This Cybersecurity Company Has Found Success Renting CISOs to Startups

The venture has been a success so far. This past year SideChannel grew its revenue by 114 percent.

Written by Charli Renken
Published on Oct. 04, 2022
This Cybersecurity Company Has Found Success Renting CISOs to Startups
SideChannel's CEO Brian Haugli in front of a blue, purple, and green background with a large padlock to the left
SideChannel’s CEO Brian Haugli. | Image: SideChannel / Built In

In the ever-changing world of cyber threats, it’s not always easy for companies to know what security measures to invest in. Many large enterprises have chief information security officers (CISOs) who are experts in cybersecurity, but smaller startups often don’t have the budget to keep a full-time security expert on payroll. 

Worcester-based SideChannel’s mission is to give every company access to the benefits of having a CISO without the cost of a full-time hire. The cybersecurity company evaluates an organization’s needs and matches the business with a virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) that has enterprise-level experience. 

“There are too many [people] — both buyers and sellers — that are focusing on tactical improvements first through the procurement of solutions, platforms and products,” SideChannel CEO and founder Brian Haugli told Built In. “There is a lack of understanding of the importance of creating a strategy first, then building in the tactics and supporting coordination to make it a reality. Effective enterprises know this, but startups and mid-market companies historically jump to ‘What do I need to buy to be secure?’”

In essence, SideChannel lets companies rent CISOs as needed. Instead of buying lots of security software that may or may not match a company’s unique needs, SideChannel gives organizations the ability to have a personal security expert.

Knowing that mid-market firms do not have the financial resources of larger enterprises, what if I could make CISOs fractionally available to them? Even better, what if these virtual CISOs were once actually CISOs with enterprise experience?”

The company also offers other cybersecurity offerings, such as virtual privacy officers, risk assessments, compliance services, third-party risk management and team building and staffing.

Haugli started SideChannel after his own experiences as a former cybersecurity leader for the Pentagon, chief security officer for Hanover Insurance Group and a professor for the master’s program in cybersecurity at Boston College. During Haugli’s career, he noticed that smaller companies often don’t have access to someone like him, someone they could actually sit down and discuss their security concerns with. 

“Knowing that mid-market firms do not have the financial resources of larger enterprises, what if I could make CISOs fractionally available to them? Even better, what if these virtual CISOs were once actually CISOs with enterprise experience,” Haugli told Built In. “Many, if not all, vCISO service providers have at most two former CISOs or are filed with cybersecurity professionals that, while good, have never sat in the seat of [a] CISO. I saw this [as] SideChannel’s differentiator in the market. I believe that experience matters, especially in this role.”

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That differentiator turned out to be a powerful piece of SideChannel’s success. The company has experienced stellar growth since its launch in 2017. Over the past three years, the company has grown 120 percent year-over-year. This past year, it grew its revenue by 114 percent, according to the company.

“It is great to see the organizations realizing they have an effective alternative to getting actual senior cybersecurity leadership in place without the cost of a full-time resource,” Haugli said.

SideChannel also recently went public and completed a merger with Cipherloc, an encryption-as-a-service company based in Texas.

Currently, SideChannel has 34 employees and is actively hiring more vCISOs and an executive assistant.

Miranda Perez contributed reporting.

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