First Convergence Casualty

The first startup to pursue the security convergence dream and fail goes down in history as either an idea ahead of its time, or a good idea with bad execution – or maybe just a bad idea. The first sign of the looming tragedy came when the company selected its name.  SecConOne was pronounced by the management in the manner familiar to military folks: SEE-con-ONE.  Frankly, I never could get the hang of it and referred to the name with an Italian accent: secconone

I told them they should have used ConSecOne.  They’d still get the message across of security convergence, and no one would mispronounce it.  Plus, they’d get the fringe benefit of the initials being CSO (chief security officer)! [The SCO initials actually spell the name of one of the most hated and derided company names in all of IT].  The executive team wanted to preserve the sound of DefConOne so they wouldn’t hear of changing the name. 

The idea behind the business was to provide hosted, managed security services.  Basically outsourcing event management and surveillance from the command center to a secure facility in Colorado where SCO was based.  The idea had merit – and strong backing.  Mega-integrator SAIC had tried unsuccessfully a few times to build a private sector-focused business to complement their tremendous government client base.  This time, SAIC supported a 3rd party company, making SCO a SAIC premier reseller and even endowing the new company with a few key SAIC employees.

Figuring the company would flourish by taking all of those private sector companies that wanted SAIC to do work, but couldn’t come up with a $100 mil – enough to get SAIC’s attention – SCO executives built a strong message around risk management beyond boundaries.  Services included risk assessments for physical security and IT, remotely hosted command center, and asset management.

SecConOne went belly up some weeks ago despite having the technical competence to deliver solutions, a solid business partner, visionary investors, and pretty darn good sales folks. The website links no longer work and there is only a static homepage with no available contact information – also, no executives have responded to my requests for comment.   The company failed, I believe, because it was disconnected with the customer.  The security director, the IT security manager, the CIO and the facilities head all could see value in the services that SCO offered.  The ROI was plain enough – using outside contractors instead of maintaining a command center facility with multiple headcount – but SCO could never communicate the value proposition in a way that ALL the players could embrace.  In other words, the sales pitch to a facilities director is often very different, and downright irrelevant, to a CIO.  Pitching a “convergence” service doesn’t fly unless the customer already has a “convergence” attitude. 

Security directors will always seek a compelling business case when considering new products or services.  So will IT managers and compliance directors.  But each will want the story to be customized and for the ROI to measured against his or her own budget.  Selling “convergence” is therefore a tricky art, and one that escaped the SCO team.

Integrators and technology manufacturers that think convergence is a goldmine of new opportunity are not mistaken.  It certainly is.  But yesterday’s sales pitches are not sufficient to strike gold in these hills.

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  1. April 22, 2007 at 9:06 am

    From RFPs from customers to Garner Reports dating back for years all I see is convergence — it started with small technical solutions and evolved into issues that seem to be more “executive” level today (CCTV + IDS/IPS + Building Guards + Sensors + Firewalls + BCP/DRP + Secure Design + Auditing and Assurance + Risk Management + Policy + Background Investigations + Transport Security + Financial Transactions + Event Log Monitoring + Application Security + …)
    Your company idea is NOT at fault here. You can be rest assured that your idea is, in fact, the one that this industry will evolve into over the next ten years and stay put. It may become your bread-and-butter in the upcoming years as well. There’s a lot of work to be done and its not for the novice.
    Execution of a startup company in this environment is predatorial (you ARE partially in everyone’s sector) and highly competative (all your competition says they want to converge, too, even if they aren’t doing it.) As a result, its not clear that any message can be told that doesn’t get undermined in the backchannels, especially by larger and more established firms.
    Best wishes on your future efforts. What I hope is, for the sake of small start ups and visionaries alike, is that convergence leads to more types of industry cooperation instead of conflict.

  2. April 22, 2007 at 9:13 am

    …Sorry, I must be fried from travel. Anyway, after re-reading its not implied here that you had any direct role in the company. Oops.
    Anyway, my comments apply the same to all who were involved in the firm. There’s a lesson here to be learned, as is with all the ones that came before now.
    — Eric

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