Found In The Rockies

Dan DeCloss (PlexTrac) // Making the world a safer place with Cybersecurity innovations

April 20, 2022 Les Craig Season 2 Episode 17
Found In The Rockies
Dan DeCloss (PlexTrac) // Making the world a safer place with Cybersecurity innovations
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, I talk with Dan DeCloss. He is the Founder and CEO of PlexTrac - PlexTrac is a revolutionary, yet simple, Cybersecurity platform that centralizes all security assessments, penetration test reports, bug bounty submissions, audit findings and vulnerabilities into a single location. He is going to share with us how he got started in cybersecurity, and his journey as the founder of PlexTrac. He’s going to tell us what Purple Teaming is and what his advice is for founders going after their dream.


Here’s a closer look at the episode:

  • Dan’s dream of entrepreneurship
  • Naval Postgraduate School
  • Department of Defense cybersecurity
  • How report automating sparked the idea for PlexTrac
  • The Red Team vs. the Blue Team in cybersecurity
  • The importance of validation
  • Deciding to commit full-time
  • Why timing was right
  • Unanticipated challenges as PlexTrac has grown
  • The COVID impact and lessons learned
  • How things changed after fundraising
  • The relationship with Insight Partners
  • Importance of leadership development
  • What’s coming up for PlexTrac
  • Dan’s advice for other founders



Resources:

Website: https://plextrac.com/ 

Dan’s Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ddecloss/ 

Dan’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/wh33lhouse 

PlexTrac Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlexTrac

PlexTrac LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/plextrac/ 

PlexTrac Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/plextrac 

Dan 00:00

You know, when you hit March of 2020, and your business model is showing you to start hitting that, you know, that hockey stick, you're not really anticipating a pandemic of epic proportions. Right? So we had to shift our whole marketing plan. Got very creative on deal structures, you know, when you have frozen budgets, or people that just can't spend money, or just don't have a budget. So those were all good, good lessons as well. I mean, how do we, how do we penetrate, you know, in tough circumstances, and, and fortunate enough for us, you know, we still grew very, very strong in 2020.


Les 00:44

This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem and the Rocky Mountain region, the founders, funders, and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we have Dan DeCloss, who is the founder and CEO of PlexTrac. Today, we'll be talking all about cybersecurity. We'll talk about what got Dan excited about this field in the first place, what he sees as some of the current threats that are out there, and how his company, how his cybersecurity platform PlexTrac can help. Hi, Dan, thanks so much for joining us today.


Dan 01:24

Yeah, thanks, Les. Yeah, thanks for thanks for inviting me on the show. I've been looking forward to it.


Les 01:29

So we have been looking forward to it as well. And I gotta tell you, you're our first Idaho founder on the show. So we're also excited about that.


Dan 01:38

Oh, that's, that's fun. Yeah, it's fun to it's fun to represent Boise and Idaho, you know, and the growing tech scene here, it's, it's really exciting. So


Les 01:47

Very cool. Dan, to start off, why don't you I love your background story. And kind of the inspiration, why don't you tell us a little bit about kind of your, you know, start wherever you want, maybe growing up, or wherever you want. And just just take it up to the point of where you kind of got the inspiration for PlexTrac.


Dan 02:01

Yeah, no, I think that's good. I mean, I think, I think being an entrepreneur, you know, has always been a dream of mine in some capacity. You know, it's kind of funny, because I think back to like, when I when I, growing up, my dad and I started a small business, a side business, I played baseball growing up. And so we I was a family of two teachers, you know, so we didn't have a lot of money. And so we weren't gonna go build a batting cage in our backyard to be able to practice. So we go out to the fields, and we'd hit, then you have to go gather all the balls. And it just took a long time in between the hitting sessions, right. So we were like, I'd love to be great to have a batting cage. So we actually built our own right, and and then we were like, Hey, this is pretty nice. You know, it's a portable batting cage in your backyard. Maybe we could sell these. So, you know, so we started selling them online. This is the late 90s. Right? So E-commerce was not a big thing at all. So we're selling. We're selling batting cages online. And that kind of got me


Le 02:56

Literally to sell anything online in the late 90s. Right, like, wow, but batting cages?


