February 9, 2022

Q&A With HacWare Founder Tiffany Ricks

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Innovation is core to ensuring that Aura remains cutting-edge and best-in-class. We believe it's possible to do this in a way that directs hard-to-access capital to startups and founders who are often overlooked. Similar to our education and inclusion initiatives, we believe that our innovation efforts must help us fill the gap in creating a safer internet for everyone.

That’s why we’re identifying and investing in early stage startups that are either led by an underrepresented group in our industry, or solve a problem for a community at especially high risk of constantly evolving threats.

In early 2022, the Aura Innovation Fund made its first-ever investment in HacWare and four-time startup founder Tiffany Ricks. The innovative startup is evolving how enterprises train employees to reduce risky behaviors and cyber threats with a 100% automated cybersecurity API. Through its AI-powered phishing training, HacWare is reimagining how a business can reduce its risk by identifying and then changing vulnerable employee behavior.

Check out our Q&A with HacWare CEO Tiffany Ricks below.

1. You're a four-time startup founder. What's the secret to your success?

There is no secret. The key to success starts with a vision and a strong will to win.  You have to be tenacious and a little crazy to launch four startups. The entrepreneur journey is tough and you make a lot of sacrifices. I recommend starting a company that you are passionate about and being willing to get out of your comfort zone for it to be successful.

2. How did you make the connections and build the network you needed to succeed?

When I started this business I used my existing connections to find initial success. I worked in corporate America and got my employer to become one of our early customers.  It is important to never burn bridges because you may want to circle back and ask for a favor.  I also made a lot of cold and bold asks over email and direct messaging to build my network.

3. What motivated you to start HacWare? What sets you apart from the competition?

I was motivated to start HacWare out of a need I had at my consultancy business because customers were plagued with phishing attacks and malware outbreaks. Our customers were looking for a seamless solution that managed their employees' phishing risks like their anti-virus software managed viruses, and their firewall would defend their network. There wasn't a solution that addressed the human error element - the root cause of the problem - through personalized training that could continuously combat phishing and malware attacks.

4. What does Aura’s investment mean to you and Hacware?

I am happy to accept this investment from Aura because our values are aligned on making the internet a safer place for everyone. We also believe there’s an opportunity to learn from Aura as we look to scale into a leading cybersecurity API platform.

5. As you continue to raise funding, what's next for HacWare? What will you use the new funding for?

I’m using this seed funding to expand our product integration strategy, convert our multi-million dollar sales pipeline, and triple our engineering and sales teams.

6. What advice do you have for women in business, in particular those in male-dominated industries like technology?

I have been in this industry for over 20 years and things are getting better for women. The key to working in male-dominated industries is to let your light shine bright, try to find a common ground and embrace collaboration.

7. What is your perspective on setting aside spaces for underrepresented individuals to pioneer new solutions? What role does diversity have to play in evolving today's (and tomorrow's) technology solutions forward?

"Under-estimated" individuals will always prevail! Even when there are barriers to entry, we have the tenacity and creativity to execute our goals without begging gatekeepers to give access. Businesses created by "under-estimated" founders will be the next unicorns because we are visionaries, who understand scale and unit economics - and we have grit. "Under-estimated" founders are experts in certain markets that are waiting to be discovered.

8. You were a Technical Instructor for Black Girls Code. What did you take away from that experience and what advice do you have for young women of color exploring STEM education and careers? How else have you engaged this community?

I was inspired by all of the beautiful black and brown girls that had a thirst for coding knowledge.  I was excited about the STEM community for girls, which is very much needed for people of color in the workspace. I have also taught kids how to code at local after-school programs.

9. What advice do you have for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?

As a female founder, wife and mother, I understand the importance of taking calculated risks but if you wait for the perfect timing, it may be too late or may never come.  Before I started HacWare, I had a three-year plan to leave corporate America and launch my next venture.  What helped was building seed funding, because it can be hard to raise capital.

10. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned on your professional journey?

Continue to build your personal brand and be your biggest cheerleader.

11. What qualities do you think have been critical to your success?

My grit and the unyielding chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong has been key to my success. When I take a hit…I fall..I cry. But the next day, I get back up and do it again.

12. What's your proudest moment to date?

I always wanted to build a big business that was used by a lot of people. My proudest moment was when my first inbound sales requests started coming. It is still exciting when I see posts or messages from potential customers asking to use the platform.

13. How do you think about changing the nature of intelligent security and protecting enterprises (and therefore consumers) in their increasingly digital lives?

We are moving more and more into a perimeter-less work environment.  We need security to be adaptive and protect employees (and therefore enterprises) like never before.

14. What do you do for fun or to relax after a day at the office?

I love binge-watching documentaries about people who have achieved great things.