An Interview with Ian Garrett
Starting a Tech Startup With Zero Startup Experience
Name: Ian Garrett
Company Website: https://www.phalanx.io/
Title at Company: CEO & Co-founder
Company Status: Active
Company Social Media:
Founder Social Media:
Thanks for sharing your story with us. Let’s start with a short introduction. Tell us a little about who you are and some highlights of your background.
Hey folks it’s me, Ian Garrett and I’m the CEO & Co-founder of Phalanx based out of Arlington, VA. A little on my background, I spent a number of years as a US Army Cyber officer where I had a lot of great learning experiences. After I left active duty I stayed on as an Army Reservist to do the same type of work and went into the defense sector to be a program manager and data scientist. I’ve also spent time working on PhD-level research focused on the intersection between cyber and artificial intelligence. Other than all that, I’ve been having a lot of fun lately making hot sauces.
What does your company do in one sentence?
A central hub to control the eyes on your document access anywhere.
What does your company do in one (short) paragraph?
We secure document access by combining encryption, identity, and automation for efficient and secure access. We transform existing platforms into secure tools for users and give CISOs central control to manage & see access to reduce cyber risk.
Every company has something that happens that makes the founder want to start. What is the origin story of your company?
2020 is what kicked everything off. There was a massive spike in data breaches that was directly caused by the sudden shift to remote work and based on my previous experiences I knew exactly why: trying to have visibility and protection of documents was like trying to herd cats. I knew that even post-pandemic we weren’t going to go back to the same office culture that we had before so there was a massive need for a user-friendly way to protect data while also providing security leaders with the visibility we knew was critically missing.
What were the first couple steps you took to kickstart your venture?
Step 1 was to go talk to some people to figure out how to ever start a tech startup. Step 2 (based on feedback from step 1) was to go find some co-founders that were crazy enough to jump on board with the idea.
When did you start the company? How long have you been operating this company?
We officially incorporated in January of 2021 and so we’re a little over two years old at this point. I started ideating on the concept in mid-2020, but it wasn’t until late 2020 when I started trying to get people together to make it a reality. We were part-time for the first month or so in late 2020, but by 2021 we were full time at Phalanx and have been ever since.
What are some tips you’d give someone trying to start a similar type of company?
Before you start anything make sure you speak to some people that fit the same profile as your ideal customer. There is pretty much always a gap between what you’re thinking of building and what people are looking to buy and the more you can close that prior to starting the faster you’ll be able to move. If you’re selling to consumers, speak to about 100 people, and if you’re selling to businesses speak to about 10. Obviously, those are super rough numbers, but it’ll be enough where you can get a sense of who’s just being nice and who actually has a pain point based on your product or service.
What are some key tools that have helped your entrepreneurial journey?
There’s been a lot of great tools that we’ve used to both automate processes as well as give us the confidence to complete tasks that we would otherwise be not as good at (e.g., graphic design). If I had to choose three it’d be Clerky for startup incorporation, Gusto for payroll, and Canva for graphic design.
What are the moments that make it all worth it?
Fulfilling the needs of customers is such a joy. When we finally sold our product and saw usage from our customers it was an awesome feeling knowing that we’re actually solving a real problem people were having. The second is similar in that I love being able to tell a customer that we’ve incorporated their feedback into the product and are delivering an enhancement or upgrade.
What are the moments when you feel like quitting?
The biggest challenge with a startup is very similar to the challenges I’ve had with academic research, which is that the inputs do not directly map to the outputs. You can put in a lot of hours and find that it doesn’t get you very far, and you can have a couple of quick breaks that make you feel awesome. Knowing that the output will often disappoint you, especially in the beginning, was key to our motivation when things were slow or disappointing. So, to combat it we always make sure we celebrate wins, even if they’re small, so that we recognize that good work is happening even if the outputs don’t seem like it at the time. We also capture a lot of metrics associated with the business so looking at long term trends in that data also has been helpful in seeing the bigger picture of growth instead of getting stuck in any day-to-day issues.
Do you plan on fundraising in the future?
Yup, we’ll definitely look to fundraise again in the future. We’re happy to chat with any potential investors and would love any introductions.
What’s one book you recommend people read (business or otherwise)?
Hopefully it’s not too over recommended, but I found that Zero to One was a great book to put in perspective why you would want to build a startup, which helped me differentiate between a startup and small business.
What’s the best way to get a hold of you if someone has questions?
The best way to contact me is just connect on LinkedIn and send a message!