S02E01 – Poppy Gustafsson

Poppy Gustafsson, OBE, Co-CEO of Darktrace joins Tyto CEO Brendon Craigie and csuite podcast host Russell Goldsmith as the first guest in a new series of exclusive interviews with European unicorn start-up CEOs. This new series aims to find out about the key issues, pain points and challenges that European start-ups face, and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications.

Ms Gustafsson, OBE, recounts the path Darktrace took to becoming a unicorn, revealing how it set out to be a cybersecurity business that challenges the status quo and does things differently. Reaching unicorn status validated the fact that the company was doing something right. Ms Gustafsson, OBE, also goes on to discuss gender diversity at Darktrace and the fact that the organisation is 40% female, a statistic nearly unheard of in the tech sector.

Tune in to hear about Darktrace’s path to success and find out how investing in employees and fostering a positive, inclusive company culture is key to driving forward the principles that you want to reflect to the outside world.

Transcript:

Russell Goldsmith: Thanks for downloading Show 92 of The csuite podcast, the first in a special series of episodes that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency, Tyto, and their own Without Borders podcast, where we’ll be interviewing European unicorn CEOs to find out about the key issues, pain points, and challenges that European startups face and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications. My name is Russell Goldsmith, and joining me online as co-host for these episodes is Tyto’s founder, Brendon Craigie, who of course is a previous guest on this show. Good to have you alongside me presenting this time, Brendon.

Brendon Craigie: Great to be back, Russ, and I’m really looking forward to this series we’re putting together.

Russell Goldsmith: Indeed. Now, I should add that Brendon’s been in the business of advising global technology brands for 20 years and helped build one of the top 10 global tech PR agencies, before founding Tyto around an innovative new business model called PR Without Borders, and we’ll chat more about that a bit later because before that, I’m delighted to say that also online is our first guest in this series, Poppy Gustafsson OBE, CEO of Darktrace. Founded in 2013, Darktrace is recognized as the world’s leading cybersecurity AI company. Under Poppy’s leadership, the company has reached a $1.65billion valuation in under five years. Welcome to the show, Poppy. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat to us. Can we start by getting a quick overview of how Darktrace has gone from launching in 2013, as I mentioned, to that incredible valuation in such a short time?

Poppy Gustafsson: Yes. You’re absolutely right. Six and a half years ago, I paid the 15 pounds to incorporate the legal entity is Darktrace, Limited, so there was zero employees. Today, we’ve got… I think it’s 1,200 employees today, offices in 43 locations around the world, as you say, our last valuation 18 months ago was at 1.65 billion. It has been a phenomenal success, and one that I’m hugely proud of, but really, it speaks volumes for the power of the technology that sits at the heart of what we do. In the office that I’m sat in right now, just across, through the other side of the glass, I’ve got a team of incredible AI experts. I think I’ve got something like 40 PhD mathematicians sat on the other side of the wall from me, and what they have built is truly world-class. I think their success with Darktrace is a reflection of their capability.

Russell Goldsmith: In terms of your own role, I think it’s fair to say it’s quite an unusual one because Darktrace has two CEOs.

Poppy Gustafsson: Yes. You are correct. It’s myself and Nicole, and we run the business in partnership. She’s based out of America. I’m here in Cambridge, in the U.K. To be honest, it’s always been the way that we’ve run the business. It’s always been a partnership between the two of us. I am a mathematician way back when, and then a chartered accountant, so I’m very much the data and sort of numerical person. Nicole has got a very extensive marketing experience, so she’s very experienced in the market positioning and understanding the customer’s needs and how we translate that into the product roadmap. Really, we’ve got those very complimentary skill sets. There’s no way I’d be able to step into her shoes, and likewise, she couldn’t necessarily mine. That becomes a very complimentary partnership, and the way that we’ve always run this business, really.

Russell Goldsmith: Did you ever see yourself working in this sector then?

Poppy Gustafsson: To be honest, if I cast my mind back, I always knew I’d be doing something that’s analytical and data-lead, and I love the sort of mathematical ties. That’s sort of where my heart fits, but cybersecurity? Not necessarily. This has been a bit of a sort of whirlwind tour and a sort of… Really, the opportunity was presented to me six and a half years ago, and it was a bunch of people that I knew I wanted to work with. The rest is history.

