Surevine’s 10th Anniversary: A word with the founders

With our 10th Anniversary finally here (well the actual date was last October, but we’ve just had our big bash to celebrate it), we thought it would be a great to speak to the 2 people that have been Sureviners since before Surevine was even a thing. In case you didn’t already know, Stuart Murdoch and John Atherton are our fabulous founders, and gave us a few insights about their journey.

  • Starting off, how do you feel to have reached the 10th anniversary of Surevine?

SM: We started the company in 2008 during the global financial downturn and we’re proud to have built a resilient business that has stood the test of time.

JA: It feels truly amazing. These past 10 years have gone really quickly. 

  • Where did the initial idea of Surevine come from?

SM: Our insight was to take what was then the emerging technology of social media, and imagine that we could take those paradigms and emerging ways of collaborating and apply them into the sphere of cybersecurity and national security. The idea was to allow people to collaborate more intuitively over stuff that is drop-dead important.

JA: Stuart and I both came from working in Central Government and we looked at the way things were being done, and thought that there were better ways to do things as a supplier. 

  • So you had an idea, but where did the name come from?

SM: It’s actually partly inspired by a love of wine. The best wine comes from vines with deep roots drawing up nutrients and minerals and communicating that through the vines to the grapes. And of course, the well-known song “Heard it through the grapevine” touches on the idea of collaboration.

JA: The name did come out of a wine fuelled evening where we were throwing round ideas. We were convinced that people-focussed systems where collaboration was key, were upcoming in the future (where the vine part of the name came from), and security would be a massive part of everything that we do (where the sure part came from).

  • What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?

SM: There are so many lessons, I haven’t stopped learning. In fact, my biggest lesson is that every day brings something new and you never stop learning. To build a company, you need to constantly get better. An example of a very early lesson that has transformed the way we work is the need  to understand that people have radically different learning styles, so when you are building collaboration technology, you have to provide different ways for each of those different learning styles to get the best from it. It isn’t sufficient to just build something that only works for people who are experimental and have a hands-on approach to learning; we need different on ramps for each different type.

JA: I think my biggest lesson that I’ve learnt is not to take on too much. You must have focus. Our customers want to bring in SMEs where we are focussed and our niche expertise sets us apart. Focus on what you’re good at.

  • What piece of advice would you share?

SM: Be optimistic, but don’t rely on hope. If you stick to your guns and give it your all, then you can achieve things that people will tell you are impossible.

JA: Make sure you pay attention to the key strategic models and understand where your competitive advantage is (cost or differentiation). Pick one of those and don’t sit somewhere in the middle.

  • What is the secret to success?

SM: Tenacity – don’t give up at the first hurdle.

JA: Strategy. There are so many things to do, it’s easy to get distracted. Create a strategy that’s easy to understand throughout the business, and it will help you make the choices on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

  • What are the accomplishments that have shaped Surevine?

SM: Many projects that Surevine have worked on have had a real impact on making the UK a safer place, and because of that, projects we’ve worked on have received praise from the last 3 UK Prime Ministers. A highlight is having built Threatvine: the cyber security information sharing platform that powers the UK National Cyber platform, CiSP which attracts interest from across the globe. But the thing that makes me proudest, is how we continue to be able to attract the very best people to work for Surevine.

JA: Being able to hire the best people is a key accomplishment. The thing that has made me proudest is how some of the projects we’ve worked on has been of national importance and the astounding value we’ve delivered for the clients .

  • What do other companies do that you look up to?

SM: I really love WeWork. Whilst I don’t understand the business model, they have transformed the world of work, made it people-centric and focussed on physical community in the way Surevine does with technology.

JA: Looking at it from a startup point of view, I look up to those companies that have received investment and still seek to develop the Founders’ vision rather than the investors. This is a real challenge – you either hold onto equity and organically grow, or seek investment and accelerate internal processes that otherwise might take longer to develop.

  • And finally, what do you think the next 10 years will bring?

SM: The world is becoming a less secure place. We live in unprecedented times where new borders are being erected and divisions amongst people are being created (think about the UK in Europe, Scotland in UK, or the trade barriers erected by the US). Security requires cooperation, which is precisely the kind of work Surevine does. We allow people to collaborate across challenging boundaries, and there will be even more of a need for that. Who knows what changes Brexit will bring, but it will be necessary to reinforce the cross-border collaboration necessary to confront cyber threats.

JA: For Surevine, I think we will continue to enhance our services business and successfully spin out some products as part of our toolkit, following the lead that Threatvine has taken. For the industry, cloud native services are going to become massive and Surevine sits in that interesting place where some organisations can’t yet trust the cloud for their most sensitive data. That is a challenge that we need to help our customers solve. 

Here’s to the next 10 years then. And take a look at what these past 10 years have brought for us in our 10th Anniversary Timeline blog post.