Go Phish: James Campbell, CEO and Co-founder, Cado Security

Go Phish: James Campbell, CEO and Co-founder, Cado Security

James Campbell, CEO and Co-founder, Cado Security

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

It’s definitely the founding of Cado Security. We’ve been in business since 2020 and everything has happened really quickly – we’ve done three funding rounds, established ourselves in the US and UK, taken on 50 staff and scored contracts with enterprise customers in the technology and banking spaces. It feels like we’ve been going for 10 years, not three and a half. Developing a new technology and a company from scratch is incredibly rewarding and I’m especially proud of the fact that we’ve been able to create jobs and opportunities for so many people as a result. It’s good when you step back for a moment to admire your achievement, before taking a deep breath and jumping back in.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I was one of those kids who liked to tinker – meaning I had to learn to fix my own mistakes. Then, when I was about 12, I played my first video game on a computer and it hooked me. Next thing you know, my parents bought me my own machine and you couldn’t get me off the thing.

Aside from gaming, I loved learning about hacking and hackers. After completing my IT degree in 2007, I was contemplating what to do next when a graduate opportunity opened up at the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – the country’s lead cybersecurity agency. Those were the days when they wouldn’t tell you what you were going to do until you’d signed on the line. I had a friend working there who said to me: ‘I know what you want to get into – come to Canberra’. Based solely on that, I joined the ASD and I think it was the best move of my career.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

Utilise people’s strengths; don’t focus on their weaknesses. A lot of people strive to address their deficits rather than amplifying their innate abilities and, earlier in my career, I was definitely one of them. When I learnt to focus on what I was good at, my performance became significantly better. Cybersecurity is crisis-driven work and in order to be effective you need to have an A-team who can hit the ground running under virtual ‘live fire’ conditions. As a leader, it’s my job to fit people to roles and responsibilities that will allow them to perform at their peak.

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

AI is obviously much talked about, particularly since the emergence of ChatGPT. It has some great applications, but people should be cognisant of its limitations and the risks around its use. The other hot topic is cloud. A lot of customers are embracing the model and moving their data to the big service providers. Unfortunately, the pace of adoption isn’t being matched by commensurate adoption of cybersecurity technology. Many organisations don’t understand the risks sufficiently; they think the cloud provider will protect their data, whereas, in fact, it’s their responsibility.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

Catching up with family and friends with a pint in your hand and not talking about work is a good way to relieve the pressure. Unfortunately, my family are all in Australia, so that makes it tough. Going home at least once a year to see them – and get some sun and surf – recharges and energises me. Now that I’m running my own show, I have found it harder to switch off – as a founder, your brain is always thinking of the next idea or problem – so it is important to have a hobby, or something else to focus on. Weirdly enough, mine is doing some techie stuff on the PC. I like to have a bit of research or a side project on the go.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

I’d have launched a startup a bit sooner. It was something I always wanted to do but I wanted to do it in the most educated way possible. Waiting and being patient was worthwhile – my former career taught me a lot – but I probably should have made the move five years earlier. Doing it pre-COVID would certainly have helped from an economic perspective, but I suspect leaving a high paying job for a salary of zero and spending your own hard-earned savings on a vision, is scary at any age or stage. If I had my time again, I’d just take the leap.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

Once again, I’d have to say cloud technologies. It’s where a lot of companies have focused their spend and, as a trend, it still has a long way to run.

What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?

There are your obvious ones like language barriers, for starters. It’s not just about what language your product is in; how you support the customer must also be considered. And data sovereignty can be a minefield. Unlike Europe, where the EU has imposed uniform regulations and compliance, APAC countries have wildly differing data protection laws. Some countries, Australia and China for example, are chalk and cheese and you need to be able to accommodate both.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

In early 2023, we shifted from investment mode back into ‘doing’ mode, having completed our third round of funding. My focus since then has been on sustainable growth. That’s a challenge for a lot of startups in the current economic climate. There’s no longer the money sloshing around that there was three years ago and burning as fast and bright as possible has ceased to be a good strategy. Over the next 12 months, I expect to be quite hands-on, making sure we have the right product strategy and roadmap, building the go-to-market team and fostering alliances to amplify our growth.

What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C level position in your industry?

Being the CEO is the loneliest position in the company, so it pays to ensure you’re not alone. Developing a trusted network or peer group of people who’ve been there and done that, or are in the process of doing it, is invaluable. They’ll help you appreciate that dealing with lots of fires from day to day is normal and that you can get through the inevitable challenges that will come your way. It’s also super important to truly believe in the company and the mission. If you don’t have passion, if you can’t live and breathe it, things can unwind quickly.

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