Russell Goldsmith: Brilliant. Now, before we get to the set of questions that we are going to be asking all our guest CEOs, some congratulations are in order. You’ve recently picked up the Business Woman Award 2019 by Veuve Clicquot just last month, Business Woman of the Year from the U.K. Tech Awards 2019, plus Darktrace picked up the Artificial Intelligence Award at last month’s Lloyds Bank Business Awards, so a pretty busy few months.

Poppy Gustafsson: Yeah, thank you very much. They all are huge validations for everything that we do and the power of this sort of technology and the brilliant brains that have come together to build Darktrace.

Russell Goldsmith: Brilliant. Okay. Now, as I said, in this series of special episodes, we have a set of 10 questions that we’re going to be asking each of our guests. Kicking off with the first one, how has becoming a unicorn changed the perception of your company?

Poppy Gustafsson: This is an interesting question, and I think people from the outside often look at your business and think, “You have been working towards becoming a unicorn,” but that’s absolutely not the case. From the very founding days of Darktrace, we wanted to set out a sub-security business that was challenging the status quo and doing something different. That is something that we have done throughout our history. Becoming a unicorn, it was incredible validation, and it meant that we knew that we were approaching this in the right way, in one that people understood, and resonated, but it wasn’t what we set out to do. We want to be deployed all across the world in as many different verticals, helping as many different businesses that we possibly can both in the public and the private sector, and that still remains our goal. Reaching that sort of unicorn along the way is brilliant validation, but it’s not our ration d’etre.

Brendon Craigie: Have you found, Poppy, that people give you more… Has it helped you in terms of… You mentioned that validation, but has it sort of opened doors for you?

Poppy Gustafsson: It does, yes. It does open doors. It demonstrates that you are a significant player and you are able to have the sort of global reach and influence that you want to and that it’s not just about marketing and positioning. You are actually going out there and delivering on your promises. So, yes, it does give me some significant validation and access as a consequence of that.

Russell Goldsmith: Well, on the overview on your website, and you touched on this, actually, just earlier, it describes the fact that the company was founded by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge and government cyber intelligent experts in the U.S. and the U.K. The next question we had therefore is, as a tech startup whose origins are in Europe rather than Silicon Valley, what’s been your approach to raising awareness and differentiating yourself in such a noisy and crowded area?

Poppy Gustafsson: I think we are still today very differentiated in that we have a fundamentally different approach. Cybersecurity has typically been all about identifying the bad guy, trying to second guess the attack of the future, and then trying to identify that within the businesses that they’re protecting. At Darktrace, we’re doing something fundamentally different. Our co-founders that you mentioned there, they were responsible for protecting many of the U.K.’s assets, whether it’s your critical national infrastructure, your energy supply, and they were getting tired of sort of walking up and down the country and banging on the doors of these national assets and saying, “Will you please sort out your cyber security? You have got nation state A, B, and C all over you.” They wanted to set up a business that started with the assumption that at some point that breach is inevitable. Yes, we should all be undertaking endeavours to try and keep those bad guys off the network, but at some point, someone is going to get in. How do you identify them as and when that occurs?

Poppy Gustafsson: That is still quite a rare position to be within the market. What we do is sit within an organization and learn its unique digital thumbprint, if you like. Only by knowing what makes that business unique can you then spot the behavioural changes that will emerge as a consequence of the cyber breach. That was the power of our AI all those six and a half years ago. From there, when we made our very, very first sale, which was back in our first year, so it was in 2013, and that was the point we decided to take that over into the U.S. Off the back of our first U.K. sale, we then hired a head of sales in the U.S. Then we just grew the business thereafter.

Russell Goldsmith: Who was that to? Are you allowed to say?

Poppy Gustafsson: Our first customer is Drax Power. It’s the largest U.K. energy supplier.

Russell Goldsmith: Okay. Moving over to the U.S., American startups, obviously, they’re working in one huge monolingual market. European startups need to address stakeholders in different countries, each with their own language and culture. How have you approached that challenge?