Dan 03:03

Right. Yeah. You know, it's like, so it was, it was a great, it was a great foray into just, you know, what it's like to kind of, you know, own a business and, and I got the bug, I got excited about it. That was always kind of a side thing. You know, I was very math and science oriented. So I went to college. But I actually majored in business my very first year, and my very first term paper was about the value of entrepreneurship, and what it does for the economy and building small small companies that help help grow the grow the market, and then and then they get, tend to get acquired by larger companies. And it just helps build jobs and things like this. But I ended up changing majors to computer science just because I like solving problems and things like that. And, and so, so I graduated with a Bachelor's in computer science, and I got accepted into this Master's program called the Scholarship for Service program, through the Naval Postgraduate School in computer science, with an emphasis in cybersecurity. So I started having this interest in security. And, and so, you know, got was very blessed and fortunate to go to this program. A great a great opportunity for me, I got to rub shoulders with just some really brilliant people in the DOD and in in the early days of I mean, I would say in some of the, in the more early days of cyber, right, it wasn't the very, very beginning of cybersecurity, but there weren't a lot of jobs and security back then. Right. So you really didn't need to work for the government to have a formal job in security. 


Les 04:32

Which, by the way, I mean, I think that's a really important point to make, because we think of cyber now is like an established category. But, but you're absolutely right. Like even at the C level in companies like the Chief Information Security Officer, like that position was created when, like in the early, early 2000s. Maybe, late 90s…


Dan 04:48

if that, you know, I mean? You I mean even today, a lot of companies won't have that kind of a role. Right? It's a director level or maybe a VP level but, but regardless there was not I mean, if you were if you were head of security, you were doing everything.


Les 05:05

Right. Physical security, making sure the building was locked at night


Dan 05:09

Right. Yeah. So. So you know, but like, naturally, you know, I mean, cyber really kind of, you know, was born out of the Department of Defense, at least, you know, in the US, right? You know, out of necessity World War II and, and, you know, keeping secrets and things like this. So, so it was just a great opportunity for me to really get exposed to a new new world. And I loved I loved the security space. And so I wear a lot of hats in those early days, you know, forensics, and incident response and vulnerability management. And then I really started to find my niche in security testing, more specifically, you know, penetration testing. And even more specific than that, like application security pentesting. So hacking websites, and hacking mobile devices, mobile apps, and embedded devices and things like that. It was just a big puzzle to me, right.


Les 05:56

I mean, what what, what a diversion from a being a business major in short order. I mean, Naval Postgraduate School, unbelievable.


Dan 06:04

Right. Yeah, yeah. And, and, you know, and I always, but I always had that kind of that bug, or that, that notion that, like, I'd like to start my own business at some point, you know, just had that kind of idea. And, you know, and truthfully, I just felt like, I felt like there would be great opportunity in in, in the computer science realm at the time when I changed majors, not really knowing that, what a great opportunity, there would be down the road and in security specifically. So. So yeah, so I, you know, I started, I started there in the DOD, and then I moved on to a DOD contractor, and was doing just a lot of security assessment work. Testing, were going to testing other agencies. And then really, you know, kind of honed in on more penetration testing. And that's when I started to kind of feel the pain of what PlexTrac solves today, right? So kind of early in my career as a penetration tester, or probably any kind of security assessor or auditor, you hate writing the final report, right? It's just it's it's a drag, you'd much rather just be hacking, right?


Les 07:07

Doesn't everybody in every industry hate writing that final report?


Dan 07:11

Right, it's the thing you put off to the very, very end until till your boss is hounding you on. Where's that report? And then,


Les 07:18

But especially hackers, I would imagine Oh, yeah, there's,


Dan 07:21

There's, there's no, there's no love loss between reporting and hacking, right. So, so, so you know, but I also felt like, Man, this is, we We are some of the highest paid technologists identifying some of the biggest risks in these environments, and we're still like spinning in an order amount of time resizing screenshots in word documents, right, and trying to format text and and, you know, it just felt like an utter waste of time to me, right? And so anytime I get, I feel that way, I'm gonna probably try and automate something, right? Like most hackers do, right? If I, if I have to do something more than once that I don't like, I'm gonna find a way to automate it as best I can. So, so yeah, so that was kind of the the initial notion of PlexTrac was like, I hate hate writing these reports. The other thing, you know, and I continued to move on to I went, I was a principal at Veracode, on their testing team. And then I was also at Mayo Clinic and Anthem Blue Cross, you know, so as a penetration tester on these teams, and and experienced the same problem everywhere I went right, hated writing reports took a long time. And then once you delivered it, like, what happens to it, right? This is like a 300. It could be upwards of 300 pages of just documentation. But what is what does somebody do with that? 


