Developing a business model for a tech startup that identifies IT security problems caused by employee behavior

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Elaborating a business model for IT-SEAL – an IT security startup that helps hidden champions to protect their trade secrets and client data from industrial espionage with a social engineering analysis. By applying lean startup to develop a value proposition and a profitable business from the core technology. 

The startup idea: Helping enterprises to reduce attacks on their trade secrets by analyzing their vulnerability to social engineering

The idea for IT-SEAL was pitched by Alex and David on the Startup Weekend Darmstadt 2015. The startup idea is to offer a social engineering analysis to identify IT security problems that are caused by social engineering, that is cyber-attacks provoking employee misbehavior to overcome technical security mechanisms. Based on this, they can provide enterprises with recommendations and action plans on how to decrease the threat of industrial espionage.

David had elaborated the concept for this social engineering analysis during his master thesis, and had tested it for proof of concept with one company. Alex and David came to the startup weekend with an idea of possible applications and clients, and were searching for assistance to examine if there can be a viable business around this, and if yes, to elaborate the business model together.

The teamwork: Elaborating and validating a profitable business model around the social engineering analysis

Alex and David were supported by Sebastian, Chris, Xin, Hugo, Sebastian and me. With diverse professional backgrounds, we discussed different value propositions to apply the core technology, from offering a fully automated, highly scalable audit, over directly derivable recommendations with action plans, to value adding services like consulting or employee training, as well as going into Big Data with the insights gained from a larger number of clients. And we explored several customer segments with the implications for sales channels, pricing and scalability. With the input of IT experts we were able to validate the value proposition for both hidden champions and IT security consultancies, and developed a business model.

Nicole’s contribution: Get started with your core value proposition, but think strategically how you plan to expand your core competencies and value proposition

Alex and David are very driven to make their business idea real. They have done a great job in involving everyone in the team and in ultimately taking responsibility for a great startup pitch on Sunday evening. Given this, I have monitored the process of the group work and intervened only occasionally.

Alex and David are interested in developing a fully automated and highly scalable audit. I have advised them on the potential coming from value adding services like consulting and employee training built on the audit. Growing into adjacent fields might increase their revenue streams and widen their core competencies as part of their key resources. Service blueprints and internal training make services scalable.

The result: “Best business concept” for Alex and David with support to start their IT security business

Alex and David have validated their idea of a Social Engineering Audit and elaborated a business model. They have won the 1st prize at the Startup Weekend Darmstadt 2015. They are eligible to apply for a Techstars Accelerator program and for a German founder’s grant. Any of these would allow them to found their startup, code and sell their audit to IT security consultancies to ultimately help hidden champions to protect themselves from industrial espionage.

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