After working for over two decades at Integrated DNA Technologies as the chief information and technology officer, Aaron Warner decided to leave and start a cybersecurity firm to help companies face some of the challenges he had experience dealing with.
ProCircular is an Iowa-based information security and privacy firm that offers custom programs to help companies reveal what they don’t know about their technology security and help protect their privacy and data with a system of tailored, layered and ongoing security.
“I’d always wanted to start a company and have always sucked at being an employee,” Warner said. “I thought, if don’t this now, I’ll probably never do it. So I’m going give this a shot.”
Just a year and a half later and ProCircular has taken off. They now have well over 100 clients and are growing fast. Last November, the Gazette awarded the company one of its Excellence Awards.
“One of the things I’d love to tell you is that I had this vision that cybersecurity would become what it is today. That’s not true at all,” Warner said. “I just knew that I spent a lot of my time at work trying to keep bad people out.”
Relationships, not transactions
“Security was a pretty common part of what I did. And I thought, you know, there’s no really good company to help me with this,” Warner said. “I could go talk to Deloitte or IBM or PwC and for $750,000 their happy to come out do an awesome risk assessment and it takes like a year. Or I could go to the other end of the spectrum. There’s a lot of companies around here that will sell you a firewall or a solution for your computer. And then in between, there was kind of nothing.”
That’s where ProCircular comes in. By focusing solely on cybersecurity and compliance work, ProCircular is able to provide more focused, detailed feedback to their clients.
“What we do is really specific. You can’t do everything and be really good at it at the same time.” Warner said. “When you’ve had a company that’s shown you that not only you have a problem, but has worked with you through the issue, it builds bonds that are valuable.”
“I’ll take the Pepsi Challenge against a national cybersecurity firm any day of the week.”
Challenges of working in a complex, fast-moving industry
Cybersecurity is largely defined by its endlessly evolving nature. Things change a lot and they change often. Both sides, the threat actors and the defenders, constantly innovate. There’s a lot of ground to cover and new threats appear every day.
“You have to be comfortable with ground moving underneath you. It changes every day,” Warner said. “Keeping current is an incredibly important part of what we do. But it’s not a chore. If you love it and are interested in it, it’s what you’re going to do anyway. And that’s what our clients pay us for, is being up to date.”
One of the biggest challenges of cybersecurity is that once a hacker successfully breaches a network, their focus then shifts to spreading the reach as quickly and extensively as possible. This is often where the real damage occurs.
“The hard part of the gig isn’t kicking the bad guys out. That’s actually pretty straight forward. The hard part of the gig is finding out who else got in there,” Warner said. “Because if one guy got in, it’s reasonable to assume 20 other people are in there somewhere. Just because you closed that door doesn’t mean they’re not still in there and haven’t opened other ways to get in. That’s the expensive part of what we do.”
Building a foundation in Iowa
“We’re building a foundation here in Iowa,” Warner said. “We have access to really good talent between Kirkwood, Iowa, Iowa State and all the other colleges around. We have a really good relationship with those guys and they’re a great source of super talented people.”
Long-term, ProCircular sees themselves expanding outside of Iowa and becoming a national firm. They already have clients in three adjacent states and expect to continue to see the quick growth they’ve seen over the past year.
“I want to be able to bring what we do to other firms. There are some really underserved markets out there,” Warner said. “Our intention is to become a national firm. That’s what we’re going to do.”