“We equip organizations of all sizes with the tools they need to train their employees to keep sensitive data safe and secure.”
Last year hit a shocking high record of new cyber threats and attacks, with large cases of Ransomware attacks and threats hitting global large-scale establishments. In turn, the importance of having a good defense system and preventive measures has increased. However, Employees can be a source of entry-point for bad actors in the cyberspace. It is extremely crucial to ensure that every employee is aware of the cybersecurity measures and is constantly updated about it. The need for them to be risk-aware is very crucial now more than ever.
This is exactly what AwareGo excels at. Established in 2007, AwareGO equips organizations of all sizes with tools they need to train their employees to keep sensitive data safe and secure. The company works fast and creates relevant, high-quality videos addressing the latest threats that are of utmost importance.
In a conversation with Ragnar Sigurdsson, the founder and CEO of AwareGO, we found some interesting points about the firm and its impact in the world of cybersecurity. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
With more than a decade of AwareGO’s success, tell us how it all started and the journey so far.
Back in 2003 till 2007, I used to be a penetration tester. It was here that I found out people were the weakest link. But when I went into the same companies with my PowerPoint slides to teach about security, I thought it was my time to shine and everyone would love to hear what I had to say. To my surprise, this was not the case and I soon realized that I was almost sucking their will to live out of their eyes, maybe a little too dramatic, but this was very boring. In 2007, after one of these presentations at a pharmaceutical company I started to think, there has to be a better way to get the message across and AwareGO was founded by me and my wife, Helga Bjorg Steinthorsdottir.
The same year, we made a pilot episode and a 12 episode series in 2008. The episodes were 6-8 minutes long each and had to be watched in the correct order. We took the videos to exhibitions and conferences and got probably 200 NOs for each YES. But for each ‘no’ we asked, “What would be your perfect solution?” With the answers and feedback we got, we took that knowledge and imbibed it back into our present products.
Let’s talk about the products and services you offer.
We make people more aware of security risks and threats, but unlike our competitors where most have grown by making phishing or compliance software, we have grown by offering great content. Through trial and errors, we found out the best way to make memorable messages is using the same format marketing people have mastered, that is:
Not unlike commercials about ‘buckling up’ or ‘don’t text and drive’, we are not telling people how to buckle up. But, some people need regular reminders, because if they do the wrong thing, they ruin things for a lot of other people.
That is quite an interesting approach. Could you elaborate further?
As part of our video content, we now have 36 videos in our catalog and we keep producing 2 more each month. For smaller companies, we offer a free Learning Management System to deploy and audit results of campaigns. For larger corporations, we are launching soon a new platform-independent viewer that works with the client’s own software, whether it is an LMS, SharePoint, Facebook Workplace or anything else. The viewer will also offer multiple languages, where the user can switch between voiceover and subtitle languages.
I must mention one thing that came as a surprise. When companies wanted to use our content to train their own customers, CEO scams for example, they are very costly for customers of banks. By using our material, there is an affordable way to lower their risks. The same goes for customers of energy and insurance, to name a few.
When it comes to your product’s capabilities, how well does AwareGO analyze the competition in the market today?
Honestly, not so much! But we listen to our customers and what their requirements and wishes are. Most of our content is produced from ideas or problems our customers want to solve.
From an operational standpoint, tell us about your company’s organizational structure. How has it benefitted AwareGO?
We are a relatively small company with our core team consisting of only 11 people. So we have a very flat hierarchy and for all major decisions, like deciding on the next big thing, we present our case and take a vote. We plan to grow to 25-30 people by the end of 2019 and hopefully, we can stick to the flat hierarchy. As for morale and employee satisfaction, it works very well for us and demands that every employee can work independently within a preset frame, but not be afraid to ask for help from anyone in the company.
As a company dedicated to security, how does your company utilize employees to stay competitive, and strategically meet the goals?
At AwareGO, we have an OKR- Objects and Key Results meeting every week. Every employee has 3-5 Objects and 3-5 Key Results for each object and these are further linked with the company OKRs. The OKRs has worked very well for us to stay on track. We also have a standup meeting every other day, where each employee tells about the projects they are working on in short term and if they need support from other people in the company.
Let’s talk about your customers. How loyal is your customer base? How are you improving it?
Last summer we changed our business model from one-off sales to yearly subscriptions. Hence, we still don’t have a lot of data yet about customer retention, but there are quite a few customers that have chosen the subscription model, especially to receive two new videos every month. That being said, we are developing a new Pay-per-View model, especially for larger organizations who want to use their own software to deploy their security awareness program.
How frequently does your organization deliver new value-adding ideas to your customers to keep them engaged?
Every month we release two new awareness videos, most of them are produced from ideas and problems our customers are facing along with discussions about new materials. It is one of the most rewarding parts of our job.
Today’s customers demand versatility, usability, and efficiency, among other things. How do you encourage your employees to bring this innovation into the products offered?
Yes, we are a small company, so our livelihood depends on making great products that our customers love to use. We are in regular dialog with many of our customers and if they have ideas that can suit others and is a part of where we are headed, then it goes on our production plan.
AwareGO’s clients range from small businesses to enterprise-level organizations in a variety of industries, including a number of the world’s top 25 banking institutions. It’s evident that AwareGO provides high quality story-driven security awareness training content to businesses of all size. But this isn’t the only reason that would drive firms towards AwareGO. Here are a few others–
Marketing Awareness – When it comes to its video content, AwareGO uses short story-driven videos and advertising techniques to drive home employee security awareness training. “The best way to make memorable messages is using the same format marketing people have mastered – Advertisements,” Ragnar says.
Easy LMS integration – AwareGO’s training videos can be easily integrated into any Learning Management Systems. The team even helps organizations that lack LMS setup one from scratch with the help of its trusted partners.
Compliance qualified – AwareGO’s security awareness training is 100% compliant with all the necessary regulations and standards including GDPR, ISO27001, and PCI-DSS.
Always Up-To-Date – The security risks are constantly updating. This is why AwareGO also ensures that its clients stay updated with training on all the relevant and recent cybersecurity risks. They also generate at least 2 new videos every month, constantly covering emerging security threats.
Additional materials – The videos come with short texts for introduction and further drive home their key learning points. Post training, they also come up with questions suitable for testing the employees’ awareness level.
Multiple languages support – This is one of AwareGO’s key features. The training videos are in English by default and the team is already working on including support for multiple languages like German, French, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and more.
Customizable training – AwareGO also specializes in delivering the content in the training videos fully customized, based on each client’s specific requisites.
Did you know?
Ideas for new and fresh material comes from experts in some of the renowned Universities and corporations of all sizes.
The Pioneering Security Expert
Ragnar Sigurdsson, Founder & CEO
A genius and an entrepreneur at heart, Ragnar Sigurdsson has a background in training, system administration, and white hat hacking. He kickstarted his journey at the age of 18, where he started the first youth hostel in his town. He bought a few mattresses and rented the local elementary school for 5 summers. A hard worker, he self-studied system administration during long night-shifts and began working as a system administrator and teaching Microsoft and CompTIA courses. In 2003, Ragnar became a Certified Information System Security Professional CISSP and a Certified Ethical Hacker shortly after that.
“With cybersecurity only increasing in importance, keeping our finger on the pulse is crucial, and we make sure we keep on top of what is happening in cybersecurity today.”