s small.
While you’re in there and then that way it’s just a shift in the percentage or a shift in the balance, right? Eventually you teach less and you do more in the entrepreneurship thing. Actually, the FBI thing came along while I was at Purdue. But, that worked out well because at the time at Purdue, in my last few years, I was only teaching graduate courses a couple nights a week, so I could spend most of my days working for the FBI.
Matt: Can you, is that unclassified now? Can you talk about what you did with the FBI?
Jim: I can talk in general terms. Oh, yes. Yeah. That kind of a joke I like to say is I was everyone’s worst nightmare, a cyber nerd with a gun.
Nate: Okay, so like you, they, while you’re a professor at Purdue, the FBI calls you up and you’re like, Oh, what have I done?
Jim: Yeah, so we got, I’d started the cyber forensic program, as I said, and then we got some funding to start to figure out how to reverse engineer malware. So malware was a new thing and, what occurred to me, okay, it’s just software. We ought to be able to reverse engineer this and figure out what it’s doing.
So I got some funding, had a couple of grad students. We started trying to figure out how to reverse engineer it. The FBI, this was like in 2000, the FBI was trying to build their capability in that area around the same time. I was actually working for the Indiana State Police already at that point.
And then through that, the FBI heard about the work I was doing, came to see me. In a positive way? In a positive way.
Matt: I just wanted to clarify.
Nate: Black SUVs roll up.
Jim: And then, they said, could you get a top secret clearance? I said, sure. So that’s another whole story. We probably don’t have time for, but got the top secret clearance, went to work for the FBI is a task force officer.
Nate: Were you still a professor? So you’re doing both of these, right? You’re a top secret FBI agent and a Purdue Task force,
Jim: Not an agent.
Nate: That’s still pretty cool.
Clarification. Can you just, for the listeners that might not be as, as hip to cybersecurity. Two thousands. What does malware look like?
Give me the 10, 000 foot flyover. What were you solving there?
Jim: In a lot of cases back then, it was malicious code embedded in Adobe. Files, Adobe PDF files. So people would just innocently open up a PDF. They used to be able to embed code in the PDF. So when you opened it, that code would execute and put some malware on you.
Matt: This was like the heyday of piracy to Napster had taken off. There were all kinds of torrent downloads of pirated PDF textbooks, things like that.
Jim: And, there was just so much naivete in general, in the general public. For instance, we worked on a case where Someone had launched what’s called a watering hole attack.
So what that means is you’re innocent, you’re not doing anything wrong. This was a person that was a bank employee that went on to like their local TV station to check the weather. Unbeknownst to them, that local TV station’s website had been infected. All right. They got the infection, bank ends up being exploited.
Nate: Oh, do you have any other stories of those, like I don’t know, like stories around people that accidentally, expose your company. Cause I think when people think through cyber security, they’re like, okay, just don’t click on the links in the suspicious emails reported as phishing. There’s a few trainings that you sign up for, but I’d be curious to hear of like other creative ways you’re seeing cyber attacks happen.
Can I tell you my favorite?
Toph: Yes. Is when our team gets emails or texts from me that say, Hey, Kevin. Can you please transfer a thousand dollars as fast as you can I need help I’m on the road and I need a thousand dollars for blah
Nate: But in gift cards, right? Like I need
Toph: I’m not kidding you every once in a while and this happened to last company, too People start freaking out and they’re trying to get a, get ahold of somebody else in the company like toast stranded on the road and he needs money.
What I need to figure out how to get this money to him. And people are like no, He would never ask for that.
Jim: It’s crazy.
So you’re absolutely right. And the same thing happens with us whenever we get a new employee. I think it’s because LinkedIn got hacked several years ago. So everybody’s LinkedIn information, phone numbers is available.
So as soon as anybody posts that they’re started a new job at Trava. They get a text supposedly from me saying a similar thing. So what we did was we added a slide to our onboarding deck, right? And, just warning, et cetera. What’s happened this last time we onboarded an employee is we didn’t even get to onboarding and he had already gotten a text.
Nate: The boldness of these people trying to get a cyber security company with a cyber attack, right? There’s a thousand other companies you could choose.
Toph: I’ve even noticed DocuSign. Something’s gotten into DocuSign recently. I’ll get these random DocuSign things all the time. It feels like it’s almost daily.
Jim: I got the same thing.
Matt: What are the top three things right now that people can do to protect themselves from cyber security attacks? Whether they’re a CEO. Hire Trava. That’s number one. That’s number one. We’ll call that 1A.