Les 08:35

And yeah, and that's not to be understated there. Because that actually, in this line of work, in particular, you know, we're talking about, you know, red teaming versus blue teaming and sort of the intersection of those things in cyber, and maybe, maybe for our listeners, it would be good to talk about that a little bit. But that's almost even more important than the pen test. Right? Exactly. Fix it, because it's gonna, something's gonna be wrong…


Dan 08:59

Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, kind of clarify, you know, a red team, is that what we would call the proactive team, they're the ones, you know, doing the assessment in whatever capacity I mean, there's, you can get nuanced. You know, there's some people that are pen tester is not a red teamer and those things, but at the end of the day, it's the offensive capabilities, right, trying to trying to find the security gaps before the bad guys actually do. The blue team are the ones that were responsible for defending against those, right. So there's this innate responsibility to collaborate between those teams, right. And, and for the longest time, and even now, I mean, there's still a very segmented view of those teams, right? There's not a lot of collaboration that happens, but it's important because the red team is going to deliver some of them the most critical findings that you might have in your environment, the blue team's got to do something with that. And they may not even know how to how to go about fixing them. So that was the other that was another issue I was recognizing was the lack of collaboration post engagement on these findings. So you basically come back a year later, and you'd basically rewrite the same report, you know, because they hadn’t fixed anything, right?


Les 10:04

And that's got to be the only thing that's worse than writing the report in the first place is having to rewrite the same thing.


Dan 10:14

Yeah, yeah. And so, I mean, from a consulting perspective, hey, the the cash is still green, they're still paying us. Right. But, you know, but from the mission, you know, like, we're not making progress here, folks. So, so we I mean, you know, we actually do want to help you improve and avoid getting breached. So there, in my mind, there had to be a better way, right, a better way to collaborate on these on these risks. And so that was really the impetus for PlexTrac, I started writing it as a side project, with the intent that this could be a business at some point. But you know, my risk management sense of like, I'm not just going to go out and raise money on this idea, I'm going to try and validate it. And, and if I, if it doesn't come to fruition as a business, at least I'm solving a problem that I know I have, right, so I'll be I'll be the one and only user of it right? 


Les 11:01

Wait, wait a minute, is this is this something that is a character characteristic of Idaho founders? Because I would say, that is not what I've seen in the Bay Area. You know, I mean, I wanted to actually validate this idea before you went out and raised a couple million bucks. Come on, why would you do that? Yeah,


Dan 11:19

I mean, I mean, I don't know if it's an Idaho founder thing, or if it's, you know, you know, I've just, I haven't been in security and like, you know, risk management is like, innate in my bones, right? It's like, I'm not just gonna, like, you know, drop everything. As a whim. I want to have some validation.


Les 11:36

I'm totally, I'm totally teasing you. But I think it's really it's really, I think, great. Great that you said that, because I think it's an important, it's really an important takeaway, I think, for other founders that are listening in our region, because I think more and more that is more important. Like, if you're building a company in the Rockies, it's it's, it's important to get that that early validation, right, yeah. And you did, and you did it.


Dan 11:59

Right. Yeah, I did. You know, I mean, I have, you know, great. And this is what's great about being in the cybersecurity space. I mean, I'm sure other industries, well, I just only have my experience in cyber, is that the network of people are very helpful, right. So I got great feedback early on, oh, you know, you might want to consider this or look into this, but all good signal, and then just continue to build out the product on the side. And then actually got some early customers, right, some people that were actually willing to pay for it. It's funny, when you look at the product today versus what it was three, four years ago. It's like, wow, somebody actually offered to pay for that.


Les 12:38

But you must have been doing something. Right, right. I mean, something that was solving a real problem, a real pain point for those customers.


Dan 12:43

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, the look, and the look and the feel, you know, far, you know, the utility of the of the function that we were solving, you know, far outweighed, you know, the look and the feel of the UI and the UX and things like that, right. So, so we knew or I knew I was onto something here in terms of like, Hey, I've got a problem that I'm solving, and other people have it as well. So just continue to build that out and get, you know, get that early, early traction, met market validation, to the point where I'm like, Okay, I really do think I have something here. I'll quit the day job. Right. So


Les 13:16

What was there? Was there, do you remember that moment? Like, do you remember the inspiration or, or maybe, you know, telling a friend or a mentor and them saying, you know, are you crazy? Or was there any moment like that?


Dan 13:28

had been building? Right, you know, I mean, because fortunately, so I worked at a company called Scentsy here in Boise. Well, Meridian, technically outside of Boise. Entrepreneur friendly, folks. I mean, they have a great story as well. And so you know, it was no secret what I was doing and and what I was planning on doing if this was a thing. And so so it was, it was really helpful to just have mentors around me, not only at Scentsy, but even in the in Boise, you know, we have this group called Trailhead, which is kind of, you know, helps early founders. And so there's, there's a really good sense of community here too, for just helping entrepreneurs. And so it was kind of like it kind of been building to the point where I just kind of realized, like, I am, I am now hurting the business by not doing this full time. So I either need to make a decision either makes it or just shut it down or go all in and, you know, I wasn't going to shut it down because I really felt like I had something here right. So so I mean, so there was there was it was it was kind of building was not like lightbulb moment, like Oh, I got to do this, but it's like yeah, no, this the time is right. Got it. So, so I quit almost almost three years ago to the day march 1 of 2019 was when I quit the day job and started PlexTrac full time.