Poppy Gustafsson: I think that’s something that U.K. businesses have to their advantage because they do have to learn how to trade internationally right from the start, whereas businesses born in the U.S. are used to that far more homogenous market, as you said. Having Nicole there, she’s an Americans, she lives in America, that was fundamental to our success in the U.S. Her knowledge and experience in marketing in U.S. industries was world-class, and we wouldn’t have been able to achieve that without her.

Brendon Craigie: Have you found that, as you’ve been going along, Poppy… First of all, just to say I think that really positive outlook that you and the business has really shines through in everything that you do in terms of… As you’ve said, the typical security approach is to really emphasize the fear side of things, but I think just everything you read about you and see in terms of interviews and things you’ve done, that seems to really come through, so just to share that. But in terms of as you’ve sort of grown in the U.S. and in the U.K., have you made any wrong moves, have you had to sort of learn and adapt to those different cultures, or it’s all kind of gone like clockwork?

Poppy Gustafsson: No. There are changes that you need to make. Very, very early on you, you’re excited, you’ve made your first sale, you’re grabbing your team in the U.S., and you think, “I’m going to go out there and win the large multinational banks on day one because I’m excited, and we’ve got so much momentum behind us.” We made a decision in those early years to actually try and stay away from those types of organizations because they become this huge, long contracted sales cycle. They become a massive distraction. Instead, we decided to shift the focus towards getting our business model right, being able to prove it in as many different segments as we possibly could, rather than investing all of those in one basket. That has proved to be really successful for us, and it meant then after a couple of years, we could then shift our focus to winning the sort of large multinationals, which we do, and now are a significant part of what we do today.

Poppy Gustafsson: But I think that was a consequence of perhaps some of the mistakes we made very, very early on, which was getting very excited about those large tech organizations when perhaps we weren’t ready. But thanks as well for your feedback there on that positive approach. That’s something that I personally feel quite strongly about, because cybersecurity, we’re just tired of it being that thing that’s just nagging you and telling you off for using your Facebook password on your corporate emails. I work for a tech company, and I love all the excitement and the innovation that can it bring us, whether it’s moving part of your network over to the cloud or whether it’s just having your internet-connected coffee machine that you can pre-order your coffees on. All of these are really exciting innovations, and I want businesses to be free to bring all of the advantages that this tech can bring into your world, but whilst knowing that if the worst were to happen, you would still be protected. For me, cyber security is that enabler that allows us to benefit from all of the innovation that’s happening all around us.

Russell Goldsmith: Linking that to the next question, you say you have 1,200 employees. How do you build company culture in such a fast-moving and high-growth environment? That’s a quick growth, obviously, within the company. How do you ensure that they are all on board with that culture?

Poppy Gustafsson: Yeah, and I think the culture here at Darktrace is very much one of sort of that optimism and that ambition and that very high standard of excellence we all hold each other to, but this is nothing more than the bringing together of a selection of individuals all with a common goal. The culture really is defined by the people that you bring in. It’s all about that hiring. It’s all about bringing on people that reflect the principles that you want to reflect to the outside world and then bringing them in and training them and keep investing in the employees. If you get that right, the culture will remain.

Brendon Craigie: Just on that point, Poppy, I’m guessing in the early days that that sort of enthusiasm, that culture kind of really naturally flows down from you and your business partner. In a small group, it just kind of just transmits itself naturally. But as you’ve grown bigger, have you kind of had to commit that to paper and really sort of commit what you stand for as a business and sort of do that in a more… formalize that a bit?

Poppy Gustafsson: It’s not prescribed. There’s no set of rules, but I think there’s some of the principles that we run the business by, meaning it naturally occurs. One of the things, for example, is that we really consider ourselves to be a meritocracy. We’re a business that’s only six years old, so time served isn’t something that’s really relevant to us, given our entire lifespan is only six years. We will always make sure that we are promoting the people that are the best at their job. It’s not a, “You have been here for X years. Therefore, you qualify for a promotion.” It’s, “You’ve really stood out at doing this thing amazingly. We think you’re the right person to be the next leader of this business.” That really resonates. We’ve got a great example, a young woman called Eleanor who is incredibly successful within the commercial team here in London, and then she wanted to move back to South Africa and then said, “Would I be able to go away and set up my part of Darktrace over in South Africa?”

