As someone who’s been in the cybersecurity industry for 15 years, Jon Sternstein’s entrance into the entrepreneurial world was inspired in a familiar way: He saw a gap in the market and thought he could fill it. He felt that cybersecurity companies weren’t doing a good job, especially for healthcare companies, and Sternstein knew he could do something different to service them better.
So around seven years ago, he broke off from the corporate cybersecurity world and launched Raleigh-based Stern Security—which will be presenting at next week’s Venture Connect Summit on April 7 in RTP. At the beginning of the company’s operations, they provided services, like ethical hacking and penetration testing to show clients where their weaknesses lied. But many organizations started asking Stern Security if they could measure the security of all of the other companies they did business with too.
It was a time-consuming manual process, and there was no good product on the market that could do it automatically. So Stern Security set out to create one.
“We said, ‘Hey, let’s build this product from scratch,” Sternstein said. “We know the industry really well, been in cybersecurity for a long time. We can build this from the ground up.”
Transitioning from a services organization into a SaaS startup ultimately made Stern Security stronger, he said. After all, they had seen the pain points while working with their clients beforehand, and now could automate processes for them with their own software.
“It’s not like we’re just coming off and saying, ‘Here’s the software that will do magic for you,’” Sternstein said. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve worked with you over the years. We’ve seen how you’ve been struggling in this one area. Now we have a solution for it.’”
The accurate risk ratings that Stern Security provides for organizations is one of the key things that sets them apart, says Sternstein, and the entire report process is automated to save time for customers.
While Stern Security started by mostly targeting healthcare companies, it has now expanded to a larger market—all organizations in heavily regulated industries where they have to evaluate their own security and the security of any vendor they do business with. Healthcare, banks, credit unions, defense contractors and more can all utilize this service. On March 17, Stern Security announced its flagship product Velocity had gone to a freemium model to meet the greater needs of their clients.
So far, Stern Security has been bootstrapped, but that might change once the startup gets in front of the array of investors attending Venture Connect on April 7. [We previewed the event here.]
As a startup founder, Sternstein said there are always going to be ups and downs, but you have to have that grit, never give up and keep pushing.
“From the outside, you don’t see all the ups and downs,” Sternstein said. “You just see a lot of highlights. It’s nice that at this point, we can actually see the fruits of our success here and see that we’ve grown a product, brought it out to market and are actually seeing customers enjoying it now. That makes all the difference in the world and makes what we’re doing that much more special.”
Recently, in light of the war taking place in Ukraine and the resulting economic sanctions on Russia, many organizations have reached out to Stern Security with worries over the threat of cyber attacks. The way Stern Security’s software is designed means that their protective measures will cover customers amid whatever threat emerges.
“Instead of trying to touch all these companies and help them all out individually, we can just push that into our software, and our software can help everyone,” Sternstein said. “We’re building in things just to help no matter what type of new situation’s going on in the world.”
Looking ahead to Venture Connect, Sternstein is excited to make connections with others in the Triangle tech ecosystem and developing greater product visibility.
“We already know that we have a solid product here,” Sternstein said. “So I think the visibility is going to help out a lot. That’s really what I’m looking forward to.”