Les 14:39

I mean, that must seem like an eternity ago at this point.


Dan 14:44

It's the longest quickest three years of my life, right? I mean, and yeah, it is. It is weird. Thinking about like what the business has done. It's always just been paralleling to the pandemic and everything geopolitical You know, that's happened in the last three years. It's just crazy. Just weird, right?


Les 15:05

So incredible. In fact, so So let's, let's, let's talk about that that journey of the business a little bit. So basically, it was about a year before COVID you've jumped into this, right?


Dan 15:16

Yeah. Yeah. And glad I didn't have a crystal ball. Right. You know, because like, that would have been like, that would have played into a decision, like, Oh, should I? It was good. It was, I mean, so yeah, so um, you know, so we're in March of 2019. And, and I, my plan was to do some consulting to help pay the bills, I figured that I probably need to go raise money at some point. But I did not quit with the like, with a pitch deck in hand to go start raising money on the idea. I just kind of I kind of knew, like, hey, at some point, I'll probably go raise money to help grow and scale this thing. But you know, that I was still in that bootstrap mentality when I quit.


Les 15:57

Would you say? So? in Boise, would you say that is sort of the ethos, like other founders that you interact with? Is that generally, you know, kind of bootstrap for the first, you know, six months? Or is that the mentality? Or is there people raising idea stage?


Dan 16:11

I would say maybe maybe three to five years ago, probably, you know, I mean, I would say it's kind of start starting to shift a little bit. And again, I, you know, I've been so caught up in, in, in my own thing, but I try to, I try to stay connected to the, you know, to the ecosystem. And so I think that, I think it's shifting a little bit more were, I mean, I'm probably kind of an anomalous use case. And like, I mean, I had, I had really kind of worked on this for like, three years, right, before I dove in full time. And I think I think it's probably like, yeah, that six to nine month, hey, do I have do I think I have got some validation, and then and then develop a plan to go raise capital. And truthfully, that's, my journey is gonna be unique and different. But, you know, you know, if I were to do it again, the timing just worked out for me, you know, I think if I had gone to try to raise money earlier, it would have been a little harder, to be honest. Because in the cyberspace, you know, moving things to the cloud, and especially like pen test results and things like that, that's never going to happen, right. And now, and now it is right, you know, but and we still have an on premise offering to support those, those customers. But, you know, five years ago, the cloud, anything in the cloud, you know, was not not not usually a good thing.


Les 17:26

Yeah. Well, for sure. And just the timing, you know, being being positioned to capitalize on that opportunity. And the timing of it seems like it really worked out well for you.


Dan 17:36

Yeah, yeah. So, so not, not long after that. I actually was introduced to Mike Self who is the founder or co-founder of of StageDotO, and they were planting a flag here in Boise as an early stage venture capital firm, to invest in Boise based companies right at that at that seed stage. And so I, you know, I got to know him and StageDotO really well, he was really impressed with what the traction had already had. And so, you know, I kind of told my story of like, Yeah, I think I think we do want to raise money. You know, I just didn't have a plan. And so they were very helpful early on you helping just kind of helping formulate my thoughts around, you know, what does a pitch deck look like? You know, and things like that. I mean, I had I had a small one, but it was not, you know, it was not what you would


Les 18:29

Not what you would want to take to take Sandhill Road?


Dan 18:32

You know, and that's, that's, that's where StageDotO has just been a great partner. Right. So, so we got to know each other really well. And they they were really impressed with me and and what we were doing and so, so we signed a term sheet in August of 2019. For that seed investment and and then that's, that's really what started throwing gas on the fire. Right? Cuz then I can hire some folks and start doing some marketing and some true marketing and not just kind of the guerrilla friend network kind of marketing. And so yeah, so I mean, that's kind of the early start. 


Les 19:01

What were some of the unanticipated challenges? You know, I think a lot of founders, probably some of our listeners think, like, oh, like, I've raised the seed round now. Now, all my problems are solved. Like, what, what comes next? Like, what are some of the next level…


Dan 19:15

Yeah, yeah, you know, I mean, you're, you're always gonna then start start focusing on are we hitting targets, right, and numbers, right. And that, you know, that continues to elevate over time, right? I mean, it's just the numbers get bigger, right. And same with like hiring and, and, and in payroll or things, things that you just kind of, you know, exist but you never really had a lot of, you know, intimate exposure to them.


Les 19:46

So, it's kind of like it's kind of like everything is a risk, it's just like overtime some of those risk bumps get bigger, right? 