Poppy Gustafsson: We said, “Yeah, of course.” At that point, it wasn’t necessarily a particular target market for us, but the opportunity was there, she wanted to do it, and she went out and set up a phenomenally successful business there. That was her own. That was her own part of the business that she set up and brought her own ambition and enthusiasm and energy to. Now those guys are a huge success, and they’re doing phenomenally well. Being able to replicate that and spot the talented individuals and pull them up and allow them to make a part of the business their own while supported by the sort of more global Darktrace infrastructure has been really key to sort of driving that ambition. Showing that ambition and enthusiasm and energy will bring you results, and it’s not just a consequence of time served.

Russell Goldsmith: Well, that leads quite nicely onto the next question, because we wanted to move on to internal comms and how you navigate the need to communicate with individuals and parts of the company versus addressing the entire team. You’ve kind of touched on that with particular individuals’ requirements there, but what about in terms of general internal comms?

Poppy Gustafsson: Yeah, it’s an interesting challenge because, as you say, very early on, you literally know who everyone is by name, and then very quickly, that gets away from you. Making sure that people still feel part of that common business and get the chance to hear your vision and your voice and what it is that you care about is really important. We have employee webinars regularly, so we will have the opportunity to pull all the employees together and make sure we talk about just a reflection on the past month and what we’re doing and what other employees within the organization are up to and what their goals and objectives are and the successes that we’ve seen.

Poppy Gustafsson: That’s quite an important part of what we do. But then also just events, whether it’s Christmas parties… We’re at that time of year, obviously. We have summer drinks and things like that. Any opportunity to bring the employees together is really important and a sort of necessary one to make sure that people in the sales team are meeting people in the development team, and they’re having a conversation with people that they may be seeing on email, but not necessarily face-to-face.

Brendon Craigie: Have there been any things, Poppy, that worked for you in the past but don’t work for you anymore, things that you’ve maybe tried, and then maybe they had a life and-

Poppy Gustafsson: I think that I’ve probably changed the way that I communicate as an individual, and I think in the early days when there’s a handful of you sat in a room, up until about sort of about 100 employees, it’s quite easy to get together in a room full of people and say that, “Guys, I think we’re going to try and do this. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to play out. If it goes wrong, it’s going to look a little bit like this, but let’s go for it. If we start seeing the early signs that something’s not working, then we will course correct.” You can’t have that conversation when it’s 1,200 employees. Your communication has to be far more absolute and black and white, because by the time it’s filtered down through the business, you cannot allow any interpretation of anything that’s not well-defined enough. I’d say that my own personal communication style has changed to be far more absolute than perhaps it was in the earlier days. That’s not to say I don’t still consult. I absolutely do, but it tends to be in a smaller group than perhaps in the earlier years.

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Russell Goldsmith: Our next question was, how do you view your role as an external spokesperson and representative of the business, and what you’ve learnt along the way?

Poppy Gustafsson: We’ve always been an advocate for challenging the status quo, like approaching cybersecurity in a way that it hasn’t been approached before. The fact that we talk very positively about cybersecurity is it’s a real enabler for a business, rather something that’s necessarily holding it back. We’re quite used, I think, to having a slightly contrary view. I feel that it’s part of my role to sort of represent that and talk about our approach to the business. But there’s been many other things along the way that we’ve seen. For example, one of the things that we are now celebrated for and are very good at is things like gender diversity. We are an organization that has 40% women, which is very unheard of for the tech sector.

Poppy Gustafsson: Now, that wasn’t something that we necessarily set out to achieve. I think that’s just been a consequence of our natural approach, which is always to try and just do things differently and not sort of inherit the preconceptions of the way that things have been done in the past. I think that is one of my roles, to making sure that we do continue to challenge the way that things have been done before. Obviously, some of them are done for very good reasons, and those ones we will pick up, but I don’t want to be a business that inherits all of those preconceptions about the way that stuff has been done.

