Congratulations to Nicola Hartland, Senior VP, who is finalist at this years CRN Women and Diversity Awards in the category Entrepreneur of the Year! This category is aim at women building a business or a business within a business.
Lets get to know Nicola and find out why she deserves to be a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year:
- Can you tell us about your career to date and what led you to Falanx Cyber?
As a young woman growing up in Aberdeen, I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. So after a few short years in technology sales, I did just that. Founding my first (but certainly not my last) company at the age of 25, focused on sales and lead generation.
I knew straight away that the process of building and scaling a business was what I was made to do. In 2015 I founded my second business, iCaaS, (which I retain an interest in, to this day), to help SMEs achieve GDPR compliance. I quickly realised that there was nothing on the market to help fast-growing businesses, like my own, with GDPR. So, I set about finding my own solution to the problem. And after raising £1.3m, I developed software and built a channel sales model that led to IRIS Software white labelling my solution.
My next couple of ventures were actually outside of the tech sector. Responding to the UK hand sanitiser shortage during the Covid-19 pandemic, I founded Just Sanitise, a WHO-approved sanitiser company which supplied over 300 supermarkets in the UK and 7 European countries. Just Sanitise was a key supplier for the NHS, and I’m proud to say that a percentage of the profits were donated to several NHS charities. I’ve also recently set up my own property investment company with a rapidly growing portfolio.
All of this led me to join Falanx Cyber in early 2022 as a Senior Vice President, tasked with spearheading the company’s ambitious growth efforts. A challenge I’m relishing.
- When and why did you join Falanx Cyber?
I joined Falanx Cyber in March of this year after being asked to create a ‘business within a business’, heading up a new specialist arm dedicated to growth.
It was a challenge I couldn’t turn down. The opportunity to bring together my passion for scaling businesses with my knowledge of the IT world, all at a time when the cyber industry has never been more important.
This is why I have such high ambitions for Falanx. I want to double the turnover of the company in the next 18 months, expanding our core business offerings through brand building, direct sales, and new channel partnerships. Ultimately establishing Falanx as the ‘go to’ cyber partner for SME businesses.
Having a UK-based Security Operations Centre (SOC) is quite unique in the sector. When you match this with our incredible team of analysts, we really do have an offering which I consider to be one of the best on the market. Driving adoption of our SOC will be key to hitting growth targets.
The Board of Directors here at Falanx are incredibly supportive of my strategy, giving me the flexibility and freedom to hit these ambitious goals.
- What are the main threats facing UK businesses right now and what advice would you give them?
Right now, ransomware is the number one cyber threat facing UK businesses, particularly SMEs. A cybercriminal will use extortion software to steal your data or lock your computer, and then demand payment (ransom) for its release.
The biggest problem for small and mid-sized businesses is a lack of awareness – they don’t understand quite how much they need their systems and data. This is why founders or board members so often devalue its importance over other elements of their business.
Cybercriminals know this, making mid-sized firms a popular target as defences are often weak compared to big corporates. Hackers will get into a company’s network through phishing attacks, out-of-date software or password guessing from leaked lists off the dark web.
By the time a business has been locked out of all its systems, it’s already too late! It comes as no surprise that 80% of UK firms end up paying the ransom demanded by their attackers. Unfortunately, paying the ransom still never guarantees the end of the attack either.
To protect yourself, I always recommend having two-factor authentication in place across all applications. To prevent an attack outright as a business, staff awareness training and password policies are vital. The ultimate defence is either endpoint detection and response, or a fully managed detection and response to watch over your networks 24/7.
- What is your advice to young women entering the cyber security industry?
It can be daunting as a young woman entering into male-dominated industries, particularly cyber where only a quarter of the workforce are women.
One of my biggest lessons was finding the right mentor to champion my development, this was hugely useful and is something I’d recommend to all women, no matter the sector.
It’s also a great way to give back. I now find mentorship and developing young talent incredibly rewarding, and many other entrepreneurs I know say the same.
When I work with young women developing their careers, I try to set milestones early on. You have to work on a joint target, and then build a plan together that you both believe in. One that helps achieve professional and personal goals. I’ve seen it work time and time again. One young trainee at iCaaS I personally mentored became one of the youngest GDPR practitioners in Europe.
Ultimately, if you have the determination, self-belief, and are laser-focused on your goals then you really can break through any barrier – not just in cybersecurity, but in life too.
- What are the entrepreneurial attributes needed to be able to launch and rapidly scale businesses?
Knowing your worth is the greatest attribute when launching and scaling businesses. Having conviction in your own work and strategy can have a transformational effect on the business, and its valuation.
This translates into all aspects of the business. When you’re fundraising, for example, it’s only 20 per cent about the product or service. Investors are more interested in investing in YOU – your ideas, your potential, and your ability. It’s why it’s so important to value yourself and the ideas you bring to the table equally to more ‘tangible’ assets.
People vouching for me was so crucial when scaling Just Sanitise. Mid-pandemic, I had to source ethanol, plastic containers, locate a manufacturing plant and set up distribution channels. Without having people believe in my mission, this would have simply not been possible.
You also need to live and breathe entrepreneurship and be goals orientated. For me, the excitement of landing a big deal, or driving my team to achieve is what gets me up in the morning and puts that fire in my belly to get out there.
If you fail or make a mistake, that’s fine. Learn from it. I always say to my team “if we fail, we fail fast”, but maintain drive, focus and determination to achieve. Then, we will hit the target we’re aiming for.