CEO & Co-Founder of PolyPort
“Take your time when making key hires. Having the right team in place from an experience and culture standpoint is the absolute most important piece of advice I could give.”
Chloe Kettell is the CEO & Co-Founder of PolyPort, a cybersecurity company designed for creatives to work, collaborate, and share safely. PolyPort is quickly gaining traction in the cybersecurity industry for its proprietary software protecting 3D assets and has won the SXSW Accelerator Pitch along with the SXSW Innovation Award in 2017. Chloe also served in the military as a Marine, was a previous fitness entrepreneur, and is now an avid skier and Olympic lifter.
Where did the idea first come from for PolyPort?
My cofounder and I have been victims of theft in the creative industry, but on the music side. We were working on a record label out in Los Angeles and started hanging out with a really talented visual effects artist who mentioned that intellectual property theft is rampant in the computer graphics world for 3D content. After diving in and researching we realized that the problem space was burgeoning and that there was no comprehensive solution to protect this valuable content that could be stolen with a simple copy + paste function.
There is a lot going on in cyber security these days with some high-profile breaches. What’s PolyPort’s main focus and differentiator?
There are plenty of sophisticated solutions in the market today that protect PDFs, Excel spreadsheets and documents. However, this is no longer sufficient as a company’s value is now contained in source code in 3D design applications and game engines.
What sets PolyPort apart is that we are protecting the next generation of content, and that’s 3D. For clarification, 3D content is not just pixels you see on a screen, it is a company’s source code. One 3D file could contain all of the necessary information to design, manufacture and reproduce a product in an automated fashion. PolyPort is the only solution on the market today that can protect this type of content at the point of use, transparently across the 60+ widely used applications in a typical creative pipeline.
In the first couple of years, what was your team’s main focus?
Finding the right core team to build this complex enterprise-grade security product. We have taken our time to ensure that PolyPort is stable and maintains the simplest user experience possible, including a self-serve offering for SMBs.
You’re wearing a lot of hats as the Founder. How do you stay organized and prioritize what’s most important?
That is an ongoing challenge FOR SURE. We are at an interesting inflection point as a company where I’m having to make the shift from being more hands on to more management focused. One of the most important things our team does on a quarterly basis is create OKRs (objectives and key results). Still a work in progress but OKRs help ensure that the whole team is headed in the same direction. It helps me assess what weekly tasks are truly important to achieve the desired quarterly results.
What are the most important relationships to a Founder? Customers, Investors, Co-Founders? How do you go and build those relationships?
All of the above! Seriously all of those relationships are important but the most important relationships to cultivate are founder relationships. I remember hearing from multiple mentors that the #1 reason startups fail is due to founder conflict. Building those relationships requires a lot of tender loving care, mutual respect, and communication.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I remember calling my brother one day a couple of years ago when I was dealing with what I “perceived” to be a massive business problem. I was upset and felt like the world was over. He said, “Chloe, calm down, grab a drink, chill and start fresh tomorrow. The world is not over. You’ll find that your success can be measured by the number of difficult conversations you have.” He was absolutely right. There are good days and there are bad days. As cliché as it sounds, you have to roll with the punches and pick back up and keep moving. I’m pretty sure I’ve had over 50 difficult conversations since he gave me that advice and I’m sure I’ll have another 300 over the next 5 years.
Every hire is so critical for startups, how do you identify great people?
You are correct, it is absolutely critical and can be what makes or breaks a company. When it comes to recruiting talent, I have a pretty good sense for cultural fit. Prior to founding PolyPort I owned a service-based business, so reading people was my number one priority.
That being said, we have had our fair share of staffing challenges as I’m sure most companies have. We have learned to take our time to ensure we can avoid these pitfalls moving forward by going through a rigorous interview process with each candidate.
Besides the rigorous screening process, when we interview a new candidate, we ask which three to five people they have worked with that they would bring on board if given the chance. Because having that network is so important. I’ve built relationships with many intelligent, well-rounded individuals that could fit key roles at PolyPort as we grow and scale. We have already identified three key members, who are waiting for our call when we are ready for them.
From experience, what are the main pitfalls you’d caution other entrepreneurs to be aware of?
Take your time when making key hires. Having the right team in place from an experience and culture standpoint is the absolute most important piece of advice I could give. Our team has dealt with our fair share of staffing challenges, some of them because we rushed into making the decision, some were because of the candidate misrepresenting their skills. As a startup founder, you are running a million miles per hour and think that having to wait those extra couple of weeks will kill your company. The wrong hire will set you back much more than those couple of weeks.
It’s probably hard to find time to read, but are there certain books or resources you’d recommend?
(Laughs) That’s right, but I love reading so I’ll never pass up a good book. I highly recommend Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
“Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise.” -anonymous
Any parting advice?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you are passionate about what you are building because otherwise you will not make the distance.