I started interacting with Magda Chelly, founder of Responsible Cyber in late 2019 when she submitted her application to fundraise with AngelCentral. She struck me as a confident, self-sufficient and brainy young lady, who is totally passionate about upholding cyber security and integrity.
But like most of us, when the pandemic hit in early 2020, her life and her business were affected and we had a few text exchanges. I could “hear” the worry, fear and stress in her words. All that I could do was to be encouraging and I suggested some mindset shifts. What’s so different and amazing about Magda’s responses to me then was – “yes, i would do that, it would be such a waste to give up now.” It’s not the words, but the commitment and strength that came through those texts. I remember thinking to myself – she seemed to be the only one really understanding what these shifts mean.
The next time I heard from her was a few weeks later, when she shared that she raised / acquired a cybersecurity startup!! I was amazed at how she had transformed in the short few weeks!
Last week, we were chatting over text again, and it just struck me again how she had grown! I asked if she would be willing to share her journey and reflections with the AngelCentral community. She kindly agreed and sent me the article below within a day! Read on for Magda’s story …
The Journey of Surviving and Thriving through the Crisis
In these uncertain times, cybersecurity startups might face challenges and doubtful moments. I certainly did. The company that I founded in 2016 with 8 employees had its first downturn when the pandemic started. None of the plans I had for 2020 was working out. This year was supposed to be our year, the most successful and blissful of all!
The global pandemic and global policies restricting people’s movements have caused major troubles to many businesses, large and small. We started noticing some customers holding back their decisions around the end of January, and by February a large number of our proposals were put on hold. Uncertainty leads to limitations in new investments, and reduced spending. In addition, several companies have started working from home, while many personal meetings and conferences have been switched to video conferences and other virtual forms of communication.
With the lack of cyber awareness, some of our clients just stopped contracts, postponed new engagements, and decided to wait. Many businesses have responded to the crisis not only by cutting costs but also by not engaging in new innovative activities.
I was reading and following COVID-19 updates every day, every hour, every half-an-hour… I started feeling a loss of direction and inspiration. I was panicking…
It wasn’t the year that I had planned … it wasn’t …
Every business on the globe is being put to the test. All 2020 work plans may seem impossible. And if you follow some of the tips I’m sharing here, you may even come out on the other side a stronger, better, badass entrepreneur. It’s time to dig down deep.
My epiphany is when I remembered that I was an entrepreneur. And an entrepreneur creates an opportunity when there is a challenge and a solution when there is a problem.
That realization did not happen overnight. But when it happened , I decided to take my entrepreneurial life and my whole teams’ future in my hands. Let me now tell you what made the shift happen, and what helped me maneuver the crisis.
- We’re All in It Together – I have realized after taking the initiative to join several meetings with other startup founders, that we are all in this together. I am not an exception. Responsible Cyber is NOT an exception. Every business in this world is being put to the test.
- Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Change – I accepted that I have no control over many of the things that happen in life, including a Global Pandemic like coronavirus pandemic. There was nothing that I could do to change the world situation and reduce the coronavirus cases across multiple countries. But I could help ensure my part of responsibilities, bringing more awareness to my employees, and helping them navigate. I know I can’t prevent bad things from happening, and I have decided not to focus all my energy on being occupied, wasting my time, worrying that it doesn’t do any good.
- With Great Challenges come Greater Opportunities – I have always believed that with brutal challenges will bring even wilder opportunities. Am I going to get to the other side of this? Yes, I will, and I will ensure a greater future for my company. Remember some of the biggest and most notorious companies started during a crisis! Entrepreneur Andrew Mason founded Groupon, a website that promotes companies by offering deals on their products and services to consumers, in the middle of the 2008 recession. An entrepreneurial mindset sees a discomfort or a problem as an opportunity to create new productive solutions. It is important that entrepreneurs don’t just sit back and accept the status quo.