Brendon Craigie: I don’t know whether we can just quickly touch on something, Russ. I just wanted to say, Poppy, you must be incredibly proud to have that 40%… It’s not 50/50, but 40% representation of women within your business. As you say, that’s quite exceptional, because I think it’s 17% of the tech industry roles are taken by women. That’s really incredible. I can only imagine that that must have a really incredible impact on your culture and your communications.

Poppy Gustafsson: Absolutely. Like I said before, we never set out to achieve that, but we knew we needed to go grow very quickly, and we just brought in the best talent. It happened that most of them were women. I think that’s probably no coincidence that having two female CEOs… that I do think that makes a difference, but we never set out to achieve that. We didn’t have any quotas or anything like that. We just hired the best people. We’ve naturally ended up becoming a real champion for gender diversity. That’s something that I feel quite proud of, myself, but also all of our employees feel really, really proud of that, both female and male. A lot of them are really proud to be part of an organization that champions talent regardless of background, and it has become part of the culture here at Darktrace. Yeah, it’s a great thing.

Russell Goldsmith: You clearly come across really passionately about everything, and genuinely, I’m loving this conversation. But the question we had here was, have you always been a natural communicator, or did you have to formulate a plan to get better at it? Be as honest as you want here.

Poppy Gustafsson: I talk too fast.

Russell Goldsmith: See, that’s interesting, because to me that comes across that you’re really passionate and excited about what you do, but I also appreciate that, especially if you’re working in different territories and stuff where English isn’t necessarily someone’s first language… I’ve been accused of that. I’ve presented at conferences, and I’m really talking through everything really quickly. There’s someone at the back waving, saying, “Will you slow down? Because I know it’s an international conference with English, but not everyone can keep up with you, Russ,” but…

Poppy Gustafsson: Yeah. There are skills to sort of communicating externally that you get taught along the way. I’ve had to slow down, or I’m told to slow down, but, as you can hear, I do still speak very quickly. But one of the keys, I think, is that often what we’re communicating is something that’s very, very deeply technical, and we might be communicating to a non-technical audience. Translating what we’re doing in a way that can be understood and consumed has been a sort of key there to sort of clear communication. The way that we’ve achieved that is through analogies. We’re very strong at using biological analogies in what we do. Our core product is called Enterprise Immune System because it replicates the human immune system. I think that’s been a sort of fundamental part of the way we describe our business and the way we do, having those really strong analogies and metaphors.

Brendon Craigie: I think that’s another thing that comes across very, yeah, clearly. It’s just that I think a lot of technology companies really struggle to humanize what they do and be able to kind of really engage with people on that human level, regardless of how deep they are into the technology, but I think that’s something that comes across very clearly from everything that you do.

Poppy Gustafsson: That’s something that I’ve had to learn along the way, because when you’re immersed in something for every waking minute of the day, you start to feel that everyone knows this knowledge because it’s such part of what you do. Learning how to describe that in a better way has been something that has been a big learning experience for me. I often liken it to… I’m a mathematician by background, and my daughter is now seven. She’s starting to learn sort of some of the basics of mathematics. Because I’m a mathematician myself, I’m a really poor tutor of math because I think, “How can you just not know it?” To me, it feels so inherent that I can’t then articulate to her how she should be learning it. So I think having people who come from a different world and a different background and different expertise is really important in the way you communicate what you do as a business, because you’re able to do it from a position of not pre-assumed knowledge.

Brendon Craigie: It sounds like you’re very good at encouraging feedback and stuff, because I think I’ve worked with lots of CEOs who maybe aren’t natural communicators, but they also can be quite defensive. As a consequence, they kind of don’t really encourage feedback, and they don’t encourage other people’s opinions. In a way, that kind of then inhibits their ability to develop as communicators. As the CEO, sometimes people can be a little bit intimidated about giving their feedback sort of to the CEO. How do you approach that?

