Perch Security Co-Founder’s Startup Aims To Be An ‘Educational Switzerland’ For MSPs
‘To me it was this learning moment that the big challenge MSPs have is not that they don’t have the right tools, not that they don’t have the right people in the seats…they lack the education to know how do we get this going and scale it,’ says Wes Spencer, co-founder of Empath.
While there’s no lack in educational content in the channel, there’s a lack in learning, according to Wes Spencer.
And he’s here to change that with Empath, a community as well as a platform that provides MSPs, across any role type, education and training in cybersecurity and, more importantly, how to sell it.
Empath did a soft launch earlier this year as Empath Cyber. But after many discussions, co-founders Alex Farling and Spencer decided to drop the “Cyber” in the title as the company encompasses so much more than that.
And that’s how Empath was officially launched today.
“The big focus is on those who are not technical,” Spencer told CRN in an exclusive interview. “They’re not comfortable in security and don’t have confidence around it. So the client will cross their arms and say, ‘I’m not buying that. I’m not a target. No one’s coming after me. I’ve never spent money on security before. Why do you expect me to spend money on it?’ And the MSP says, ‘I tried.’”
Among his many roles, Spencer was the co-founder and CISO of Perch Security, channel chief at cyber insurance firm FifthWall Solutions and vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Tampa-based CyberFox.
Farling was the co-founder and channel chief of vCIO reporting provider Lifecycle Insights, which was sold to Vancouver-based ScalePad earlier this year.
In early 2024, Empath will be launching a platform that will hold all of the trainings and education models with built-in knowledge and performance measurements to see how the attendees are doing in the course. Some trainings are being offered now on a thirty-party platform as a litmus test.
MSPs Can Just Be ‘Order Takers’
Farling said as opposed to just selling a security product, MSPs must know the why behind it.
Sometimes MSPs can just be “order takers,” Spencer said, but he’s going to, “teach them what happened in security, why the game has changed and that they need to keep up.”
“To me it was this learning moment that the big challenge MSPs have is not that they don’t have the right tools, not that they don’t have the right people in the seats…they lack the education to know how do we get this going and scale it,” Spencer said. “It’s not just a security problem. It’s a problem across the board in almost any business function. It’s nothing against the MSP, it’s where does the MSP hire from. They don’t hire from CrowdStrike and Cisco, they hire from the AT&T store.”
While there’s a large push, and support, for more education in the channel, Spencer said there’s an accountability and freedom aspect that is immensely lacking.
“So many MSPs will come up and say, ‘I’m behind this idea of learning and I want my people to get better, but none of them will take the time to do it,” he said. “I say back to them, ‘The problem is not that they won’t take the time to do it. The problem is that you are not giving them the ability and freedom and even accountability to get it done.’
“You need to say, ‘Learning is a priority and you need to get better at this,’” he continued. “’If you get better at this than this will make our business better and our revenue better, so I am going to make sure that you have assigned time to do that.’”
And that could be as easy as building that training into a service ticket.
“We’re able to push that ticket back into their PSA,” Farling said. “Whether it’s every employee gets 30 minutes a week, two hours a month or four hours a month, we’ll push that back into a ticket where they actually do their work. But we will track how much time they’ve actually spent on training so that we can show some accountability metrics.”
More Than Just Teaching Cybersecurity
But it’s not just teaching how to sell cybersecurity. Empath will teach leadership courses, how to build time for education, how to start and build an MSP and courses on cyber insurance, to name a few. The focus is on mostly on soft skills and the content will be ever evolving over time.
“It will help them understand how it makes them better, faster, more efficient and then we’ll help them by providing them the content to deliver that education,” he said.
Empath also plans to partner with vendors, distributors and even MPSs to collaboratively offer trainings to MSPs. While courses are open to all MSPs, Spencer said the target market is MSPs who do more than one million dollars in revenue.
“Wes has created the right environment to attract those people to the Empath community,” Bob Miller, chief operating officer at Lafayette, LA-based Global Data Systems, told CRN. “The amount of practical information focused on the specific challenges we face in running our MSP/MSSPs makes the value far exceed the alternatives.”
He said being an MSP/MSSP with the pace of change it’s experiencing requires diversity of perspective and experience that only a group of like-minded people can provide to help them to navigate the challenges.
“We’re both community builders, we can get people in the door,” Spencer said. “This is a decentralized approach. We want the best of educators teaching the best content. We have built the platform, we built the community and we want them to come in and build on top of it. Whether that’s peer groups, whether that’s great educators like Matt Lee (senior director of security and compliance at cloud distributor Pax8), whether that’s vendor partners of ours that want to come in… we want all of that in our ecosystem. We really do want it to be an educational Switzerland.”
Empath will start with about eight courses that take anywhere from five to 20 hours to complete.
“There’s no single product or company out there that can help build a career plan for an employee,” Farling said. “We’re in a world where every MSP can buy exactly the same tools. The differentiator is how you use those tools and what kind of a culture you build around your MSP. So if we can build teach MSPs how to build a culture of education around cybersecurity, they will be better than the guy who just swiped a credit card and tried to buy his way out of a problem.”
Spencer thinks with that model, MSPs will be set up for success.
“We’re bringing a community and the best creators in the land, and a platform they can live on and grow in,” Spencer added.
In December, Empath is also hosting a virtual conference called RejectionCon which will hosts talks on topics that were rejected at larger conferences in the channel. All proceeds will go toward a nonprofit. This year, Spencer said 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Rural Technology Fund which helps students become more aware of different career opportunities in the technology field. RejectionCon will be held Dec. 12-14.