Dan 19:54

Yeah, yeah. So So I mean, things like you know, you you're not only are trying to grow business, but you're trying to build a team. And so you've got personnel, you everything that comes with being a leader of people you get exposed to, you know, good in the bad. Right. And so, some things just come out of left field, you're like, Wow, I did not anticipate this happening. You know, so I think I think there's all the, there's all the kind of the, the, you know, the other aspects of owning and running a business, you know, we're related to people in HR, and, and, and those kinds of things, in addition to Hey, building the product and, and getting the go to market motion, you're moving in the right direction. So you just kind of get it is a trial by fire in some regards, right? Because now the not so much. I mean, I see the pressures on you know, I put a lot of internal pressure on myself, right, like, hey, I want to perform, I want to make sure we're being good stewards of this capital. Right. 


Les 20:50

And so from that investment until, you know, COVID, right. What what happened, like in terms of the business, or, like, did you feel good about kind of the trajectory trajectory you were on?


Dan 21:03

Yeah, you know, and I mean, obviously, we didn't have any data at that point to to compare to we were, we were basically kind of heading into Q4 of 2019. So so early lessons learned there was like, Okay, we got to get in people's budgets ahead of Q4, you know, for the next year, right? So, so those were just some early learnings of like, okay, we got to make sure when we're building pipeline, like, here's, here's some key milestones for a lot of people's budgeting years and things like that. And then how do we talk about the business and stuff? So yeah, so, so was excited about the trajectory that we were headed into late in 2019. And then early into, into Q1 of 2021, business modeling, and all of that is, you know, comes into play, like, and this is what you learn too is, like, as you build the pipeline, then really focusing on here's the actual commits, that, you know, we're going to forecast rather than kind of a kind of a, an estimate of, like, what you think you're going to do, right, in the in the quarter or the year. So all these lessons learned, right, you know, just as you grow, but yeah, you know, I mean, you know, when you hit March of 2020, in your business model is showing you to start hitting that, you know, that hockey stick, you're not really anticipating a pandemic of epic proportion. Yeah. Right. So we had to shift our whole marketing plan. Got very creative on deal structures, you know, when you have frozen budgets, or people that just can't spend money, or just don't have a budget. So So those were all good, good lessons as well. I mean, how do we, how do we penetrate, you know, in tough circumstances, and, and fortunate enough for us, you know, we still grew very, very strong in 2020. And I think that's a testament to the product. And I think it's a testament to the team of just having that grit. And also good partners, you know, like having a seed investor at that stage in the game was very, very valuable for us. Right, you know, for sure, they were in the trenches with us, right. And so, so if there's, if there's a benefit to having, you know, your friends and mentors in your corner, there's that right there. They will be there to help you through things that nobody ever would have anticipated. Right.


Les 23:16

Yeah, exactly. Well, and I think it to highlight it, to think about this, you had a local firm, you know, clearly with an intention and of supporting founders at the, you know, at the local level there in your backyard. Yeah, lead that seed round. And then what happened, then you went out and raised an A and what happened?


Dan 23:37

Yeah, you know, I mean, so, you know, we, you know, we, we, we had a great 2020 started getting some interest in in an A in early 2021. And so, you know, our initial plans were to maybe do that later in 2021. But we thought, hey, we're getting some good interest and some good potential partners here like why why not, you know, let's let's let's go for it. So yeah, so then found some just some great partners, you know, in Noro-Mosley and Madrona. Right. So bring ever heard


Les 24:05

Never heard of them. Nah, I’m teasing. Yeah, I mean, it's amazing. I think I love the story, Dan, because you think about it now. You have like one of the you know, tier one coastal firms make leading a it was a $10 million series A I think, a $10 million series A in Boise. It’s so cool.


Dan 24:21

Yeah, yeah. Very exciting.


Les 24:25

Has that. Is that happening more often now? Are you seeing because like, when I read about this the first time I was like, wow, that's, that's the first like $10 million series a cyber deal I've seen in Idaho. I mean, it was like, the first


Dan 24:37

Definitely cyber. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. No, I mean, I think the exciting thing about Boise in the Treasure Valley is there's there are a lot of you know, up and coming great startups right. And I mean, Tackle IO I don't know if you've heard of those guys but they was a big C round right. I mean, so they've been they've been on a great trajectory and then you got groups like Lovevery and Gather and and you and then a lot of the portfolio companies coming out of StageDotO, you know, Goodbuy and Karus, you know, some, so just just a lot of momentum. So I think yeah, it's exciting to hear those in what's also exciting is that it's not just kind of a one off or a one and done from my perspective, I think, yeah, there’s momentum building, you know, Fitted as another company. That's, that's, that's, you know, been raising here, or has raised a series A recently. So


Les 25:23

It's super exciting. And then how did how did things change after the Series A? Or did they? I mean, is it it's kind of a leading question?