Jim: The simplest thing that I’ve heard is count to three. We’re all so busy, right?
We got too much in our inbox and we, and they’re getting better and better, you know what they’re sending us. And so it’s if you click on something, you open it. It’s don’t do anything. It’s almost take your hands away from the keyboard and count to three and say, before you click the link before you do anything to click and go.
Yeah. Yeah. We do a lot of testing internally, and I will confess on the air, I got caught, all right? Now, the way I got caught is, I’ve got back to back meetings all day long, and I got some kind of email, from a calendar that said I was missing a meeting or something like that, and I’m like, Yep, I won’t tell you what I said, but it’s yeah, how can this happen, right?
It’s a click.
Matt: Oh, and then how did you know what are the telltale because
Jim: it was a test and it came,
Matt: oh, it was a test. It was a test. Gotcha. Good thing. It was just a test. I failed the test, not a real, yeah it’s human nature, right? And that’s exactly what cybersecurity attacks are.
Jim: And that’s why you have to change your human nature, especially in the business where, and it’s fix it right now.
I like that count to three.
Matt: Yeah. Are there any other quick hit ones like that, that everyone should know?
Jim: Have a good system in place, whether it’s software or just internal process, so that you’re able to forward anything suspicious, better to forward something that is legitimate, that you think is suspicious than the other way around. Yeah, that’s great advice.
Nate: I’d love to dive into, right?
So you were at Purdue for 20 years. You’re helping out with the FBI and the state police. What brought you back into the private sector? As you transitioned out of Purdue.
Toph: Can I ask one question before we go to the next phase? Yeah. I want to go back to the university real quick. I’m curious what thoughts you have around tech transfer, university innovation.
Like if you were the president of a university. What radical changes would you make to unleash and give a better opportunity for, tech transfer and commercializing things to attract the best entrepreneurs that have the best shot at taking whatever that thing is and commercializing it?
Jim: At the risk of offending an infinite number of university people, don’t put PhDs in charge of entrepreneurship. And why is it? Because PhDs went to school to study who knows what, they’re lifelong learners. There are people teaching entrepreneurship and tech transfer that have never started a business.
Nate: How important was your previous professional experience to your success as a professor?
Jim: I think it was critical actually. But. What you have to remember is I don’t have a PhD, I have two master’s degrees and I taught at, one of the finest universities in the country, if not the world, great opportunity.
I don’t know that they’d hire me today.
Matt: Yeah, that’s interesting. I like that advice. Get more people from industry into positions of… decision making
Nate: And it’s interesting. We talked about this was an episode with Dan Hanrahan of Sigstr who was an entrepreneurship major just like you, right? And it’s how much of entrepreneurship is learning in the books, right?
Versus how much is just like going out and doing it with the professors, right? It’s like you get someone who’s done this before and It’s like that, but in the real world doesn’t quite work like that with Matt’s NDA.
Jim: A hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. That’s exactly
Matt: what I’m saying. I think that’s right. Yeah.
One of my favorite professors at IU was Gerry Hayes, who taught the venture capital class and had, gone out and raised venture capital during the dot com boom. And then when he lived it, yeah, he lived it. And like literally he’s built a, now a qualified credit investor course because he actually knows how to do it.
He’s done deals on both sides of the table.
Nate: I think this is a subtle plug isn’t elevate and Gary don’t they just, didn’t they just drop the venture Bible that you can get it for free from Elevate’s website? Yeah, that’s right. I just saw Landon post about that and I actually downloaded it
Toph: So we’re really excited about what he’s doing.
We got to get him on the pod. And the SEC is entertaining rules right now I know that to change the accredited investor rules where if you get it in a I’m missing the words But basically Gerry’s developed a curriculum right that you can read study and take a test and that could end up qualifying you as an accredited investor, which is really exciting.
Matt: Could be game changing.
Another great example of someone from industry making an impact in higher education, which is awesome. Talk to us a little bit about going from higher ed back into the private sector, because I imagine that’s a hard change to make after 20 years, two decades.
Jim: Yes and no, because remember, I had my consulting company the whole time, right?
And it was almost like I knew the time was right to be done with higher ed. Now, this is an interesting story. ExactTarget, was really starting to hit the steep part of its curve in 2011. And they had a posting for their first vice president of information security because much like many of the companies Trava deals with now, they were trying to sell to the international space, enterprise space, getting pushback on the lack of maturity of their security and compliance program.
