“The language of business”: How Sydney startup Avertro is translating cyber risks into something manager-friendly

Avertro co-founders

Avertro co-founders Ian Yip and Roman Mandryk (left to right). Source: supplied.

While businesses might expect cutting edge science to be at the forefront of cyber security, entrepreneur Ian Yip argues it’s more about storytelling and translation.

Having lead the digital guard in large corporates such as Ernst and Young (EY) and cyber security behemoth McAfee, Yip found communicating to management and stakeholders about spending on cyber security to be the biggest challenge.

“It was my role to bring some sense and storytelling into reporting technical things to people who typically don’t understand those aspects,” Yip tells StartupSmart.

“At the big firms, you notice a lot of manual work and bureaucracy slowing down the process.”

So in an effort to build communication bridges between security teams and overhead management, he teamed up with software developing expert Roman Mandryk to launch startup Avertro, dubbing it “the cyber-why company”.

Unlike the security software Yip cut his teeth developing, the aim of Avertro is to ensure those at the executive level fully comprehend the risks their digital front line faces, to better understand what protection measures are appropriate.

“So what we’re trying to do is bring a lot of automation and ease of producing information from the security teams,” Yip says.

Avertro launched its version-one software to its pilot consumer testers in November, following a year when several digital breaches occurred among Australian branches of high profile corporations, including Australian National University, Google, Optus, DoorDash, MYOB, Adobe, National Australia Bank, and Commonwealth Bank.

The timing, backed by Yip’s experience, landed Avertro in Antler Australia’s inaugural cohort and secured it a $100,000 investment to boot.

Translating data into decisions

Now in the stages of testing its version-one software, Avertro has to date focused on the core security measures in the program.

But over the holiday period, Yip says the team of four will focus on expanding what he considers to set Avertro apart from its competition: the communication tools.

He hopes these tools, such as visualisations and automated graphs, will be ready for the launch of the startup’s version two early next year.

Despite hiring capable and qualified digital experts, Yip says business managers are often presented data without context, so they often misunderstand what their security teams are trying to communicate.

“If you look at the demographic of the cyber security industry, most people come from a technical background,” Yip says.

“So they’re not used to speaking the language of business or finance.

“You have to validate the problem so it becomes something that people actually want to solve.”

According to Yip, these miscommunications often result in frustrations for the security teams, and management are then unable to explain security spending to investors and stakeholders.

In the worst case scenario where digital defenses are breached, executives are also asked to justify the existing level of research and protection.

By designing Avertro’s automated translation dashboard, Yip and Mandryk hope to ease frustrations and improve accountability.

The idea is technical experts would input raw data, and the dashboard then translates it in real-time into a visual presentation more compatible with the manager’s expertise, Yip explains.

Data collected from integrated services such as protection software would also help to “glue the technical bits into the business bits”, which Yip says is key for risk management.

“Talk about risk in a language you use. Talk about financial impact,” he urges.

Why move into the startup world?

Prior to developing Avertro, Yip was the chief tech officer at McAfee, which seems to be the perfect environment to grow a reporting arm.

Yip, however, found the culture of the larger corporate setup to offer more comfort than opportunity.

“What you have to ask yourself is, is that what makes you happy?” Yip says.

“I want to do something that I feel is meaningful, so I thought, ‘you should do it and there’s no time like now’.”

Although Yip found the comforts offered to higher positions in the corporate world made his network more reluctant to leave, he found his veteran status worked in his favour. That being said, he admits, “you’ll never be ready”.

“As you get older, you are actually much better positioned to start a company because you have more experience and a better network,” Yip says.

StartupSmart was invited to Antler HQ as the official media partner of Antler Demo Day 2019.

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