Dan 25:30

Oh, sure. Yeah, no, I mean, it's always gonna change, right, you've got a new, you've got new investors, you got a new board, you've got, you know, more expectations, but just definitely more rigor and process, you know, that we were really focused on, right, it's like, how do we, and, and, and then hiring like crazy, right? I mean, at the seed round at seed round, it's like, you're balancing the cash, you know, and, and, you know, the product, I mean, you're, you're, you're in a much more kind of balancing mode, not that you're not being prudent at any level. But, but it's, it's, it's a little tighter, right. And so, so that really freed up the capital to go hire more people on the team to really accelerate everything that we wanted to do, both on the product side and the marketing side and the sales side. Right. So, so yeah, so definitely, you know, was was was a fun whirlwind of, you know, like, Hey, we've got this capital, let's go. Let's go continue to build the team and get the right people in, on the bus, so to speak. And, and then, you know, just continue to focus on hitting hitting our sales goals. Right. So,


Les 26:34

yeah, super exciting. So that was April of 21. And then, you know, you're, you're working on hitting those numbers, working on hitting those goals. And then, lo and behold, February of 20 of this past year, tell us what happened.


Dan 26:50

Yeah, yeah. So. So actually, in the fall Insight, so so, you know, after this seed round, and this is something, I guess, you learn, you know, once you get investment you get, and that announcement comes out in some classes. So when our seat announcement came comes out, you start getting this influx of people wanting to know who you are. I happen to hear about you now, tell me more. Yeah, you know, and I'm really interested in PlexTrac.


Les 27:22

Like, that's funny, you never returned any of my cold emails before. But okay.


Dan 27:27

No, I mean, you know, and I was not, I had never really reached out to investors, to be honest, you know, so So I started getting some, you know, some people coming to me and not having exposure in the realm of investment. You know, this is where I turn to Mike. I'm like, Hey, Are these some people I should talk to? He's like, Yeah, you should, you should, you should get on there, you should get on their radar, right. And one of those groups early on was Insight. And so we had met in person back in February of 2020. At the RSA Conference, this is literally like, COVID is just about to, like, go off. Right. So yeah, so I met, and Evan, who's now our, our board member, I had met him back in February of 2020. And so, so just a great conversation, and I learned a lot more about Insight. And so after the A, they had reached out, just hey, like, like, love to kind of stay connected and stay in touch. And so, so we connected back in the, in the fall of 20, last year, 2021. And, and in my head, it was let's continue to keep them warm for when we might go for a B. Right. And, and they clearly had a lot more interest. I mean, I mean, they clearly were interested in, in, pre-empting our B you know, and, you know, had had gotten some good feedback from some other partners that we worked with, and some other customers and things like that. So, definitely, you know, really excited to have a part partner like Insight, just bring a wealth of resources and knowledge and good in a good portfolio of security companies already. Right. So, so yeah, I mean, you know, fortunately for us, it was not like, Hey, we're gonna go raise a B, it's just like, we had been talking with them. And, and, and was really excited about the potential partnership and, and, and, and so, so worked out a great deal.


Les 29:19

That's great. I mean, it's, it's, it's always I love it when, you know, great things happen to great founders and like, it's like, you can't ask for a more streamlined process. Like it's the right partner. The right interest. It's like, that's amazing. Yeah, have fun that way. Yeah.


Dan 29:34

Yea, I know. I mean, it's, I know, it's rare, right? I feel very blessed, you know, but


Les 29:42

I gotta say to you, you're like the most humble hacker I've ever met. I gotta give you that badge. This was a $70 million Series B, like this is not trivial. This is an amazing round, especially for our region. So


Dan 29:55

Yeah, I know. It's exciting. And it's funny because I you know, I'm always is going to be the kind of guy like, I'm excited, this is a great milestone, I'm gonna mark our progress, you know, but we still got a lot of work to do, right, you know, we're gonna we're, you know, we do, we're mission oriented, we want to make an impact in the cyberspace, you know, we want to be that, we want to be the mission critical platform for every security team. And, and so that's, that's where our mindset is, right. And that's where our focus is. And so the capital helps us helps us get there bringing the right partners to the table. And I think that's probably, there's one thing that I've always tried to maintain focus on is I've always wanted the business to be in a position where we could bring the right partners to the table, right? And weren't going to be in this, I just need to go get cash, and we're going to be out of you know, we're going to be out, we're not going to be able to make payroll. So feel very, very fortunate that we've been in those kinds of positions where we did have, you know, the ability to find the right people, you know, that work well with us. Right. So, 

Les 30:53

How have how have you developed as a leader and as the CEO of this company? I mean, when you think from like, from batting cages until now, like I imagine you've, you've really undergone some significant growth as leader, like, if you reflect on that, what what are some of the biggest things you've you've learned and worked on?


