Eddie Whittingham, The Defence Works

Eddie Whittingham, The Defence Works

Eddie Whittingham built his technology-based cyber security training company The Defence Works entirely by himself using information he found on the internet before selling it for a seven-figure sum.

What does your business do?

The Defence Works is a cyber security company which provides online security awareness training for employees to help them reduce their risk of cyber crime.

Why did you decide to start your business?

I had been in the police force for ten years and then I qualified as a lawyer, doing crime related cases. I decided that I wanted to start a business but I wasn’t quite sure what in. I initially started as a consultant on fraud and cyber-crime but I quickly realised that I wanted to build something scalable rather than just selling my time. So I did a bit more research into the market place and quickly realised that most of training around fraud and cyber crime was extremely dry and quite poorly done. I thought that if I could make it at least semi-interesting and present it in a more modern way, and make the training really interactive and based on real life events, with high end animation, then it would likely do very well.

How did you finance the growth of your business?

It was entirely self-funded. I didn’t have any capital to start off with and when I approached an investor early on when it was just an idea and asked for £200,000, he laughed in my face. I ended up finding a piece of open-source software online, so it was free to use, and I built a learning management system by basically just googling it. Then I used a free trial of some e-learning software to build my first course and bought some animation software for £70. It was a proper home project – I created the content myself from scratch and my wife did the voice overs.

Then I went to some free networking events in Manchester about cyber-crime and got my first customer. They were only paying £15 a month so it wasn’t exactly going to change my life, but it meant I needed to commit to making new training every month to fulfil their expectations. I slowly managed to build up clients over time and was gradually able to improve the technology base and the quality of the content.

I paid myself very little and for the first year I ran the business from home; when I got my first employee I got a little office on the outskirts of Manchester.

I started the business in 2016 and I sold it in 2020 to a Nasdaq listed American company for a seven-figure sum.

What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?

I am not from a technical background so it was difficult trying to create a tech focused business without any experience, particularly in the early stages. I spent countless days and nights just teaching myself as much as I could, as quickly as I could.

What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?

You can probably do more than you think you can, but you have got to be committed to learning how to do it. Particularly if it is a service or tech business, there will be some information on it somewhere on the internet.

What has been your biggest mistake?

Thinking that my first employee should be a salesperson. I thought that would help grow the business but I quickly realised that I was the best salesperson in that early stage of the business, and that I needed to hire someone who could do the work that wasn’t sales to free up time for me to do the sales.

What has been the secret of your success so far?

Hiring people who are better than me. I was able to teach myself enough in the early days but I am not a graphics designer or good at animation and it became quite apparent that if the business was going to grow properly I needed to hire good people early on.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?

Surround yourself with people who are in a similar boat because learning from people who are on the same journey as you and going through the same problems is really important. That is why I have just launched another business, Gofounder.com, which is an online community for start-up founders and provides them with resources, tools and shortcuts. I wanted to build something that I would have liked when I was starting out.

What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?


Related content