Cybersecurity startups: How to build a high-performing team

by Black Hat Middle East and Africa
Cybersecurity startups: How to build a high-performing team

We spend a lot of our time talking to cybersecurity professionals at every level – including startup founders and entrepreneurs. And every time we connect with a startup that’s really building success in this space, we notice they have one thing in common:

A high-performing team. 

So how do you build one? 

A high-performing team doesn’t have to be big

The first thing to note is that a high-performing team doesn’t need to be a big team. It’s about having the right people – not lots of people – and getting the most out of the hiring budget you have. 

With that in mind, start by asking yourself the right questions. 

  • What skills do I need to add to my team?
  • Where (or on whom) are the pressure points that I need to ease by bringing in someone new?
  • What core goals do I want a new team member to help the business achieve? 

Essentially, all these come back to one central question: 

Why am I hiring this person? 

And if you know your ‘why’, you’re a step closer to building a team that can excel. Because a high-performing team isn’t just full of talented people – it’s populated with the most relevant talent, too. 

Pay attention to soft skills

When you’re clear on the why, it should be relatively simple to identify the technical skills you need a new team member to have. But in cybersecurity, there’s often too little attention paid to soft skills – and that’s a critical oversight. 

Soft skills include an individual’s attitude to work, their reliability, the attention to detail and their drive to succeed. But it’s also important to consider things like:

  • How they communicate
  • How they identify and address interpersonal problems
  • How they respond to feedback and constructive criticism, and how willing they are to learn
  • How they adapt to change and challenges in their working environment

Truth: often, technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills. So if you find a candidate who ticks all your boxes for soft skills but is missing some of the tech skills, don’t count them out immediately – it might be worth giving them the opportunity to learn. OffSec and Black Hat MEA 2024 are partnering up to hone individuals' tech skills, more at the bottom for that!

Take the best people with you

Business leaders across industries do this. When you know someone’s value and you know you like working with them from past roles, consider bringing them with you and hiring them into your startup. 

Working with someone is much more useful than interviewing them when it comes to understanding how they think, how they work, and how they might respond to the ups and downs of a rapidly evolving new business. 

So if you’ve already got someone in mind who’d be perfect as your CTO or CMO? Ask them. 

But at the same time, focus on diversity and inclusion from the start

As your business grows it’s important to not just hire your friends. 

Because you need people who think differently from you. You need a variety of perspectives and experiences to contribute to a team that’s flexible, insightful, and curious about the needs of your customers. 

A more holistic view of security challenges will drive better decision-making and support a solid level of employee retention. And it’s crucial that your team is empowered to make decisions and free to share their ideas – so they feel valued and useful. 

Keep learning together

You should never expect a team member to know everything, and you should never give them the impression that you don’t have more to learn either. 

Whether you’re a team of two or 25 or 200, it’s important that you invest in continuous training, skill development, and industry research to ensure you keep your momentum as a team. 

Training and development drives a strong, collaborative, vibrant team culture – with knowledge and experiences shared between people, a sense of optimism about the wide scope of possibilities out there for business will grow.

Encourage your team to bring their talent and curiosity to the table, and give them the opportunity to build your business with you, instead of for you. If you’re all in this together, you’ll all put everything you can into creating success. 

Lay these foundations from the start

Lay down these building blocks from your very first hire and continue to develop them as (or if) your team grows. That way, your team’s performance won’t depend on any one person – because you’re creating an ecosystem that’s engineered for everyone to excel, grow, and contribute genuine value to the company. 

Bring your team to Black Hat MEA 2024 to grow your startup’s knowledge, network, and ambition.

Black Hat MEA 2024 Training enquiries are now live! Immerse yourself in a lineup of advanced trainings brought to you by the world-renowned hackers and instructors from OffSec.

Master foundational security operations through several hands-on workshops, take your pentesting to a whole new level, and level up your knowledge on advanced Windows vulnerabilities. Don't miss out on these exclusive courses!

Explore the available courses here:
Secure your spot for these training sessions here:

Share on

Join newsletter

Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.

Follow us


Sign up for more like this.

Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.

Related articles