Dan 31:11

Yeah, no, I think that's a great, great point. Because, you know, I've always had of, you know, a natural bend towards leadership, right, in any in anything I've done, it's probably more of my tape type A personalities, like, we've got to get work done, I'm going to take the reins, right. But, you know, I've really, actually purposefully focused on my leadership development, you know, taking, going to leadership conferences, you know, reading leadership books, and, you know, and, you know, I was I was a people leader at Scentsy and I was a director, so I, you know, had some exposure to that aspect. And so I've just always enjoyed it, too. So it's what I've wanted to do, even though I, you know, I have two degrees in computer science, it's, you know, I'm kind of a nerdy, I'm like, your most a-typical nerd. You know, I'm just a goofball. But, but no, I mean, I think it's, you know, it's something that I've actually very, put a lot of work into, as well as just how to how to be a good leader and a leader of people. And then as a CEO, one of the, you know, what are the next things that I need to be focused on as we continue to grow? Right, so


Les 32:12

Yep. Awesome. And what about as a leader in in the cybersecurity space, and specifically in sort of this, this purple teaming area that you operate? In? What are what are some of the things that are really important to you? Or maybe what keeps you up at night in terms of, you know, solving big problems for that are critical?


Dan 32:32

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think at the, at the industries, for the industry perspective, you know, I really feel like there's, there's a huge sense of urgency, right, you know, from in the cyber world, right, that there's that, that there's only going to be more attacks, there's only going to be more sophisticated breaches. And so how can we help these, you know, companies of any size, you know, get better, right, and move the needle forward? You know, there's so much noise in the world in the cyberspace, right? And so how do you stay focused on the signal and, and that's, that's really what we try to do is we, you know, our mission is to help teams win the right cybersecurity battle. So helping them stay focused on the right things today, that can move their, their posture in a better direction. So those are the things that keep me up at night. I mean, I think there's, there's there is there's a lot of capital in the cybersecurity space, which is good and bad, in my opinion, right. It’s good, from the perspective of we have, we have awareness, and we have need, and there's a market. But I really implore I mean, I try to keep this principle to myself. And I implore like other security founders, like focus on actually solving problems and not just chasing more money or an exit, right? You know, it's, you know, because then you're not really helping people, you know, in the security space, you're just kind of, I don't know what you call that, but


Les 33:54

They're making the world a better place.


Dan33:58

You know, so those are the, those are the things, some of the things that keep me up at night, you know, and obviously, wanting our company to be positioned well, as we grow. And and, you know, it's a big change when you knew everybody in the company. And as much as I'd like to know, everybody in the company, I just, I don't, right, and so, so finding ways to stay connected to everybody is important.


Les 34:22

I would imagine, especially in sort of the remote workforce kind of world that we live in, it's even more difficult, right? I mean, you, you the majority of your growth as a company has come post COVID


Dan 34:32

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 


Les 34:34

Where are your employees? Are they all generally in Region? Or do you have people all over time different time zones?


Dan 34:39

You know, we've got we've got about two thirds of our folks are in the Treasure Valley in the Boise area here. Now, not everybody comes into the office, though, right? So, you know, that's, that's, that's the culture. And then and then the rest are just scattered, right? So yep, excuse me, you know, you know, scattered across the country, right? So, so that's yeah, you're right. In a remote culture, how do you how do you stay connected in any way? And part of that is building a good, good leadership team to help them stay connected to the, to the company and the culture as well. Right?


Les 35:12

So yeah, for sure. What about just just, you know, in terms of the company's future, like, what are you really excited about right now, either from a product perspective, or a growth perspective, or kind of crystal ball? 2022? Like, what's what's getting you really excited?


Dan 35:30

Yeah, I mean, I'm excited. You know, you know, we've kind of we've, we've been in this purple teaming mindset. And we continue to abstract that out, right. And so from the product perspective, I'm excited about being able to abstract away, the more, the more technical nuance of like Purple Teaming to a more collaborative risk management program, right. And being more continuous assessment focused and being able to identify here are the key risks that we need to be focused on today. So we're, you know, from a product perspective, we're really emphasizing how do you, you know, how do you get a good view of these are the top risks? And then, you know, do those change over time? Right? And are we making progress so that those are the things that we're really focused on from a product perspective, and it's exciting to see some of that come together? So basically, taking that that workflow data, you know, and then actually making it into something tangible from from a higher level, right, so that, that directors and CSOs can say like, okay, we're making progress. Here's, here's where some of our biggest gaps are. And, and let's go, let's go attack those.


