Interview with Taylor Hersom ~ Founder of One of The Fastest Growing Subscription-Based Cybersecurity Firms Today

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Today’s guest left me uniquely inspired. With no real background in building startups, nor an existing community of startup friends, he built one of the fastest-growing subscription-based cybersecurity firms in existence in under 20 months.

It is a reminder to discard your limiting beliefs, keep your eyes & ears open for underserved markets, and simply start where you’re at.

Allow me to introduce Taylor Hersom…

So, who are you and what’s your business?

Eden Data is a subscription-based cybersecurity consulting firm focused on helping startups build security, compliance, & data privacy programs that are as innovative and disruptive as the company themselves. Leveraging the client’s unique differentiators and tech stack, we help enable them to:

  • Win more sales while adhering to new regulatory standards
  • Attract clients/investors with data privacy assurance
  • Attain long-term scalability by building programs that are SaaS and automation-first
  • Breach mitigation through continuous compliance optimization
  • … and most importantly, free your resources to focus on your business

What is your backstory and what inspired you to come up with / pursue this idea?

Before starting Eden Data, I had the great fortune of working for Deloitte, a global consulting firm that offered its employees fantastic experience-building opportunities, but their model of consulting can’t scale to [what I humbly and unbiasedly think is] the most exciting market for innovation: startups. I also strongly felt there was a quality gap in the market between the consulting firm’s enterprise organizations that can afford to hire and firms that serve SMB’s. After taking a position as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at a different firm, I realized I would never be truly satisfied until I built something that was genuinely mine and that was capable of fulfilling the passion I’d developed for solving this gap. The idea of Eden Data began as simply an idea to create a one-man consulting firm, which I built on UpWork. However, as my opportunities grew, I realized I would be silly not to turn this into a business with team members to help grow the brand!

Image of Eden Data Website Slogan

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product – what was that like?

While we don’t offer a physical or digital product, per se, we have very much productized our service, and that was through much trial and error. When I first started on UpWork, it only allowed for me to pitch hourly rates or project rates. I HATED tracking my hours, so I informally pitched to one of my customers that I would just do a retainer model each month. They loved the idea, and we just submitted monthly invoices via UpWork for a flat rate going forward. That was the first step towards our current subscription program that we have today!

Describe launching the company… Where did you start?

By the time the Eden Data brand was ready to launch, we were too big for UpWork and had started signing customers that came from other channels besides UpWork (i.e. referrals). Everything we were doing was purely online and none of our customers ever required us to be in person. We had even started signing customers globally, which really reinforced the remote model! As such, there wasn’t any big hype or announcement.

Edan Data List of Clients

What has worked to attract & retain customers so far?

Honestly, it has boiled down to two things:

  1. Great relationships: we established partnerships with companies early on that had similar customers to ours and where our services complemented theirs. I know everyone says this one, but I’ll go a step further here in hopes of sparking some inspiration to the readers: I didn’t know anyone in the startup community when first starting out. I had never worked with startups or worked at a startup, and my network was largely corporate. I just hit up people on LinkedIn or tracked down emails to people who spearheaded partnerships at companies and just asked to meet! I also went straight to founders of some software companies and said that I could refer them business and also implement their software for customers.
  2. Building a brand that stood out: when you’re not a big corporation (or even a real company), there is no such thing as approvals or QA. As such, I just made a bunch of marketing materials on Canva and asked people for feedback. I changed our website nearly constantly, as I always hated it and perpetually felt like our message could be better! I added humor to our verbiage and applied a bunch of things I read in marketing books until people started telling me “hey you have a really cool brand!”. Then I’d ask them why they said that and what resonated, and continued to tweak!

What books, podcasts, or people have been the most influential on your journey?

This list could be a mile long if I wanted, but I’ll keep it to a few recommendations:

  1. Trends Group: The Hustle has always been a newsletter I have loved, but they eventually put together the Trends Group, which was a paid membership to a Facebook group that entitled you to a newsletter. The Facebook group was worth its weight in gold! I was able to network within that and found employees and customers from that group. They even featured Eden Data in the newsletter on three different occasions, which further helped to grow the brand!
  2. My First Million Podcast: the founder of The Hustle, Sam Parr, has a fantastic podcast with Shaan Puri where they simply just throw a bunch of business ideas out there and talk through them. Not only is it motivating, but they ideate all sorts of viable businesses and methods you can try!
  3. Principles By Ray Dalio: this book opened my eyes to how you can run a business SO differently than your competitors. Ray Dalio is a savage, and has some really interesting ways to run his investment group.

Edan Data 860 Million

How are things going today and what does the future look like?

Business is great! We have been at it for about 20 months now, and we are now a team of 25 (employees and contractors) spread all over the US. We have over 60 clients in multiple countries, and we have really dialed in our service offering to where it can be scaled at a faster rate.

Our goal is to simply serve as many startups and cloud organizations as possible and to further lower the barrier to entry for smaller organizations to have access to world-class cybersecurity leadership, regardless of budget or trajectory. Our goal is to serve 1000 startups by end of 2025!

Any advice for others who are just starting out?

I feel like advice to entrepreneurs is always the same: “Work hard”, “Don’t give up”, “Focus on your mental health”, etc. While I can’t deny that all of those things are true, my hope is that my advice is at least somewhat unique:

Obsess over building relationships. Figure out what you want to be working on (make sure it’s something you LIKE to be working on) and then identify both the customers and the partners that you’ll need to be successful. From there, go be a part of as many things to get in front of those people as possible. I think a lot of people have a problem with investing in networking because they don’t see an immediate impact from that founder dinner or that community build day or a virtual Happy Hour. You are building a brand and in the beginning, your business’s brand is YOU. If you are starting an underwater basket weaving company, then you want people to think of you the second they need a basket that was weaved underwater. If you talk to 100 people, maybe only 5 of them will ever need your product/service in their lifetime. But if you talk to 1000 people, then that suddenly turns into 50 opportunities.

To end with an example: I recently sold a deal where I pitched to the person back when I was a lone consultant almost two years ago. I had met them at a networking event and they seemed interested in our service but they weren’t at a place to pull the trigger. That original pitch was two years ago! I stayed in contact and when they finally needed cybersecurity, they immediately thought of me. That is the power of networking!

What’s the best way for people to connect and follow you? Website, Social Profiles, Etc…

Please don’t hesitate to connect with me on Linkedin or Twitter! I’m active on both platforms and need more than just my Mom to like my content! Ha

If you’d like to check out our website, head on over to https://edendata.com.

Finishing things is more than just an exercise in tidiness or self-discipline. In many projects, a surprising amount of the best work is done in what was meant to be the final stage.

Two years ago I fell down the AI rabbit hole.

Since then, I tried to get (and stay) up to speed in AI — consuming all relevant papers, podcasts, blogs, etc... I could find.

Today, I'm sharing a first pass of my reading list. Hopefully it's helpful!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bEQM1W-1fzSVWNbS4ne5PopB2b7j8zD4Jc3nm4rbK-U/edit?usp=sharing

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