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Building a Mid-Market Security SaaS Company from Canada: J. Paul Haynes, CEO of eSentire (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Jun 5th 2017

There are opportunities of building cloud businesses focused on mid-market customers, and many entrepreneurs are leveraging those to build compelling businesses. eSentire’s strategy is one worth looking at closely.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

J. Paul Haynes: I was born in Toronto. I grew up in a suburb of Toronto called Oakville. I grew up in a family of people studying commerce and accountants. Everyone went into some finance-related stream. I went for engineering. I took a technical route.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather was an entrepreneur. My father had several of his own businesses including some sizable exits along the way. I started my first business building what are now called BMX bikes when I was 12 years old. I sold it to all the kids that I hung out with. I learned cash flow and collections early on.

Sramana Mitra: What time-frame are we talking?

J. Paul Haynes: 1976 would be my first business.

Sramana Mitra: Where does the eSentire story start?

J. Paul Haynes: It starts many decades later in 2007. I came on full-time in 2010.

Sramana Mitra: This is not a company you founded?

J. Paul Haynes: No, I came in when the business was about 20 employees and had 20 customers. We were sub-million in sales. The founders were running this as a consulting business. I saw an opportunity to pivot it into a SaaS security business. I saw a great opportunity to deliver a service that solves a problem that the market had versus developing a technology that the customers still had to do something with to solve the problem. It sounds subtle.

Sramana Mitra: It’s actually a very pertinent point. The technology industry is full of solutions looking for problems, but the other way around actually produces stronger businesses.

J. Paul Haynes: To the point that the major analysts of our industry, Gartner among them, didn’t appreciate what we were doing until last year. They created a category that they have said offline, we were the inspiration for. That category is answering the problem that the industry has. In our particular case, it’s access to skills, the ability to deploy them on, and have them available 24/7 to make this cyber security technology effective. The term they gave us was manage, detection, and response.

That started in 2010 or for the three years prior where I was doing some advisory work for the firm. I wasn’t on the board or anything. It was just peer group tech CEO advisory stuff that I had been doing.

I was sharing at one of the roundtables that had the SaaS firms. I was the older, gray-haired guy that was from enterprise software. When the association was created, I said,  “I’ll take all of the SaaS firms because I want to learn how they think.” Was this ever different? In that group, I ended up meeting one of the co-founders of this business. That led to me coming on full-time.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Mid-Market Security SaaS Company from Canada: J. Paul Haynes, CEO of eSentire
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