- Flexibility is Key – Flexibility is key in this time of uncertainty, and so is creativity, even in cyber security. With more than 80% of #remote working globally, the post-covid world will very likely continue with a similar setup. This will impact not only the overall real estate and office rental industry, it will also make an important change to the #cyber security industry in parallel. Home security presents a good example and is a domain where entrepreneurs might want to focus and address the current security concerns.
- Determine What You Can Control – When I found myself worrying, I immediately took some time to examine the situation, discuss with my co-founder Mikko Laaksonen and align on what we can do to achieve a better success/adapt to the situation. One of my key employees Shareen Song, who is not in cyber security, gave me a different perspective, mentioning thriving industries during COVID19, i.e. healthcare, biopharmaceuticals, etc. You can’t prevent a war from happening sometimes, but you can fight for your people. You can’t control how someone else behaves, but you can control how you behave, think and react. So, when you put your energy into the things you can control, you get much more effective results.
- Ask for Help – We totally underestimate how many others will help us; from strangers to colleagues to business partners to landlords to friends, we think people are likely to reject our call, and that leads us not asking for help. In this situation, where there is a global pandemic that we do not have control over, the best advice that I have for you is to ask for help. I have approached my office landlord asking them for support, and they have accepted to delay rent payment. I have asked for additional bills and invoices to be delayed further, and they were all accepted. Everyone understands the current situation. That immediately eased the overall situation of the company, and the cashflow forecast. You have to ask!
- Check the Grants – Government grants for companies have been increasing all over the continents, ensuring some help for business owners, from innovation grants to employees’ salaries support schemes. However, this helped us as well. For example, in Singapore, there are MAS “Monetary Authority of Singapore” offering grants for regulated companies going into a digital journey. This helped us close some deals. https://www.mas.gov.sg/development/fintech/digital-acceleration-grant
- Discuss with Your Employees – My team is my family. I trust them, they trust me. They are the founding core of what Responsible Cyber has built. Without them, we would not be where we are today. Mikko and I had an honest discussion with them mentioning the challenges and describing that within the next few weeks the uncertainty will rise. They were all very understanding, and they supported us all the way – Special thanks to Daniel Lim, Kenny Weir, Mathea Luciani, Jia Wen Zheng, Tom Philippe, Shareen Song and Andrea Thniah.
A very good friend of mine in Singapore always tells me to ask the Universe what you want, and it will give it to you. I knew I would not fire anyone, and I did not. We are currently recruiting. How did that happen?
- I shifted my mindset and focused on what I can control.
- The team started working on the industries that were thriving within the COVID19 crisis.
- We have planned ahead with some roadmap around countries where the risks have been lower and businesses less impacted or businesses have been resuming.
- We have shifted workshops online and communicated with clients about those opportunities.
- We have joined partners into common projects, where we helped each other to ensure a better opportunity to win.
And, then life continues. And no matter what crisis comes, people adapt…”Humans have biological plasticity, or an ability to adapt biologically to our environment.” And so humans adapt – we adapt, and today working from home becomes the new norm, and companies need to adapt and to continue operating. Service businesses like ours need to reinvent ourselves to ensure sustainability.
During the crisis in China, sectors such as online shopping and entertainment businesses have moved online and grown tremendously during the coronavirus closure. Health-related smartphone applications are growing across the World, and so are other mobile applications, digital platforms, etc. These are opportunities that we would grab and evolve to serve.
It is not about the challenges… It is about the opportunities!
About Responsible Cyber
Responsible Cyber is one of the fastest-growing cyber security companies in Southeast Asia. It is already recognized worldwide, with its international team. We provide cyber security one-stop-shop through a cloud based platform for small and medium businesses. With no technical jargon or security knowledge required, a business owner is able to assess his/her cyber security risks, implement controls, and transfer residual risks. Since Inception, Responsible Cyber has grown to 8 employees, acquired a startup, and is valued at 7 million SGD.
AngelCentral is the most active and fastest-growing community of angel investors in Southeast Asia. We organize regular pitch sessions, angel education workshops, and provide syndication services. Since Inception, AngelCentral has trained >300 angels and raised >S$12m for the startups that they featured.
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