Ebba Blitz, CEO, Alertsec
When Ebba Blitz was hosting Dragon's Den, Sweden's version of Shark Tank, she was often inspired by the eager contestants who would come on the reality show with hopes of building themselves a business empire.
That life-changing experience would ultimately persuade her to chase her own entrepreneurial ambitions on a full-time basis. Flash forward eight years later, and now Blitz is CEO of Alertsec, a cloud-based encryption provider protecting the data of small and medium-sized businesses.
Transitioning from Alertsec's president of U.S. operations to its chief executive in January 2016, Blitz has become the official face of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which was founded in 2007 by her husband Fredrik Loevstedt. Her ascension has come at a time when IT professionals are pursuing encryption with vigor, hoping to avoid the repercussions suffered by prominent data breach victims such as Yahoo. And no wonder: a “brand perception study” that Alertsec published last year showed that out of 1,200 Americans surveyed, 29 percent said it would take them several months before they could trust a company again after a breach, while 17 percent of men and 11 percent of women said their trust would be lost forever.
Blitz now finds herself in a perfect position to address such issues, leveraging her past experience as a tech journalist, event moderator and television personality in Sweden. In her LinkedIn profile, Blitz notes that she covered the Silicon Valley tech sector “during the peak of the first IT boom,” as she strived to “understand the spirit of entrepreneurship in the U.S. at a time when Swedish tech companies started to make a mark in the world.”
“I think – or at least I hope – my background from TV actually helps me to simplify very complicated issues such as IT security,” Blitz tells SC Media. “I think that's such a big part of what I do, to really try to communicate and have people understand what IT security is, where data resides, where it needs to be protected, and why.”
Such skills are critical when conveying the benefits of encryption to business managers who may not be tech-savvy enough to grasp the science behind it, but are certainly capable of understanding the advantage of minimizing risk. “We have gone from a situation where IT security has gone from a cost of doing business to actually the cost of staying in business,” Blitz explains.
Alertsec was created as a spin-off of sorts from Loevstedt's original product, Pointsec Mobile Technologies, which was acquired by Check Point Software Technologies in 2007. That same year, Blitz joined Alertsec as a founding board member, while continuing to cover the tech sector as a writer and public speaker.
But it wasn't until Blitz began hosting Dragon's Den in 2008 – watching inventors and developers first-hand as they realized their dreams – that she began viewing Alertsec in a different light. “I just felt so much connection with the entrepreneurs,” says Blitz. “I was all teary-eyed, because it was so close to me. I could feel their passion.”
These interactions with aspiring business magnates would plant a seed, eventually convincing Blitz to set aside her communications career, move to the U.S. in 2015 and go all-in on building Alertsec into an encryption leader.
In the past year under Blitz's watch, Alertsec added a new monitoring solution for SMB companies to ensure that their third-party partners are encrypting vital data, and also began supporting two-factor authentication for administrators. She also filed a new patent for what she cryptically promised would be a technology that completes a “missing piece” of the security puzzle for businesses (she did not further elaborate).
But, according to Blitz, the need for encryption has never been greater, especially as organizations feel pressure to comply with regulatory guidelines, such as those established by HIPAA. Among the most significant regulatory additions, she notes, are New York state's new cybersecurity requirements for financial institutions, which went into effect in March 2017. “I think that regulation will probably spread to the rest of the U.S. because that looks at not only the responsibility you have if you're an enterprise, but [also] your third parties,” says Blitz. “So you are, in fact, responsible for people outside of your immediate IT infrastructure.”
One might suspect that leaving Sweden, where Blitz was once tasked to host a young leadership forum at the king's palace, would result in a bit of culture shock. But Blitz has embraced the change she encountered in America, where business, she says, moves at a faster pace.
“It's just a very different culture, I must say,” says Blitz. “I appreciate both, but I just love it here.” – BB