Afternoon “T” feat. Michael Argast of Kobalt.io

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In our recent chat with Michael Argast, CEO and co-founder of Kobalt.io, he shares the story of how Kobalt came to be, and how cybersecurity has risen in importance.

Check out the our highlights below:

Could you give me the origin story of how Kobalt.io was born? 

Yeah, so we have a bit of a backward origin story. I’ve been in cybersecurity for 20 years and prior to starting Kobalt, I had accidentally built a lifestyle business as you do when you’re consulting. I’d spent two months in the summer of August 2018, on a beach with my family in Thailand kind of semi-retired, relaxed, and came back to do a little bit of work. So I got back from Thailand, and I was eager to do a little bit of work as you do if you sit still for too long and I went to another colleague of mine, Steve Munford, who is currently the CEO at Trulioo. I’d worked with it so fast that I’m like, hey, do you know if any, like short term gigs or anything that would be interested, he’s like, get a job. I’m like, I don’t want a job. And so a couple of months later, he introduces me to Boris and Pankaj and they had been jointly or separately investing in a variety of Vancouver startups for a while and they wanted to work together on a project. And they knew that they wanted to work together on cybersecurity. They had been looking for a cybersecurity leader to kind of recruit to join the organization, and after the introductions were made they had asked me to be their CEO. I had two fantastic investors and co-founders who were just incredible, and I knew that this wasn’t an opportunity that I could turn down.

Has the pandemic caused a shift in the business?

It’s accelerated certain types of risk and from there we’ve had to adapt. We started, like literally the day Vancouver started their lockdown was the day we rolled out our securely working from home awareness training for our customers. One of the things that we’ve definitely seen is a significant rise in two types of attacks, which are social engineering, and business email fraud. For instance, if a new invoice came in, and Aaron needed to get your approval to sign off on it, he’d walk down the hall and ask, but now with everybody remote distributed, all those sorts of human checks and balances are kind of broken. With this, we’re definitely seeing a rise and a lot of attacks. Also, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the move towards digitization and online. With everybody adopting cloud technology at an unprecedented pace, we took a very strong focus early on cloud-focused organizations.

What’s something throughout your journey that you’ve learned and would share with other founders?

I’ll share two things with you, the first one is, it’s not the idea, it’s the execution and that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. At the end of the day, it’s not about having the best idea, it’s about executing an idea as well. And the second one is just more of a personal one, which is, for me, there is nothing better than being at the coalface with the customer. And so when you are talking in the field, as an entrepreneur, as a startup founder, and you’re solving real customer problems, you’re going to be able to learn so much faster, and that’s going to drive your entrepreneurial success. If I think about challenges early on, in the Kobalt days, I hired sales a little bit faster than I should have, and I wasn’t as close to the customer as I should have been, which actually slowed us down rather than sped us up. If I ever do another startup, I will definitely focus on the SMB market, because you can learn so much so fast, and because you have so many turns of the wheel, compared to say, selling to enterprise or other markets.

Check out the other amazing guests we’ve had on Afternoon “T” here.

Michael Argast is the CEO and co-founder of Kobalt.io. Michael continues to be a prominent figure in the cybersecurity space and continues to work with companies to ensure they’re safe in the digital world.