When it comes to traditional business numbers, BitSight Technologies has a lot of impressive ones to share: Its customer base increased by 700 to 2,400-plus customers in the preceding fiscal year, and Moody’s invested $250 million in the company’s shares.
Yet, for those looking to truly understand the company’s rocket-ship trajectory, it may be another figure altogether — one you might not see across company press releases or other news — that’s illustrative of the action that’s been happening: 4,000.
That’s the number of interviews that Co-founder and CTO Stephen Boyer said that the Boston-based cybersecurity organization conducted last year, leaning into hiring as the company continues to find success in the market.
And what’s behind that growth?
“There are a couple of parts of it. One we would call secular tailwinds, which is that cybersecurity is not just a back-office, IT function anymore. Businesses have to manage this differently than they have before,” Boyer said, adding that the firm has expanded into new fields in the process.
Kathryn Pollard, director of account management at the company, estimates that BitSight boasted around 150 clients when she joined as the 139th employee back in 2015. So it’d be a bit of an understatement to say that things have picked up a bit since then. And it holds a little extra weight when Pollard acknowledges that, for the firm, there’s plenty left in the tank. “It was a really huge year last year. We’re expecting another massive, massive year,” she said.
To reach those big goals and take the platform to the next level requires dedicated efforts across all areas of the organization. Engineering Manager Zhichun Ye — another longtime BitSight team member — is focused on insurance and strategic partnerships, two areas she said the company previously didn’t have dedicated teams for. But those teams have been built out with engineers and dedicated product managers, which Ye said “really enables us to really understand the jobs our customers are trying to solve.” Now, Ye and her team are focused on items like developing an app for insurance customers and ensuring that the BitSight platform can handle future scale.
“These insurance customers already have a really large portfolio. How can we make our platform scalable to support our existing customers and more customers who come on board?” Ye said. “That is definitely one of the challenges, and also the most exciting thing for the engineering team to solve.”
For all the big numbers being posted, Pollard said, “It feels like this coming year is going to be the biggest one yet.” Built In Boston took a deep dive with the three colleagues to learn more.
BitSight has grown a lot within the last year. What’s driving that growth?
Boyer: BitSight is uniquely positioned to really reach into better business decision making. Part of this is learning how investors think about cybersecurity risk. How do credit issuers like Moody’s start to think about cyber-risk and credit issuance? How do board members think about the performance of their organizations and how to invest? Those are very different questions than something like, “What are hackers doing and how do I protect my own systems?” Cyber-risk quantification — how you put a dollar value on that risk and performance — has been a big area for growth.
Additionally, we’ve expanded our opportunities to reach new markets and customers. We work with national governments, insurers, investors: Those are just not your typical cybersecurity buyers.
What does that growth mean for your teams? What makes that exciting for your teams?
Ye: There are definitely a lot of new challenges for us on the engineering side. Now that we have the resources, we need to do a lot more discovery work, build our roadmap and design workflows to help the customer get the job done in a much more efficient, easy way. The other challenge for us is the scalability issue. Now that we have the dedicated engineering team, we’re challenged to expand our customer base accordingly.
Pollard: We’ve been really busy growing our account management group. We’ve created three different segments there: enterprise, mid-market and commercial. That enables us to get really close with our customers.
Boyer: Another big investment for us is making sure it’s clear what people’s roles are and the training required so that their teams can be successful. Zhichun and Kathryn have both recently been promoted. We need to make sure that they’re trained and that they are successful in those roles. We believe that if our people are successful, they’re happy and going to really help serve the customer.
“People who come in and question and try to innovate and solve challenges will do well here.”
Growth can impact culture. How do you preserve that as you scale?
Pollard: The first word that comes to mind in terms of our culture both in sales and the larger company is collaboration. It’s really important for us to work closely with all the different departments since we are on the front lines, listening very carefully and communicating customer needs to engineering and product developers.
Ye: There’s a lot of cross-functional collaboration between engineering, design, product and even sales. Engineers are really involved in the end-to-end process, from the early discovery phase to understanding what we’re trying to solve to delivering the code to understanding how customers are using the feature.
The other thing that comes to mind is natural curiosity. All of the engineers are very open-minded and we challenge each other to give our best. Everyone’s opinion is valued here.
Boyer: We have awesome people who are trying to do the right thing for customers and their teammates. We’re in the trust business, after all. The mission that we’re going after, trying to secure the digital economy, is something that motivates us.
How can team members learn and develop at BitSight?
Ye: One thing that I really appreciate is that we have a very clearly defined engineer ladder, where I can see where I am at and what the next level is I want to get to — either on the people management side or staying technical. This helps me identify any gaps and work collaboratively with my manager and team on those areas.
I joined the company as a co-op from Northeastern and came back full time. I experienced working up the ladder and using it to set goals for myself. I also sought advice from leaders inside the company on areas where I need to get better.
Pollard: I started here in 2015 as a new business account executive, really not knowing anything about cybersecurity or the tech space. What I found very quickly was that the company was incredibly supportive of my growth and learning. I’ve held at least four different roles within the sales organization. We put a big emphasis on truly understanding what people’s strengths are and pinpointing the correct role that they’re really going to thrive in.
We want to make sure that we’ve got great talent, but we’re making sure that they’re in the right role and also making sure we’re discussing professional development. Once per month with every account manager we discuss ensuring that they are on the right path and what support they need.
Boyer: Because the cybersecurity business landscape is moving very quickly, you have to move quickly to keep up. We try to make opportunities and experiences to learn available, such as going to a conference or visiting a customer. We also provide tuition reimbursement and access to LinkedIn Learning. We have conversations with people to understand where their careers are going and where they want to be.
What are your teams working on right now? How can new hires push that forward?
Ye: We’re actively expanding our customer base, especially on the insurance and partnership side, so one of the top things my team is working on is building the infrastructure and platform to support our future scale. For any engineer who joins BitSight, we can always feel like we can make a direct impact on the business and the customer.
Pollard: Even though we’ve grown five times since 2015, the exciting part is that we are still implementing a ton of changes and pivoting very quickly as we grow. From a process standpoint and how we interact with customers, bringing fresh perspectives and experiences from their previous experiences with customers is only going to help us improve.
Boyer: Fresh perspectives help us innovate. The more we can understand what customers are trying to accomplish, the better. People who come in and question and try to innovate and solve challenges will do well here.
Looking back, what are you most proud of from your time at BitSight?
Ye: I’m really grateful for BitSight helping build my confidence in myself. This was my second job out of college. I didn’t have a ton of previous work experiences. Over the years, BitSight not only taught me about cybersecurity, but also helped me to build my confidence overall. That is really priceless.
Pollard: I have a similar feeling. I’m proud that I have been able to work my way up and prove to myself that I can do more than what I was doing five years ago as a new hire. It’s just so incredibly rewarding to see people who you’ve been working with work their way up as well and see them succeed.
Boyer: Kathryn and Zhichun are two of my favorite examples of that. It’s by far the most rewarding feeling, watching people grow in their careers and develop the skills and respect of their colleagues. There’s just nothing more rewarding.
Additionally, there’s just a lot of good that we’re doing to help secure the digital economy and protect people from a lot of the ills that can be out there. We get to see that every day as we help our customers do that. It’s super rewarding when they come back and thank us for how we help them further their goals and be successful in their roles.