By Tim Heger, CTO and CISO, HealthBridge.
The success of any technology startup begins with a solid foundation made up of the three P’s and two S’s. The three P’s are people, process, and partnerships.
The three P’s are supported and enabled by the two S’s – security and scalability. To understand how the P and S elements work together to create that solid foundation for a successful startup, here’s an outline on the benefits of each:
The Three P’s
People – You can have all the processes, partners, security, scalability and synergy but if you have the wrong people it can mean the difference between fast success and fast failure. Be uncompromising on those first dozen or so hires. Not only do they have to be a great technical fit but they have to be someone you can work with who also brings a shared value-system to the company. In industries as competitive as technology, some qualities should include an unflappable nature, resourcefulness, innovative vision, and the ability to bring creative solutions to the table. The flexible nature of the team as a whole is critical to the success of a startup and you will be spending more time with this immediate team than anyone in your life for the foreseeable future, so choose wisely.
Process – At the start you need to begin defining and implementing the right processes to emulate how your business will run post startup phase. Establishing and implementing specific tasks and workflows will be a fluid process until you get up and running. You may have to pivot until you determine the flow that works best for your team. If you want to avoid a killer headache don’t wait till later to try to adopt the proper structure when things really start to take off. You’ll be able to identify the scope and limitations of the business sooner if you implement processes early on and will learn when it’s time to make a change.
Partnerships – Choosing the right partnerships to help your startup grow successfully can be a challenge. Knowing which technology partner your business needs to scale is critical. Your potential partner should have the experience and expertise in the areas that are important to your organization.
Likewise, try to find a partner whose vision is aligned with yours. Because of the uncertain nature of early-stage startups, it is not uncommon for there to be a lot of anxiety among partners and staff. Transparency and clarity among members is critical to your success, and this includes regular communication. Continuing to provide one another with feedback on milestones and deadlines will create the positive and nurturing environment required for a successful startup.
The Two S’s
Security – Startups are moving quickly to hire CISO’s at very early stages because the industry recognizes that while the CISO position was once held until an IPO, well-run security is ground zero for success and will also ensure the ability to pivot and solve problems as your company grows. For example, a startup will engage in business negotiations with prospective partners and investors who will ask tough questions and will need to understand how quickly and confidently you can react if an event or breach occurs. How your team approaches and thinks about security, how you architect your applications, your networks and your processes all have to be grounded in a deep commitment to being stewards of the information with which you have been entrusted.
Scalability – As a startup you must constantly be thinking about the ability to scale your technology to a larger infrastructure. Can the architecture, code structures, and network configurations handle the load you’re expecting three years from now? If you don’t know the answer to the question, start building in serious load testing once per quarter. For example, prove that your systems can handle the load of 10,000 people in an hour, which equates to a membership of over 3 million. Why 10k? It’s where you want to be in a very short period of time. Through this exercise you might find some holes in your processes, be able to thoughtfully review the issues, spend some time in spirited discussions on the right way to resolve the issues, iterate, retest, and repeat. The last thing you want is to achieve that 10k per hour load and have your systems crash.
I’ve used the three P’s and two S’s approach successfully for more than 20 years as a structure that has helped startups to become successful in a shorter period of time. A well-executed P and S strategy will yield dividends of success for years to come