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Portland cybersecurity startup looking to double workforce

Defendify is a Portland-based cybersecurity business with a niche on protecting small businesses from cyberattacks

PORTLAND, Maine — Can your business afford a cyberattack? It costs companies an average of about $3.92 million after hackers are done stealing sensitive data and information from customers, according to IBM. But it also cores a businesses' reputation.

Small businesses are oftentimes in the crosshairs, either because of it's access to larger corporation's data and oftentimes owners think hackers wouldn't be interested in a small company. Some believe the cost of hiring a team of IT experts can't be justified.

A Portland-based startup is trying to make it more affordable for a business to protect its online property. Defendify was started by Andrew Rinaldi and Rob Simopoulous in September 2018. 

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“We know that most small businesses today have anti-virus or firewalls, but it’s not close to enough protection today,” said Simopoulous. "One of the biggest things we hear from business owners is that, ‘I don’t know where I stand. I don’t know if I have weaknesses on the cybersecurity side, or I don’t really know what I need to do to protect myself.'"

The all-in-one platform has 12 modules, including assessment and training tools for employees to build policies and plans, and it features dark web scans to see if employee email addresses and passwords have been compromised. Defendify's co-founders say their product is designed for companies with less than 500 people.

Many small business owners who approach Defendify before a breach say they aren't sure if they are protected enough.

"We call it having a cybersecurity posture," said Rinaldi. "It’s kind of like your health. You need to be taking care of it on a daily basis and looking at it from a holistic perspective is not only something you can do once."

In July, CRN listed Defendify in its top ten for cybersecurity startups in 2019. Defendify secured $1.6 million in pre-seed funding from private investors, Maine Technology Institute (MTI), and cybersecurity industry investor 3dot6 Ventures, after an announcement in June.

MTI played a pivotal role in initial funding and as consultants during the startup process.

“All of our investments require at least a one-to-one matching fund and that just helps the company have a little more runway to get things up and running,” said Lou Simms, a senior investment officer at MTI. “We try to keep the jobs here but also try to attract people that come from Boston to start their business here.”

Over the past 20 years, MTI has invested over $250 million into Maine's small business economy, and it’s been matched by over $1 billion in investments, according to Simms. Like Defendify, over 2,000 different companies have taken advantage of grants, loans, and equity investments.

“You’ll never get a deal better than what MTI offers,” said Matt Hoffner, the Entrepreneur In Resident at MTI. "The best thing that can happen for us is that the company becomes mature and successful and there is no longer a need for MTI money or MTI advice.”

Hoffner helped advise Defendify's team before the product launched and recommends any Maine small business reach out to MTI for financial support and for any additional information to take advantage of the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit through the Finance Authority of Maine.

"If you can lean on someone and ask questions on how they did it, what should I be looking for, does this sound like a good deal or a bad deal it makes their life a little bit easier,” said Hoffner.

Defendify currently has 12 employees and an intern. Rinaldi says they are currently looking for a larger corporate headquarters in Portland and it is on track to double its workforce within the year.