So the irony, as I go to interview for the job, And who am I interviewing with, but a former student?
Toph: Oh wow, that’s wild. That’s awesome. No way. Tables have turned.
Matt: Did you feel good about that, or were you nervous about that? Did you give that student an A?
Jim: Actually, ironically, Go back and check the books.
I’ll drop the name, Tim Horhoe. Oh, Tim Horhoe, he’s awesome. I love that. So he was a student of mine, and I’ve probably had thousands of students, but you remember a handful, and Tim was one I remembered, right? Sure. And so anyway, it was great. Great conversation, great interview, got the job and he was my boss.
So I was his power of professional networks. Yeah. I was his professor. He was my boss.
Toph: Never burn a bridge. Life is goes in circles. Exactly.
Matt: Tell me a little bit about that journey. Exact target to Salesforce. You’re learning. Now you’re full time in industry. It’s no longer moonlighting. You’re drinking from the fire hose at a fast growing and one of the hottest companies, one of the hottest companies in the Midwest.
Jim: Y’all know the Exact Target story. It was the best years of my life in terms of, jobs. You just couldn’t beat the culture and what was going on there. And so we had a lot of success. We worked very quickly to get them. I so 27001 certified international certification, made a big deal because, we had all the biggest banks as our customers, you name it.
And so security was really a big deal. And then in summer of 2013, we were acquired by Salesforce, excuse me, became the sales force marketing cloud. So I became CISO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and, they kept adding companies, so that went from three companies to six companies, that kind of thing, and I just built out the, the consistent security and compliance processes across the marketing cloud.
Then the thing that most people don’t realize about Salesforce is it’s just 50 or 55 acquisitions jammed together, each of which came with their own, Security and Compliance Program, or more often, lack thereof. And in 2016, they asked me to do what I’d done for the Marketing Cloud for all of Salesforce globally.
So I became the first Vice President of Security, Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance for all of Salesforce. I did that until December 2019.
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Jim: And the Trava story is a great story if you want to go to that, but ask another question.
Matt: Yeah. Please tell us about that because I know you were unemployed at the time. Correct?
Jim: I went back to start my own consulting.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Doing my entrepreneurship consulting thing and out of the blue in February of 2020, now the world’s about to shut down because of COVID, right? Scott Dorsey gives me a call and, most people, but for the benefit of those that don’t know, High Alpha does these things called Sprint Weeks where they conceptualize a company in the course of a week.
And so they had a Sprint Week and in this case they’d invited or this person invited themselves, Matt Bressler from TDF Ventures in, in Maryland, had been doing research in this intersection of cyber risk management and cyber insurance. So he brought his research in and he and Scott teamed up as the leaders of this particular Sprint Week.
So they put together a concept, had their pitch deck, and so Scott gives me a call and says, Hey, you have an hour on Thursday, I’d like to, this guy, Matt Bressler and I would like to run this idea by you, see what you think. Sure. So I came down, they were still in the old Circle Tower building, and it literally was the last meeting I had before the world shut down.
And so we met, and they start pitching it, and being the former college professor, there was a whiteboard in the conference room. I get up, I start drawing data flow diagrams and Venn diagrams. Had the dry erase marker in my hand, I’ll never forget it. I turned around. I pointed the dry eraser marker at Scott, and I said, Scott, I want to run this company for you.
That’s awesome. And, afterwards, Scott and I were talking about that, and he told me, quite frankly, Jim, I didn’t see that coming. Yes.
Matt: What was it about the opportunity that made you so sure? To turn around point that whiteboard marker and say,
Jim: Because it’s really where my passion was it’s what, it’s exactly really what I had been doing at Salesforce, but I had 100 employees, about 150 contractors and so forth and so on 30 million budget.
It’s okay, how do we take all that knowledge and process and package it for the. Sub enterprise and mid market.
Matt: Yeah, because you saw the growth that created at ExactTarget. When you got all those certifications, you could sell internationally, you could sell to banks. Why limit that only to the companies that get to the scale of ExactTarget?
Jim: And meanwhile, cyber risk has been increasing. Yeah, sure. Every day. And every day, and it’s just as likely, if not more likely, to victimize the sub enterprise and the mid market. So here’s a tremendous… Opportunity because the other part of it is if you look at nearly every other cyber security company out there, they all dream someday of selling to the enterprise, right?
