Putting Leeds Tech on the Map with: Nick Deacon Elliott, Boxphish

We spoke with Nick Deacon Elliott, co-owner of Boxphish, which has quickly established itself as a key player in the Cyber Awareness Market, delivering thousands of simulations and education journeys on a monthly basis. We chat about his journey to date and long-term ambitions for the company.

Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words. 

Boxphish is a company that specialises in developing the human firewall. 94% of all cyber attacks are a result of human error, we work closely with organisations to provide effective attack simulation, and an ongoing, engaging, training programme  – all built with the aim of ensuring our customers stay safe in an increasingly digital world.

What was the inspiration behind setting up Boxphish?

There has been a big surge in cybercrime over the last three years and it’s now only going in one direction, making it a trillion dollar problem globally.

The sophistication of the attacks is constantly increasing, therefore the reliance on your people and end users to do the right thing is becoming even more vital. Boxphish was created to provide a solution to this problem and ensure that end users become a defence rather than a potential vulnerability.

Why do you think is Leeds such a thriving hub for tech businesses?

There’s so much great talent in Leeds I think there’s definitely a ‘northern spirit’. It feels like a community in which businesses right across the region are genuinely keen to help each other – which I think is quite unique to Leeds itself and one of the main reasons it’s grown to become such a prominent hub for tech in the UK.

It’s also an ideal location in terms of infrastructure and is positioned centrally within the UK allowing for easy access to Manchester, Sheffield and London, making building connections easier.

From your unique perspective, what role will innovation-led businesses have in the growth of the regional economy?

From a technology perspective, innovation is absolutely key for us. Cyber-attacks are changing daily and we need to stay as close to the forefront of that as we can, so we’re constantly innovating to stand out against our competitors.

I think if the companies that are based in Leeds are also innovating, and they’re staying at the front of their respective markets, as a region we’re going to establish a really strong ecosystem of innovation-led business.

For us, it is vital that we continue to innovate and stay ahead of the market, otherwise you can quickly get left behind. We also benefit from being the agile company that we are, as it makes us adaptable and quicker to react  than some of the larger, more established companies in our market.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Scale-up currently?

From a business leader perspective, it’s really about making sure we’re growing at the right pace. Making sure that we are achieving strong and ambitious growth, but at the same time the quality of the service we provide isn’t compromised.We also need to ensure that we hold the right relationships with our people – regardless of whether it’s our customers, partners or employees.

So, it’s all about trying to find the right balance between hunger and ambition whilst making sure we continue to deliver a high-level of service.

Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?

We’re on version 4 of our product now. so I feel we’re in a really good place, providing a great platform to our customers that will only continue to get better. Looking forward, our main goals right now are growing both our reach and scale and investing in the customer success side of the business.

We provide solutions to 11 countries, and over 220,000 users. Now, it’s just about growing that further – ideally by the end of this year we’d like to be approaching half a million users, as well as to keep building on the strong foundations that we’ve laid over the last 12 months.

How do you personally define success?

Success for me, from a business perspective, is just really making sure that we deliver on the company vision of enabling our customers to have the best defence against cyber-attacks.

I think following that it is then ensuring that we realise our full potential – both the business itself, and the people within it. As we continue to grow, I want to make sure my colleagues have an environment, and a culture, where they’re continuously pushed and challenged to reach their own full potential but with the support they need to get there.

So I think if I can achieve all those three things, I’ll feel a sense of personal success. 

Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?

I think I can pinpoint two people.

The first is Mark Roberge, who was one of the early employees at HubSpot, and he built a really solid culture around curiosity – making sure that we’re asking the why when we’re doing things, so you’re constantly thinking about the impact it will have on our customers.

He built a phenomenal business by getting the culture right and continuing to ask the important questions. Studying some of the things that Mark did in the early days of Hubspot has really helped to set out our DNA here at Boxphish.

The second person is Kevin Systrom, one of the founders of Instagram. What I really like about his story is how he was very passionate about this idea, and then focused on scaling the platform efficiently. I think before they were acquired, they had something like 13 or 14 staff, and their primary focus was building a really good product.

I really liked that approach of lean, efficient development and focusing on the products – get it right, and the users will follow. 

To find out more about Boxphish, head over to their website and discover more of the city’s leading digital companies on the Leeds Tech Map. 



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