Les 36:36

Yeah. So that sounds that sounds like it's a very impactful strategy, specifically for the enterprise. What do you what do you how do you think about cybersecurity for, you know, the little guys are just just down market, you know, whether it's, it's SMB, or, you know, or kind of mid-market? Like, yeah, think about what


Dan 36:56

It's actually, I mean, it's actually part of our model, right? I mean, we sell to a lot of consulting firms and mssps. Right, so mssps, really, really tap into that mid-market, you know, in below space, right? So, because not every company is gonna be able to afford an internal security team, right. And so, so by selling to the, to the mssps, who can use PlexTrac on behalf of their customers, you know, really helps tap into that market. Yeah. And so that's, that's how we approach it today, I do think that, I think that over time, security will become more accessible, you know, it's not, you know, it's not only for the large budgets, you know, and, and we feel like, we'll be positioned to really be able to facilitate those, those SMB players as well, in that capacity, where PlexTrac is really the central platform for tracking and managing your, your critical risks.


Les 37:49

Cool. I mean, I think it's definitely it's so needed, for, you know, just just continues, I think, as, as the category just continues to get more and more complex, it's like, what do you what do these smaller players do? And whether it's, it's tech enabled services, or I mean, but it's, it's just, it's really hard even even just to buy, let alone, you know, connect all the data, you know, configure, and then ongoing monitoring, and, you know, in general and cyber is really, really gets more challenging every day.


Dan 38:22

Yeah, yeah. So, you know, any, any way we can help to keep things simple is important, right, as an industry, but but specifically with PlexTrac, too, you know, we do try to keep it as simple as possible. And here's how you can get started. Right? So yeah, so now it's an exciting time in the industry, and an important time in the industry. And, and, you know, we're excited to to be a part of it.


Les 38:45

Awesome, awesome, Dan, you know, kind of in closing, I'd love for you to just just sort of, give give you the mic give you the opportunity to, you know, just just give any advice to other founders in our region in the in the Rockies that may be listening, you know, just what what advice would you give them if they have an idea or an inspiration?


Dan 39:03

Yeah, you know, I mean, I think I think don't don't give up on it. You know, I mean, I think Valve validated to the extent that that you can, right, I mean, I think, I am cautious to say don't ever give up, but but definitely don't give up early, right, you're gonna get a lot of, you're gonna get a lot of nos or a lot of skepticism, because just there's, you know, entrepreneurship is not a common thing, right. It's a risky thing that most people haven't done and most people won't do. So don't don't be shy to share your ideas and to to take to take the good and the bad feedback. I think that's especially early on when you're trying to validate an idea. You know, take it take it as as a kind of a systematic approach and, and more of a you know, you're always in this testing mode and, and, and be comfortable with, you know, that you're gonna get you're gonna get some negative advice and some negative feedback or you know, with the positive and so keep going right, I mean, I think you can always look you can always look from the outside on a company even like ours and think, oh man, they've just been doing this, you know, up into the right, they, you know, and that's just not true. There's always the ups and downs of, you know, business ownership and entrepreneurship and so, so just, you know, take every day as I'm gonna learn and grow, you know, from from whatever comes my way today. And I think that, you know, that's, that's what's gotten us this far. So hopefully, we'll continue. So


Les 40:26

That's awesome. Dan, I really just want to thank you again for being on the show. I mean, as somebody that I've really admire in our region. And it's been such a such a pleasure and so exciting to see that, you know, you grow and the company grow over the past couple of years. So thanks. Thanks for sharing.


Dan 40:42

Well, yeah. Yeah. Thanks for having me. And always happy to do it. And happy to happy to happy to chat entrepreneurship anytime. It's fun, so


Les 40:51

Awesome. Could you could you please tell our audience where they could find you and PlexTrac online?


Dan 40:57

Yep. Yep. So So I mean, I'm on LinkedIn, just Daniel DeCloss, I think is my actual name on the on online on LinkedIn. So that's where I'm most active. And then I am on Twitter as @wh33lhouse with two threes instead of Es. And I'm not as active on Twitter to be honest, but and then PlexTrac. We do you know, PlexTrac.com. And we do have @PlexTrac for Twitter. And then we do have a web web page presence in LinkedIn and Facebook and all that so


Les 41:32

Awesome, Dan, thanks so much. 


Dan 41:35 Thank you. 


Les 41:36

Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to our podcast page at nextfrontiercapital.com to get links and contact information for today's guests. If you liked what you heard and want more, please rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop. We'll see you next time.