INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Startups during Covid and Beyond
Anne-Fleur Schoch, CEO at VAADATA tells us how the company specializes in security audits.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: We are doing well, thanks. We are in good health, which is far the most important. Of course, we miss the social life we had before, and we hope that we will be able to live without masks at some point.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Vaadata?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: I do not come from security, and I do not have an IT background. I am a business person most interested in human issues of IT and cybersecurity. My cofounder Nicolas Bonnefous is the true IT guy, and our complementarity works pretty well. Our team mixes fantastic people who are either fond of hacking or interested in the social impacts of cybersecurity.
How does Vaadata innovate?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: Our innovation is about delivering the pentest services to startups that fit their roadmaps, technical priorities, and budgets. When we started about 6–7 years ago, most startups in France did not have any pentest partner. Now we work with startups across Europe and North America.
As a very agile company, we constantly adapt our services to our client’s priorities. This means that with the pandemic, we have adapted our services to improve our clients’ security in the context of massive remote work and also that we offer even more remote services (we were already used to working with clients from remote for most types of pentest, but we used to travel for some specific services such as internal network pentest and security training. Now even these can be performed remotely).
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, from March to May 2020, we suffered from a brutal economic panic: all clients canceled their contract, and we got through difficult months.
But during the last months of 2020, the context has completely changed: the need for cybersecurity is growing, and we have plenty of work. With all restrictions due to the pandemic, the need for digital services has exploded. Our clients are digital businesses, so they need us to enhance their resilience to cyberattacks, which are fast-growing too. They need to protect their digital products (SaaS software, web and mobile apps, IoT products) as well as their company infrastructure, which is more exposed due to remote work.
Hackers are targeting critical industries (such as hospitals) but also companies that are unprepared to face the current situation. This means that it is more vital than ever to look for vulnerabilities in the systems and raise the employees’ awareness of risks, including social engineering risks.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: During the first lockdown, we thought that we might have to fire our whole team. Luckily, we had government support that helped us pay the wages when we were short of work and had no income. And after the lockdown, our clients came back to us, so we did not have to take difficult HR decisions in the end.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: We were already working with clients from several countries in a remote way. What has changed with the pandemic is that now all our staff works remotely, which also means good tools to ensure teamwork. And even more cybersecurity with the opening of our systems to remote workers.
Your final thoughts?
Anne-Fleur Schoch: We are lucky to work in a sector that does not suffer from the economic recession at the moment. On the opposite, the Covid pandemic has increased the need for digital services and thus for cybersecurity audits as well. Our goal is to keep growing while ensuring a top level of service quality. Our big challenge is to keep providing a motivating work environment to our team despite all social restrictions. Full remote work is perfect for some people but not for everyone. We need to take care of everyone’s motivation and of our team spirit while ensuring social distancing and safety.
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