What to Look for When Hiring a CISO for a Growing Startup A CISO is a critical position in any startup, but selecting the right CISO can be a difficult process. Here are some of the qualities that make a good CISO and some tips on how to select one for your startup.

By Jim Koohyar Biniyaz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A CISO, or Chief Information Security Officer, is a corporate executive who oversees information security for a company. This position can vary in size and scope, but generally, it falls within the company's executive management ranks. A CISO's job is to protect the company's data by implementing policies, developing security processes and leading security teams.

There are several things you should consider when selecting a CISO for your startup. First, the individual must have experience managing significant cyber threats and incidents. Second, they must be able to articulate cybersecurity priorities to upper management and articulate how their initiatives will benefit the business. Lastly, the CISO must be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders — internal and external — to maintain a cohesive strategy across departments.

Related: Can The Position of CISO Really Help Your Organization?

When to hire a CISO for your startup?

When selecting a CISO for your startup, it is important to consider a number of factors, including the company's size, industry and risk profile. Here are some key selection criteria:

  • Size: A startup with fewer than 50 employees may not need a full-time CISO, while a company with more than 200 employees likely will.

  • Industry: CISOs should be selected based on the type of information security risks that are prevalent in their respective industries.

  • Startup risk profile: A startup with high-risk products or services may need a more experienced CISO than a company with lower-risk products or services. The risk profile of the company can also affect the type of experience and education required for the position.

  • Position type: A startup may need an interim CISO or a permanent one, depending on its stage of development and the level of risk posed by its data and operations.

What are the responsibilities of a CISO?

Before selecting a CISO, you should have a solid understanding of the CISO's responsibilities and their mission in your startup. A CISO is responsible for overseeing the overall security strategy and operations of a company. This position typically reports to the CEO or COO. The following are some of the responsibilities of a CISO:

  • Leading the overall cybersecurity strategy and operations

  • Directing and managing the cyber risk management program

  • Managing information security governance and compliance

  • Managing information risk assessment and management processes

  • Providing leadership in developing incident response plans and managing incident response teams

  • Developing strong partnerships with external entities, such as law enforcement, SOCs and data providers

Related: Prioritize Cybersecurity to Protect Your Business Before It Is Too Late

What is the selection process for a CISO?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the selection process for a CISO for your startup will vary depending on the size and scope of the company, its industry and its overall needs. However, some key factors that should be considered when selecting a CISO for your startup include:

1. Leadership and management experience: A good CISO should have a strong background in leadership and management, which will help them provide direction and manage team resources effectively.

2. Security expertise: A good CISO should have a deep understanding of security technologies and be able to develop innovative solutions to protect the company's data and assets.

3. Business acumen: A good CISO should be able to understand the business goals of the company and how security impacts those goals.

4. Strategic thinking: A good CISO should be able to think strategically about security issues and develop long-term plans to address them.

5. Interpersonal skills: A good CISO should have strong interpersonal skills, which will help them build relationships with senior executives within the company and communicate effectively with the public.

How to build a good relationship with your CISO

The role of CISO is growing in importance as more and more startups move towards an information-driven culture. Although the role of CISO may be new to some startups, the process of selecting a competent and trustworthy individual to fill this position is not. Here are four tips for building a relationship with your CISO:

1. Establish clear expectations from the outset: Make sure that you know what your CISO is responsible for and what their limitations are. Establishing clear boundaries will help to ensure that both parties are working towards the same goals.

2. Be transparent with your CISO: Share all relevant data and information as soon as it's available. This will help them stay up-to-date on your business and vice versa.

3. Keep communication open: Regular communication will help to build trust between you and your CISO and ensure that both parties have the latest information about your company's progress.

4. Foster a collaborative environment: Work together to find solutions to common problems, and encourage mutual respect and collaboration among team members.

Related: 4 Principles That Helped a Former White House Official Make Cyber Security More Accessible

One of the most important and delicate roles an organization can appoint is the CISO. This person has to be able to balance security with innovation, and they need to have a deep understanding of technology in order to make sound decisions about how best to protect their company's data. First and foremost, you want someone who is well-versed in cybersecurity and has experience leading a team of experts. Secondly, make sure the CISO you select has the authority and resources needed to handle any potential cyber threats your company faces. And finally, be sure to consider the candidate's background and experience when assessing their suitability for the role. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your startup has the best chance of protecting itself from online threats.

Jim Koohyar Biniyaz

CEO and Co-Founder of ResilientX Security

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