‘If I could go back, perhaps I’d have executed things a bit faster’
Building a company is a difficult task. Whether starting their own or growing an established business, these leaders have made a name for themselves as some of the best of the best. So, what makes business leaders tick and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Danny Jenkins, CEO and Co-Founder of ThreatLocker, about his journey in business.
When did you establish your first business and what inspired you to set it up?
My early experiences in IT businesses, followed by a period of consulting work in which I was tasked with bypassing security systems, I found the best recipe for success is to block everything you do not have to use. Don’t trust anything unless you absolutely need it.
This concept is known in the industry today as “Zero Trust” – a model which abandons the traditional “trust but verify” model in favour of trusting nothing and verifying everything.
The problem is that operating systems release thousands of new files every month – so taking steps to implement Zero Trust and block all these updates is difficult. There were no products on the market that would help organisations embrace this concept of Zero Trust and allowlisting: And we saw we had found a gap in the market.
Still, it wasn’t easy to get things off the ground. In those early days, we had serious pushback from investors, and 2018 was the toughest time. I was at the point where I could barely afford the basic things in life like food and the mortgage. I was very close to giving up but I decided to offer one company an ultimatum.
I told them if I wrote a piece of malware that couldn’t break into their system, I’d close my own business down. I got past their antivirus and they could see they needed ThreatLocker. Things changed after that.
Today, after more than £120m raised in investment, over 40,000 companies use ThreatLocker – with around 300 staff across Orlando, Dublin, Australia and Canada. We’re hoping to double this number over the next two years.
We have about 60 people alone working in our ThreatLocker Labs researching every product to determine what’s necessary to protect businesses. Even our competitors send us their updates to check.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or did the desire develop over time?
I always wanted to be one. I left school at 15 and tried to start a business when I was 17 in IT support before going on to start other firms and operate as a consultant.
I set up my first real business – an email security firm – in 2005, where I learned a lot of vital life lessons in both business and investment, before running a company that offered white labelled email security. It was after this business was bought out that the concept for ThreatLocker started to originate.
I was working during a fascinating period for IT – The Love Bug and the Blaster Virus became some of the first examples of how computer programming could bring down entire systems and the world was realising how big cyber threats could actually be.
Today, at ThreatLocker, we’re doing something really important.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
The type of problems you face change depending on what stage of the journey you’re on.
For many years, the big issue was money. Finding new revenue is always the challenge when you’re starting up: Any business owner will tell you that.
When you finally start to generate money, you think the problems have gone – but they haven’t. You just have to deal with different challenges in terms of growth, management and compliance.
It’s also about finding a team that’s as committed to the product as you are. Computers you can tell what to do – people are a whole different story!
It took some time, but now we offer a 30-second response time for our customers, 24/7, 365 days a year. If you want to talk to a ThreatLocker support office at 2am on Christmas morning, you can.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
I try to look forward as best as I can, but if I could go back, perhaps I’d have executed things a bit faster.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – so I would advise anyone starting out in business to really go for it as best they can.
It’s also worth knowing that whilst you can dream about what success looks like, it’s important to remember that even if you achieve it, your world will still be full of problems – just different problems. You just need to be ready for them, you’re always learning.
What is your top tip for other entrepreneurs?
Make sure your product is working. If it doesn’t work – the company will die fast.
But also, I would encourage entrepreneurs to be brave enough to move the obstacles in front of them.
Everyone wants to tell you how to do things, but as a small business owner with nothing to lose, you need to decide: What’s the important thing to me?
It doesn’t matter how well you prepare – there will be issues and challenges to face. So, stick to your principles and really go for it.
All it comes down to is creating a great product and getting customers. Focus on that and you can succeed.
What are your plans for the future?
Ransomware attacks are going to get worse and more frequent – so we’ll need to increase the size of the business whilst the competition increases alongside us.
We might see similar companies to ThreatLocker – but that will just serve to validate us.
There will be a lot more doing what we’re doing over the next few years, but the more competitive the market is, the better it is for the buyer.
We’d like to go for an IPO in maybe two years, really taking ThreatLocker to an even greater level.
What would you like your legacy to be?
It would be good if I helped to change the way people think about threat detection. I’d like to play a part in really shifting the mindset from “default allow” to “default deny”.
I thought I might have sold the business at this stage, but now, looking around, I don’t want to sell it.
Running it – being part of something important – is the best part of it.