Dr. Christine Izuakor
Investment Opportunity: Seed Funding Stage
At a Glance
Company: Cyber Pop-Up
Year Created: 2019
Mission: Connecting the world’s most vulnerable businesses to on-demand cybersecurity services.
Target Markets/Audience: Small to medium sized-businesses, often in highly regulated or sensitive industries such as finance and banking, healthcare, and more.
What Makes Christine Unique
Dr. Christine Izuakor is the first-generation daughter of Nigerian immigrants. She has a master’s degree in information systems, a Ph.D. in security engineering, and spent a decade working in cybersecurity for various Fortune 100 companies. At her core, Dr. Izuakor is determined to do everything possible to ensure that she uses all her gifts, skills and vision to contribute a lasting impact on the world.
“Dream big – dream limitlessly. But set very specific, small goals. It’s great to have big dreams, but make sure you plan out how you’re going to achieve them.”
What Christine Is Trying To Solve
Many companies live in fear of cybersecurity breaches, which can lead to loss of revenue and even the end of business. One of the biggest problems facing many – particularly small companies – is that they need cybersecurity support but don’t have a cybersecurity team in-house.
Dr. Izuakor created an on-demand cybersecurity services platform called Cyber Pop-Up to address this critical issue. Cyber Pop-Up connects businesses of all sizes with highly skilled security freelancers who are experts in their field. Simultaneously, Cyber Pop-Up removes barriers to entry in cybersecurity for underrepresented groups, thereby helping to diversify the industry
We sat down with Dr. Izuakor to talk with her about how she got her start as a founder, what her seed funding stage has been like, and how GET Cities has helped.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
During my time in the cybersecurity industry, I realized that nonprofits were especially vulnerable to being hacked and targeted by cyber attackers. That was so frustrating to me and really got under my skin, because these people are trying to do good in the world, and these attackers are trying to take advantage of that.
I started doing pro bono cybersecurity projects for nonprofits while still working full-time. I quickly realized that this was a business model that could really benefit a lot of companies, not even just nonprofits. As I developed a system for working on these projects, I realized there were so many other cybersecurity professionals like me and talent that I could continue to build. It all started coming together as a great solution.
The tipping point for creating Cyber Pop-Up was at a conference I attended. In almost every session I went to, I could see how the concept of Cyber Pop-Up could impact and solve the problems that were presented. The question was no longer, "Should I do this?" Instead, it became, "I have to do this. There’s no way I can not do this."
What is unique or significant about being at the seed stage?
I feel like it’s an exciting place to be. You’re at a point where you’ve been building and you’ve been holding on for so long and trying to get those early first wins, just trying to get over that first hurdle. Then you get to the point where things start to work and you begin to realize that the sky really is the limit. Every stage has its ups and downs, things that are great and things that are challenging, but I think these variations are the things that make it so fun and worthwhile.
What do you wish you’d known or done to prepare for the seed stage?
One thing I wish I’d known more about is hiring as a startup. It’s so critical to surround yourself with a good team. (And I love my team – they’re the best!) This goes back to the importance of building relationships and connections as early as possible with people. So when you’re networking and hiring, of course technical skills are important, but honing in on the connection you have with the people is just as important. You have to find those people who can share in your vision and dream. Hiring is never easy, but when you have a solid approach and plan and you lead with passion, it makes a difference.
Also, if I had to do it again, I would have learned and refined my skills in negotiating for sales and fundraising. I was mainly learning in the moment and trying different things as I went, which is probably a pretty typical process of being a founder. But there are so many things that I feel like I could have made even more efficient and impactful.
Why do you think it’s important to encourage more women, trans, and non-binary people –particularly those who are also Black, Latinx, Indigenous and People of Color – to become entrepreneurs?
Because we’re awesome! I mean that.
But in all seriousness, there is so much value in having different perspectives and different people come to the table. When some groups get excluded or are underrepresented, we aren’t able to reach our full potential as a society. We need women starting businesses. We need people of color starting businesses. We need people from the LGBTQ community starting businesses. It’s absolutely necessary.