Startup stories from San Fran: diary entry one


Nick Ellsmore, the co-founder of Security Colony.

Security Colony was one of six cybersecurity companies selected by Austrade & AustCyber to take part in the Federal Government’s Landing Pad program in San Francisco. In this exclusive series for Dynamic Business, Nick Ellsmore, co-founder of Security Colony shares his journey as he builds his second business (the first sold to BAE Systems) and introduces an Australian-built cybersecurity solution into the global market against the backdrop of the Californian startup and investment scene.

Diary Entry One

It’s something o’clock. Between the time where I left, and the time where I’m going – the artificial time-in-a-bubble of long haul flights where “dinner” follows “dinner” every couple of hours. I have no idea what time it is; flying through time zones at 900-ish kilometres an hour, they change as often as the meals placed in front of me.

But it’s late, that much I know. The cabin is dark, and from my vantage point, every single person is laid up in their beds, having an early night, or a late night, or a mid-afternoon nap. Whatever time it is, sleep is ubiquitous…

Except for me. I’m awake, pounding away on my keyboard, reviewing about 500 pages of research, after which I’ll process a few dozen emails, swap SIM cards, and start prepping for San Francisco. Would I be better off sleeping now, and working on the flipside? Maybe, but it always seems either too early, or too late, to make sleep worthwhile. And since I’m going to be jet-lagged to shit at the other end anyway, I may as well go all-in while the phone isn’t ringing.

I’m seated in 3J. Yes, Business Class. Don’t get too excited though, it’s all points. I’m not spending the company’s cash on this; after more than a decade of flying back and forth to Singapore and Malaysia pre-children, it’s not hard to end up with a lot of points. It’s one of the few payoffs for a pretty heavy international work schedule over many years.

As is so often the case, it’s easy to see the comfort of the lie-flat bed and pillow fluffing, while ignoring the price that was paid for it. Not the price in terms of some arbitrary number of made-up currency ‘points’, but the price in terms of days, weeks, months and years of grinding away building a business, time away from loved ones, time trying to sell services that foreign clients didn’t know they wanted. Yes, right here, right now, this is mildly glamorous. But the decade or two of toil that got me this seat? Not so glamorous. But every project you get, every day you turn up, give it your best, and genuinely make some progress, gets you a little closer.

It’s important for me to remember that because I’m about to go into another market that couldn’t give a third of a f*** if we’re here or not. There will be no free passes, just a lot of hard work, and if we turn up every day, we’ve got a real shot at making it succeed. And I have no problem with hard work.

The guy next to me works for Google… of course. He does something networking-y related to Chrome and I’m expecting this to be a forerunner to most discussions I’ll have over the next few weeks and months, where everyone works for someone doing something important, or at least relevant to the online world. In other words, either potential clients or worthy adversaries.

So, San Francisco here we come. I come bearing 24.2 kilograms of winter warmies, and a collaboration platform that contains a few million dollars’ worth of cyber security consulting output that could help make your job easier, a pretty awesome vendor risk and breach monitor platform, and a commitment that I will outwork everyone here to make it work.

I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

After all, as Pete Rose said, “swing hard, in case you hit it”.


About the author

Nick Ellsmore is the co-founder of free-to-join cybersecurity resource Security Colony. He is also the co-founder of cybersecurity consulting firm Hivint, the winner of the 2017 Telstra Business Award “Business of the Year” in Victoria.