That’s what they want to do. They want to sell to Microsoft or Google or Salesforce. And so from the start, we said, No, we’re not interested in selling to the enterprise. That’s not what we’re trying to do.
Toph: What? Talk about Trava. Good. A little deeper on Trava. So what actually does Trava do? So if I’m a, is your target market a million dollar 10 50 million?
Sass companies only all types of companies like
Jim: So the interesting thing and this is a lesson for the entrepreneurship thing is we knew we had to take a multi phased approach to where we wanted to be. So it breaks that assumption of you come up with your first product and that’s ultimately where you’re going to be.
First product to first market done. That’s not what we said. What we said was, from the very beginning, we wanted to be the standard for cyber risk insight for the insurance industry. In order to do that, we knew we needed to control the data because the way the cyber insurance Sounds like a good example
Toph: right there of narrow and
Exactly. And it’s because the way the cyber insurance industry have been assessing cyber risk is they were using third party tools. Didn’t control the data, couldn’t do any correlation analysis, machine learning, etc. So we said, okay, we have to control the data. How do we do that? We have to build our own.
Risk and vulnerability management platform. Guess what I’ve been doing for the last 10 or 15 years. Okay but then we needed a person that really knew how to build software. So you got one old guy, right? With, 30 years of cyber risk experience. So luckily we found another old guy in Rob Beeler who had 30 years of software engineering.
So we built this risk and vulnerability management platform, which you’re right, at first we brought to SAAS companies to direct, get quick feedback. Is it right? Is it the early adopters, right? Gathering the data, starting to do the machine learning and the correlation analysis. Now, we’re ready to bring something to the insurance industry and say, Hey, we can give you better cyber risk insight, cut your losses, cut your claims, et cetera.
So now, just in the last six months or so, we’ve made that pivot from only selling direct to mostly SaaS companies, bringing our platform to the insurance industry.
Toph: That’s interesting. I love
Tell us a little bit about what that’s as an entrepreneur going from your original target market to now Broadening that scope with a bunch of partners that could help you resell larger contract sizes you’re really like moving up market.
Jim: The other thing that I’ll go back to and it’s something we talked about is the lifelong learning is we knew we needed to be involved in the insurance industry. So both Rob and I we recently got our insurance licenses in the state of Indiana, not easy to do property and casualty insurance.
So we’re like licensed insurance agents, so we can, talk the talk. Granted, we don’t have 30 years of experience in it, but, we are legitimate.
Matt: We’re all covered here, Jim. Thanks. But
Nate: Do you have three friends that you could introduce me to?
Toph: Are you influencing how policies are underwritten now?
Are you seeing any impact that your technology is having with your customers and they’re actually changing their writing policies?
Jim: Yeah, actually, we got a really good example. We some, an insurance agency that was using our platform, put in an application to a carrier came back with their own scan that I was talking about and said you’ve got this problem this vulnerability came up and it’s going to be 12, 000 a year for your policy.
And so that agency sent us what the carrier had provided. We ran our own. We told the agency to run our scans on our platform. And then we looked at the two and we said, Oh, that I. P. Address doesn’t even belong to this customer. And we said, Hey, send this back to the carrier. Wow. So went back to the carrier said, You’re right.
And the premium went from 12, 000 to 9, 000.
Toph: Oh, holy cow! That is massive.
Jim: Yeah. So that’s just one example.
Toph: So you’re talking billions that’s sitting out there like that?
Jim: Potentially. Yeah. Yeah. But the other part that it does is, it assures that the carriers are writing Better policies with lower risk, right?
Lower claims, lower losses.
Matt: And this is a massive problem that you went to bat trying to build during a global pandemic. Your first scale up company from the ground up as a CEO and co founder. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned through that trying time of like really growing a company, got to a million ARR quickly, got to a series A round of funding quickly, now partnering with insurance companies, all within really three years?
Jim: Three years. The first thing that’s really, again, a lifelong lesson is when you find an opportunity or a problem to solve, If it was easy, somebody would have already solved it, right? Yes, very true. And that’s where we started. Now, if you look at it, you’ve got the cyber risk industry on one side, which changes daily.
It’s brand new. And, it’s only been around since I was at Purdue, right? Brand new industry. On the other side, you’ve got the insurance industry, which has been around for 200 years, and really hasn’t changed much in 200 years. And so visually, we have this idea of these two industries with this huge chasm in between them.