Poppy Gustafsson: I think you’re right, but that feedback comes from a lot of places. You’re continually getting reflections on your communication, whether it’s at things like sort of conferences or speaking, or it could be from investors. I spend a lot of my time talking to investors, and they’re not backwards in coming forwards about reflections on that. Yes, all of that feedback should absolutely be listened to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always right. Often, when I’m getting feedback from the external world, it will be, “That’s not the way it’s been done before. You should be doing it like this.” Absolutely, we will always listen to that, but that doesn’t mean it’s always right. When you’re walking a path that hasn’t been done before, by definition, you are doing something new, and it’s… Yes, understanding how other businesses have achieved that is really important as a benchmark and as a guideline, but you’ve also got to be aware that it’s not necessarily the right answer.

Poppy Gustafsson: But when it comes to sort of feedback internally from employees, we don’t have a formal structure in place where people… no upward feedback thing, but I’m surrounded by people that I’ve worked with for six and a half years. We have been in the trenches of this business, or in the early days pretending to be each other’s PAs to make the business sound a bit bigger than it really was. These are people that I know and I trust, and having the trust that they will feed back to me and be honest is really important. They’ve got absolutely no qualms in telling me when I’m getting it wrong, which they do directly.

Russell Goldsmith: What’s been the biggest communications challenge you’ve faced along the way? Is it that bit about you having the knowledge and finding that difficult to tutor or…

Poppy Gustafsson: I think one of the things that’s really important to me, it’s not really a communications… Well, I suppose it is in that it’s more of a sort of training challenge. How do we bring in all of the people that we need to and teach them the talents to communicate what it is that we do, and how do we get them to articulate the problems that we are solving? Cybersecurity is something that there is a huge, huge skills deficit inside of. There’s just not enough people to go around, which is why if you think about the speed of which our technology landscape is changing, it’s far faster than the number of human beings that are coming into the industry. There’s just not enough people to keep up.

Poppy Gustafsson: Here I am, trying to build a global organization and bring in as much talented people as possible, and there’s just not enough people to go around. We’ve had to grow those skills in-house. When you’re operating in a market with not enough cybersecurity talent, We have to build our own talent. We have to spot those people and bring them in and teach them the skills that they need to be able to do their job. Whilst that’s not directly communications from myself, you can see that that has been a big challenge that communication has been a part of, because how do we get these people trained and enabled and able to talk about our business in the way that we want?

Brendon Craigie: Just an observation on that is I think the more simple you can tell your own story and humanize it, as you’ve done, then it’s much easier for people to pick that up and run with it, isn’t it? By kind of humanizing your story and making it so exciting and inspiring, then it’s much easier for those people who maybe don’t have the same amount of experience to actually pick up and run with that?

Poppy Gustafsson: Yeah. Also, there’s a humility in the approach as well. If you think about the people that we’re talking to, they tend to be CISOs, so chief information security officers. They’re tired of having people come into their room, telling them how important cyber security is. They know how important cyber security is. It’s their bread and butter. It is what they do day in and day out. We try not to do that. We don’t want to be the people there that are wagging a finger at them. Instead, we’re coming in and saying, “Look, you know your business, you know your challenges, but we know our products. Let us show it to you. Then let’s think about the ways in which that we can help you on your journey.” Moving away from that sort of slightly tedious lecturing to, “Let me just show you the thing that I’m so passionate about and the thing that I’ve been part of in creating,” that’s been really sort of important to change in the rhetoric in some of those conversations.

Russell Goldsmith: What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve ever got on communications?

Poppy Gustafsson: Best piece of advice on communications? I think it’s around the metaphors and having those really good, strong analogies that convey what it is that you do and what it is that you’re passionate about. I think that’s been the best way to sort of articulate our story and our vision.

Russell Goldsmith: Brilliant. We’ve got one final question for you, Poppy, and that is, if you were to go back in time and speak to your old self, what guidance would you give yourself about communications, and what steps would you encourage yourself to take in order for you and your business to accel in communications?

Poppy Gustafsson: One of the things that I come back to is you think about my own personal experience in standing up and doing things like public speaking. I’m bringing a lot of young and ambitious people on board today. For some of them, they will be going out and doing their first foray into public speaking. I always say to them that there are many people that are very, very talented, natural communicators, but public speaking is also something that you can learn just through experience and enjoying the engagement with the audience. It is a talent that can be learned over time. If anything, it’s a bit of a waste of a natural talent. Pushing yourself out there, making yourself go out and doing it really is the best way to learn on that side of things. When it comes to more sort of broader communication, I think honesty is always the best policy, and never trying to laugh or bravado, but just speaking from the heart, saying what you know, and that means that you will build up a really sort of credible and honest relationship with your audience, whether it’s employees or external.

