The Entrepreneur Interview Series #20: Lewis Werner, Quill Security Technology

The physical security industry is broken. Following major security incidents, we hear about the countless red flags that could’ve been used to anticipate the tragedy. But the pattern keeps repeating.

Advocates are trying to fix the industry by insisting that organizations conduct thorough risk assessments better allocate their resources. And assessing risk is unquestionably valuable.

But it’s a well known secret in the industry that risk assessments are hardly ever read by leadership. That’s because they are static, inflexible snapshots in time that lose relevance as soon as conditions change. It’s like navigating a maze using a Polaroid picture of an arrow for directions.

Quill Security Technology emerged in 2018 when its three co-founders decided to change this by taking a different approach to helpingQuill Security Technology logo building owners and managers understand and address risks. Here’s the story of Quill Security Technology.

The Product

Quill Risk Maps are like a turn-by-turn directions for navigating institutional security risk. They solve the exponential computation problem that renders traditional assessments static and inflexible. Instead Quill has created an evergreen, digital model that reflects every new facility, asset, security measure and threat in real-time.

Chief security officers (CSOs), operations executives, and facility managers use Quill to back their security proposals with quantitative evidence. They can finally prove the value of their work in business terms and sit at the C-suite table with defensible ROI metrics.

Security Risk Maps can be useful in virtually any facility, though initial interest has been strongest in heathcare, higher ed, schools, manufacturing, and retail.

The Company

Year founded: 2018

Funding rounds: 100% Self-funded

Current size: Six team members. Though they’re” just getting started” they’ve built Risk Maps for 20+ facilities.

The Inspiration

Webbiquity: What inspired you to work on a solution to this particular problem?

Lewis Werner: Lindsay Woolward, one of my co-founders, spent years delivering traditional risk assessments.  He came to appreciate that security is a dual state involving being safe and feeling safe.  And that organizations can exist in any combination thereof.

Being safe requires objective capabilities. Feeling safe is all about communication, and that’s where security departments seemed to be falling short. They weren’t able to communicate the value of their existing programs or justify budget increases to fund new initiatives.

They weren’t able to act as strategic advisors to corporate governance. In some cases, they weren’t even able to communicate the criticality of security compliance to the staff they were charged with protecting.

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Though possessed of exceptional grit and resignation to doing things “the hard way,” security professionals are straining under a heavy load of stress and anxiety. We’ve created Quill to make their lives easier so they can make our lives safer.  Our mission is to eliminate barriers to good security and communication is one of the big ones.

Thus far, we haven’t  encountered anyone else who’s developing a solution to the exponential calculation problem that has limited security professionals in the past. We are unique.

We do, however, have competitors, our biggest being the status quo. Several start-ups in the last few years have developed the technology to host written assessments in the cloud and support mobile access but the information itself hasn’t changed.

The Launch

Webbiquity: What were the most effective channels or methods for you to get the word out to prospective customers when you first launched your product?

LW: Security is a trust industry, so we doubted that digital marketing or blog content would be effective in creating initial traction. Instead,we focused on joining conferences and professional associations where we heard the same things over and over: “I need more support from leadership.” “I need better intelligence.” “I need more budget.”

Our most enthusiastic response was from the third-party security firms already helping organizations navigate these problems. Many consultants were well aware of the inherent insufficiencies of  traditional risk assessments but felt constrained to use them for lack of a superior alternative.

Now, our channel partner program will get Quill Risk Maps in the hands of security departments faster than we ever could on our own.

The Lessons

Webbiquity: Finish this sentence: “Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today, what I would do differently is…”

LW: Immediately hire a professional coach who focuses on startups,. I’ve been working with Katherine Burton at Lacuna Coaching for the past year and she’s had a profound impact on both me and Quill.

I also would have begun blogging earlier on. Though it wouldn’t have been effective for initial lead generation, it would have helped to back up our story, showcase our expertise, and build our content library.

I quickly learned that in the security world, nobody answers cold calls and shares their security programs or challenges thereto. No one even  answers emails. Most security professionals screen for emails that have links or images so traditional digital marketing, outbound email in particular, just doesn’t generate traction.

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However, once you have an audience, they look to you for updates and thought leadership. We’re building that audience now, so it would be useful to have a ready collection of articles and advice to share with them.

Finally, I would spend more time talking to the professional community we aim to serve. I don’t think you can go wrong in doing that: in validating your ideas and plans with the people in your market.

The Takeaways

Webbiquity: What’s the most important advice you could offer to an entrepreneur starting out today?

LW: Continually validate your idea with people outside of the company,while staying true to your personal mission.  Let their feedback modify how you get to your goal, but don’t let them modify the goal itself.

Quill was lucky to have a founding team that could afford to bootstrap it for a little while. I would encourage entrepreneurs  to remain self-funded for as long as they can, working weekends or evenings as long as they possibly can. I’d say not to look for outside funding until absolutely necessary.

The piece of advice that I end up sharing the most often is my validation tree, which consists of words, time, friends, and money.

It’s really encouraging in the early days when people tell you, “Wow! This is a great idea!” However, it’s important to remember that words comprise the bottom boughs of the tree.

If they truly think you have a good idea, ask them to give you time or to introduce you to their friends or to buy your product from you now, “It’ll be done in six months. If you preorder, and believe it’s valuable, that’s certainly worthwhile, right?”

Climbing that validation tree with everyone you talk to is a really good way to both get that nourishment and that encouragement out of the words, but also remember you need to find validation beyond the words.

You can connect with Lewis Werner on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Previous Posts in This Series

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #2: Scott Burns, Structural

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #3: Atif Siddiqi, Branch

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #4: Daren Klum, Secured2

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #5: Josh Fedie, SalesReach

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #6: Loring Kaveney, WorkOutLoud

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #7: Lief Larson, Salesfolks

The Founders Interview Series #8: John Sundberg, Kinetic Data

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #9: Amanda LaGrange, Tech Dump/Tech Discounts

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #10: Aba El Haddi, EnduraData

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #11: Michael McCarthy, Inkit

The Founders Interview Series #12: Mark Granovsky, G2Planet

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #13: Aric Bandy, Agosto

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #14: Amanuel Medhanie, Parsimony

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #15: Adam Hempenstall, Better Proposals

The Founders Interview Series #16: Tracy Fuller, InnovativEvents

The Founders Interview Series #17: Peter M. Vessenes, ProfitSee

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #18: Alex Wise, Netpeak Software

The Entrepreneur Interview Series #19: Mary Kay Ziniewicz, Bus Stop Mamas

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