Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2020’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch.
By the end of 2020, Fishtech Group will be nearing 300 employees, furthering the exponential effect the startup has had on the small town of Martin City — not too shabby for a nearly 5-year-old venture, noted Gary Fish.
Elevator pitch: Fishtech Group is a data-driven cybersecurity provider leading organizations to a more secure future.
• Founders: Gary Fish, Chuck Crawford, Dan Thormodsgaard
• Founding year: 2016
• Amount raised to date: Bootstrapped
• Noteworthy investors: Gary Fish
• Current employee count: 209
“I think we’ve had a tremendous impact,” Fish, founder and CEO, said of the company’s prowess in the small town, just south of the Kansas City metro — a place a person might not expect to find a top-tier, nationally recognized cybersecurity power house, he added.
“We’ve raised a lot of awareness … [Cybersecurity] It’s a hot field for careers and we’ve just done a ton of work — I would venture to say more than anyone in Kansas City — to bring in young people, introducing them to cybersecurity,” Fish said.
Click here to read about Fishtech’s impact on students, which includes regular tours of the startup’s state-of-the-art cybersecurity campus.
With employees in more than 30 states, Fishtech — a company entirely bootstrapped by Fish, following past business successes — is climbing toward its goal of reshaping the cybersecurity field on a global scale, he explained.
“I don’t think Kansas City does enough to promote [itself] as a cybersecurity hub,” Fish theorized, explaining it’s time for the region to step up its game.
“I see other cities doing it. Some of them I laugh at because I know what’s going on in those cities. … But if you look back over time at what’s been done out of Kansas City, including with my [previous] company, Fishnet which was a global, $800 million company … I think we’re starting to make some impact around the country,” he said.
The anticipation of such impact helped secure Fishtech the No. 5 spot on Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020 list. It’s an honor for the accomplished founder and a sign of mounting momentum for the rapidly scaling company, he added.
“It’s great to be recognized for our efforts,” Fish said. “Even though we’ve done this before, starting a business, we’re still a startup. We act like a startup. We’re growing like a startup. I’m very honored to be on the list and to be recognized in Kansas City.”
And while access to cash certainly eases the burden of building a startup, it doesn’t make the journey less gritty, Fish noted.
“One thing [building Fishtech] has made me realize — that maybe I had forgotten is building a business is hard. And I don’t want to discourage anyone from wanting to be an entrepreneur or wanting to start a business, but don’t think it’s easy,” he said, citing the mere appearance of success, which all too often is an illusion, and true success, which can’t be achieved without a strong team in place.
“We’re a big, fast-moving startup,” Fish joked, noting the company earned $100 million in revenue in 2019 and is on track to bring in $150 million in 2020.
“Because of that, I like to say we have an unfair advantage,” he said. “Having been in the cybersecurity space since 1996 and having employed thousands of different people, we have a great talent pool to pull from. We have some of the best in the business, from the top down. Very seasoned talent and we’re able to attract people that wouldn’t come to work for a startup.”
To date, two-thirds of Fishtech’s employee base came to the startup from out-of-state, Fish noted.
Beyond steady team growth, 2020 will see the opening of Fishtech’s second cyber defense center in Northwest Arkansas.
“We’ll just be doing more of the same,” Fish said in anticipation of the year ahead.
“Where we ended 2019, we’ll be carrying huge momentum into 2020 and continuing to operationalize things and becoming a bigger company,” he said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.