Russell Goldsmith: Poppy, thank you so much for that. Really enjoyed that.

Poppy Gustafsson: My pleasure.

Russell Goldsmith: It’s been really, really, really good. I know you’re busy. We’re going to let you get on, but for now, Poppy Gustafsson, thank you so much for joining the show.

Poppy Gustafsson: My pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Russell Goldsmith: What did you think to that first chat of the series then, Brendon?

Brendon Craigie: I thought it was very inspiring. You can just really get it sense of Poppy’s sort of enthusiasm and energy, and I can just only imagine that that’s very infectious for anyone who comes into contact with the company and with her. Then I think the other thing that really I was sort of struck by was just this real focus on trying to humanize their message, so using lots of analogies and metaphors in order to kind of take their story to a wider audience and not get too bogged down in the technology, which is something that unfortunately a lot of technology companies struggle with.

Russell Goldsmith: Yeah, I thought she was fantastic, and really, really enjoyed the chat. Okay. Listen, coming back to your own business, before we finish off, I mentioned at the top of the show your PR Without Borders model. Do you want to just explain what this means?

Brendon Craigie: We’re in the business of helping companies to solve business challenges through the power of communications. In terms of addressing that, one of the things that we identified when we were setting up the company was that we really wanted to have a diversity of perspective involved in our business and involved in the advice we were providing to clients, so we established the agency around, really, an interesting and innovative model whereby we have a team of people that work together across multiple European countries. We’re in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. We all work together as one team. We’re not kind of working in our own little silos. We’re all working together as one team. That’s kind of really cool. Then the second thing is that the lines between PR and marketing have really blurred. When we talk about PR Without Borders, it’s both that geographic sense of working across borders, but it’s also about working across different communications disciplines. Those things, kind of ultimately what they mean is we bring a diversity of perspectives and a diversity of approaches to every problem that we encounter.

Russell Goldsmith: Just finishing off on this first interview that we’ve done with Poppy today, then what are you hoping… In terms of linking it to the rest of the series, what are you hoping to get from all of these interviews that we’re going to be doing?

Brendon Craigie: I think that the reason why we’re doing this is that, just based upon a couple of decades of working with technology companies, having encountered lots of different CEOs of technology companies, all grappling with the challenges around communications in a different way, I thought, “What better way to actually give something back to the industry that we work in than to try and identify 10 very high-profile, successful CEOs, try to capture some of those learnings, and then make them available to anyone who’s looking to build a technology startup and kind of really build upon all of that great experience that’s out there?”

Russell Goldsmith: Well, Brendon, thanks for being my co-host for this first in the series, and I’m looking forward to the next one. We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this first of our unicorn interviews. If you want to find out more about Darktrace, just visit their website at darktrace.com. Of course, we’d love to hear any comments you have on today’s chat, which you can do on our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter feeds, and those are linked from the top of our website at csuitepodcast.com, where you’ll also find all our previous shows and supporting show notes, plus links to where you can subscribe for automatic downloads of each episode via the likes of Spotify or iTunes.

Russell Goldsmith: If you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please do give us a positive rating and review. We’re also on all of your favourite podcast apps. Just search for The csuite podcast and hit subscribe. Just a quick reminder that you can also subscribe to the Without Borders podcast from our partners at Tyto, and all the details for that are on their website. Just head to tytopr.com and click on the podcast link in the top nav bar. Finally, if you would like to get in touch with this show, you can do that via our contact form at csuitepodcast.com or you can reach me via Twitter using @RussGoldsmith or find me on LinkedIn. But for now, thanks for listening, and goodbye.

Tyto brings you Without Borders, a regular dose of inspiration for passionate communicators, courageous creatives and entrepreneurial business brains. Expect candid chats with the wisest old hands, bleeding edge innovators and left field thinkers and doers.

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