May 7, 2024

VA 2023 Spotlight: Growth Stage Pitch Competition Winner Cloud Range

VA 2023 Spotlight: Growth Stage Pitch Competition Winner Cloud Range

Cloud Range is a comprehensive and customizable cyber readiness solution, monikered as The Leading Cyber Range-as-a-Service Platform. As Founder and CEO Debbie Gordon describes, it’s “the flight simulator for cyber attacks.” The B2B solution ensures cybersecurity teams are ready for cyber attacks at any time, offering integrated toolsets, thousands of scenarios, and customized learning plans. Due to the excitement surrounding their company, Gordon and her team took their business to Venture Atlanta in 2023 and won the Growth Stage pitch competition.

We got the opportunity to talk with Gordon and learn more about her history, the challenges she’s overcome, and of course, her story with Venture Atlanta.

The Cloud Range Journey

What was the moment or idea that sparked the idea for Cloud Range?

As someone who started my career in the technical education space, I saw that there was a grave talent shortage in cyber security. And, after selling my previous company in 2016, I knew the time was right in 2018 to build another company.

Companies were struggling to find experienced cyber practitioners, and at the same time, there were thousands of people with traditional cyber training and certifications, but simply had no experience. The solution was to add simulation technology to standard cybersecurity training to ensure that cyber practitioners have continued and dynamic skills when responding to the changing threat landscape.  We needed to do this in a way that was useful and consumable by customers, so the concept of our “cyber range-as-a-service”  was born.

What were the biggest challenges in developing Cloud Range and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for us was that the concept didn’t exist before. Creating and pioneering a whole new category is a big endeavor.

Because of that, we had to evangelize the concept and the solution. It’s not like we were making another version of or a better mousetrap. We were truly creating a whole new product and category.

At the same time, that challenge became an opportunity, because more people listen when you create a new category. People want to know what your new thing is and why it’s important, so we had a lot of opportunities to communicate the value of Cloud Range.

The second challenge was building our team. In any startup, you’re not going to be at a critical mass of talent from the start. Like most startups, for a few years, we had a lot of “single points of failure” because only one person was an expert in each role. That creates a lot of risk when you are relying solely on one person for each area of operations.

However, we worked on building critical mass and getting the right people in the right seats, which led us to grow into the incredible team we have today.

What key learnings have you experienced throughout this journey as an entrepreneur?

1. Do what you do best

    The number one thing I’ve learned is to do what you do best and leave the rest for others—who are also doing what they do best. You don’t need to be good at everything. Be very acutely aware of what you’re doing. Understand what value that adds to your organization and what kind of energy it brings and takes away from you.

    2. Business is never going to be the same

      Essentially, your business will never be the same five years after you start it, no matter what you think.

      Because of that, you have to be flexible and always keep an open mind to adapt based on what you learn from the market, your customers, and your employees.

      Pairing Cloud Range & Venture Atlanta

      How did you first hear about Venture Atlanta?

      I heard about Venture Atlanta around three years ago while working with a consultant to develop a fundraising plan. He recommended Venture Atlanta to me and I’ve attended three times since!

      How did you prepare for your pitch?

      The short answer is when you know your stuff, it’s easy to remember. Three minutes is much easier than 20 minutes so you don’t have to remember as much. But, I do it by segmenting things off in my brain. Just think of one concept at a time and remembering what you have to say next will come easier.

      Plus, with the three-minute pitch compared to the 20-minute pitch, it is harder to pare down. Once you get it right, however, you’re essentially explaining only the important things. Then, people can dive deeper by asking questions later.

      What impact did winning the pitch competition for the growth stage have on Cloud Range?

      Besides getting the attention of investors, the impact it had on me was just that a lot of young women came up to me afterward and said they were happy to see a woman on that stage representing both entrepreneurs and the cybersecurity industry.

      My responsibility as an entrepreneur is to be a role model. I don’t try to talk about being a female entrepreneur. I just do it. It felt good to be a role model. It tells me that I did my job.

      And it is clear that there are more women representing. While I was waiting in line for the restroom at the conference, a female VC approached me and said, “I love that there is a line at the women’s restroom for Venture Atlanta.” In the past, women at the conference were few and far between. The fact that there was a line in 2023 was very representative of where we are and where we have come.

      What other parts of Venture Atlanta did you find most valuable?

      I had a lot of meetings set up beforehand.  The ability to connect with people before the conference and then meet up in person came in handy. Plus, the technology got a bit better this year, and I heard a lot of people saying that the app was working well.

      What are your biggest pieces of advice for entrepreneurs?

      1. Talk to as many other entrepreneurs as you can. Within that, learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes.
      1. Ask for help even when you don’t think you need it. Tell people what you’re doing and ask them to poke holes in it. This will help you continue innovating and listening.
      1. Just because you think your idea is good, that doesn’t mean people will part with their money for it. Make sure there is product market fit and value that leads to a person or a business investing in what you’ve developed.
      1. If you build it, they will not necessarily come. Before you invest a lot of money in your business, do research, focus groups, and test the market. You may think you have a great idea, but product market fit is key.

      Check out Venture Atlanta for Yourself

      Want to be Venture Atlanta’s next pitch competition winner? Interested in seeing the Southeast’s up-and-coming tech companies? Looking to invest yourself? Join us at Venture Atlanta! Venture Atlanta is the Southeast’s largest venture capital conference and is held each year at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more about pitching at Venture Atlanta, click here. If you want to explore what our conference has to offer for investors, entrepreneurs, and beyond, head over to our event overview page. Can’t wait to see you there!

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