ISSP is one of the leading players in the Ukrainian information and communications technology (ICT) market. “In 2008, when I decided to start a company with my two partners, the term ‘cybersecurity’ was not used much. We were among the first in Ukraine who decided to specialize in the protection of information systems and countering cyberattacks,” recalls Oleh Derevianko, Chairman of the ISSP Board of Directors, with a smile on his face.
As relevant as never before
From the very beginning, the company decided to counteract cyberthreats comprehensively. It took several years to build teams of core engineers and analysts and to outline the company’s key technologies and services. In 2013, a training center was opened that became an official partner for internationally recognized training programs. Later, the Security Operations Center was established, which provides customers with managed security services including incident detection and response.
In 2015, ISSP established a laboratory that specializes in cyberattack investigations and digital forensics.
“Since 2014, the number of attacks on critical infrastructure facilities, such as energy companies, has risen sharply in Ukraine. In fact, we were at the forefront because we had the knowledge and experience to counter such threats,” says Oleh.
“Prior to that, the Ukrainian business community, with the exception of banks and telecommunications companies, did not particularly care about cybersecurity issues. However, large-scale cyberattacks such as BlackEnergy, NotPetya, and others have forced Ukrainian companies to look differently at the price of ignoring cybersecurity,” he continues.
Entering new markets
At the time of its creation, ISSP was primarily focused on the domestic market. “We quickly realized, however, that we needed to expand to foreign markets. The unique expertise of our team and our experience in responding to cyberthreats in Ukraine could be in demand abroad as well,” Oleh says.
The first foreign market was Georgia, where the company opened an office and now successfully implements projects for both the corporate and public sectors. Offices were then opened in Kazakhstan and Poland, and activities expanded to even more locations, including Azerbaijan and several other countries.
“We were then faced with the question: What’s next? How can we make the most effective use of our existing expertise and how can we make the global market interested?” Oleh recalls.
In 2017, the company began to look closely at the North American market. “We became even more convinced that our expertise would be in demand abroad when, in the spring of 2017, we delivered lectures and workshops on our investigations into cyberattacks at the invitation of leading American universities such as MIT (their Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab) and Dartmouth College.
At the same time, we learned about the CUTIS Project and its program to support ICT companies, and decided to join it, although I didn’t have any high expectations. I thought, well, the Project chose us, we will learn more about Canada and meet Canadian business people. I didn’t expect that we would open our own office in Canada a couple of years later,” Oleh admits.
This is what happened…
Introduction to the Canadian market
The first event attended by the company in cooperation with the CUTIS Project was the Branham300 Launch Event in 2017. This was a networking event brining Ukrainian ICT companies together with leading Canadian ICT companies. The Ukrainian companies got assistance from a CUTIS Canadian consultant to help them prepare for the event.
“On the consultant’s advice, we produced a one pager presentation, as concise as possible, to present information about the company – its achievements, competitive advantages, etc. That also helped us in the future because we learned to focus on key achievements and the most interesting factors,” Oleh continues.
According to Oleh, Branham300 was a great opportunity to communicate informally with Canadian businesses.
“Informal communication allows the exchange of a lot of insights and helps understand how the market really works”, says Oleh.
Branham 300 was followed by a training session on the Canadian market in Kyiv and a trip to Canada to participate in the Investment Road Show in Toronto in 2018.
The most fruitful event for ISSP was the trade mission in the spring of 2019, which also included B2B meetings with Canadian businesses.
“Additional elements of the program were especially interesting: visiting various start-up incubators and universities, as well as communicating with local authorities. It was important for us to look at the market from different angles, to get different contacts. And then to continue working with those contacts,” Oleh recalls.
From the start, ISSP began to consider Canada as a potential location for export of its services. But after the 2019 trade mission, the company realized that the best option would be to open its own representative office. “Canada is a specific market, and the issue of trust in the service provider comes first,” says Oleh.
During the 2019 trade mission, Oleh met representatives from the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade in Ontario.
“After the introductory meeting, I took the contact details and wrote just one email. Things were then off and rolling! I have never seen such a high level of customer focus and proactivity not only in the public sector but also in business. Ms. Deborah Clark-Forster and her team introduced us to a law firm that helped register an office in Canada, recommended a bank where we could open an account, and arranged various additional meetings with potential partners in Canada that we needed,” says Oleh.
“It is quite possible that if we had not become part of the CUTIS Project and met with Canadian business and the Ministry representatives, the idea to open an office in Canada would not have occurred to us at all. CUTIS saved us a lot of time and money,” Oleh continues.
2019 has been a landmark year for ISSP’s expansion into Canada. After the April 2019 trade mission, ISSP participated in the high-profile Ukraine House in Toronto event in July, where CUTIS and the Export Promotion Office of Ukraine (EPO) co-organized an innovation corner featuring Ukraine’s ICT sector and CUTIS organized a day of meetings with potential business partners. In early November, ISSP joined the EPO-organized trade mission to Canada and CUTIS supported Oleh to give a presentation at a large event in Toronto on “Canadian–Ukrainian Cooperation and Global Business Opportunities in AI and Cybersecurity.” Finally, in late November, Oleh joined the CUTIS-organized mission to Ottawa where he participated in SAAS North. ISSP also participated in the Canadian-sponsored event at the Lviv IT Arena in 2020.
2020 started with big plans for CUTIS to support a roadshow in Canada for ISSP to present itself to potential clients. The pandemic affected these plans and CUTIS’ support to ISSP pivoted to a virtual roadshow that entailed a series of webinars for potential Canadian customers.
According to Oleh, Canada is currently a strategic market for ISSP, as it is an excellent platform for business development not only for the entire North American market, but also globally.
“We understand that this is a long game to play. We do not expect to reach certain financial indicators during the first year. We will promote our services and technologies, while analyzing how the market reacts to them. We are also interested in the prospects of attracting Canadian specialists as their level of education and training in cybersecurity is high. Besides, Canada is developing several powerful cybersecurity industry clusters that operate with one simple goal – to help grow your business and achieve global success. It is very attractive and inspiring,” Oleh sums up.
Author Tetiana Riasna