And we wanted to be the bridge, the data bridge, if you will. So if you look at…
Toph: It sounds like some
Matt: Good joke. Quick, Jim, I’m on the road. I need a thousand dollars.
Toph: I need a thousand dollars. Gift cards. You want two? That was,
Jim: I just interrupted my whole punchline. If you look at the Trava logo, it is the, it is a bridge with a strong truss under it that bridges. The gap between the cyber risk industry and the cyber insurance industry.
Nate: Yeah, and I wanted to just talk about some of the momentum as we get close to time here. I know we just, you were just a top tech company in cybersecurity. Top tech company voted by Powderkeg on stage at rally accepting your award. What are a couple of the other big wins that you’ve seen in those last three years?
I know Matt mentioned Series A, million in ARR.
Jim: Yeah, you know the statistics, right? Only 4 percent of startups ever reach a million in ARR.
Toph: That’s exactly right. It’s insane. Yeah. The numbers are insane.
Jim: And it’s similar. It’s 60 percent of companies that get a successful seed round don’t ever, aren’t ever able to close a Series A round.
And that’s not even taken into account the current. Tech investment environment that we’re in right now,
Matt: Historical data before pandemic.
Jim: I’m incredibly grateful for what happened there and thanks to Elevate, by the way, for your continued confidence. We
Toph: love investing in great companies and great founders and great ideas.
Jim: But really I, I think it comes down to our people and our team. I and I, and a lot of that has to do with our culture. Again I say it’s somewhat tongue in cheek about Rob and I being old guys, but the benefit of being an old guy is you’ve worked for a few good companies and a lot of really bad companies.
Toph: Yeah. You’ve had a chance to make more mistakes than other people. Exactly.
Jim: That’s what, and so when Rob and I got together, it was like, what kind of, nevermind the product. What kind of company do we want? Yeah, I love that. How do you and I, love going to work? What do we need to do so that we love going to work every day?
Matt: That’s the right question. Amen. We are at the favorite part of the show, at least for Nate. This is my favorite part. This is the lightning round . There are no wrong answers to this, Jim. There’s just three questions. Are you cool to dive in?
Jim: I’ll try. Alright. This is fast paced lightning round.
Nothing to do with the FBI though. No.
Matt: We were gonna sneak one in there. Yeah. Exactly. What’s your password?
Matt: Free association.
Jim: No wrong answer.
Nate: What is the, what was the, what street did you grow up on, what was your mother’s maiden name? Yeah. Jim. Outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, what is Indiana known for?
Jim: You know what occurs to me? And it’s still tech and innovation. I am so excited about AG tech and ag business and agronovus with Mitch Frazier in charge. I know Mitch, with Mitch Frazier in charge of that. We, I was on a panel. At the Indiana Agribusiness Council Conference a week or so ago, man, I think Indiana has the opportunity to become the global leader in AG tech, AG business.
It’s like, why shouldn’t we?
Toph: I love that.
Matt: Absolutely. Shout out to that show. Really great episode with Mitch Frazier.
Nate: Yep. We’ll link it up in the shownotes. What is one hidden gem in Indiana?
Jim: I’ve talked about this before. I call it the one degree of separation. What I mean by that is if you don’t know someone in the tech community or the business community, guaranteed you know someone who does.
And it’s that one degree of separation and just this collaboration. Even so called competitors, it’s like they’re going to do every, still they’re going to do everything they can to help each other.
Matt: That’s a great example of a hidden gem.
Nate: Final question. Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar?
Someone who is doing big things.
Jim: I hate to repeat my answer, but I would go back to Mitch Frazier and Agrinovus.
Nate: He is, he’s that guy. Love what Mitch is doing over there and subtle plug for the episode. Jim, thank you so much for this conversation. It was amazing. I love hearing about all the momentum that Trava is building.
And for our listeners, we are still running our t shirt campaign. So anyone out there that listens to it, if you want to send, Three large t-shirts to 16 Tech address to Powderkeg. Nate, we will wear them on the show. Give you a 60 second shout out. We want to see what kind of listeners we have out there and support your startups.
Toph: I love it. Great job,
Matt: Jim. That was awesome. Jim, thanks for all you’re doing.
Jim: Entirely my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Matt: This has been Get IN, a Powderkeg production in partnership with Elevate Ventures. And we want to hear from you. If you have suggestions for our guest or segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email.
To discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana, check out our newsletter at powderkeg.com slash newsletter. And to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out powderkeg.com slash premium. We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world get IN.
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