Working hard is one of the three cornerstones of RangeForce, according to its leader Taavi Must who co-founded the company that specialises in cybersecurity training. However, two other cornerstones exist that guide the direction and purpose of the work.
The first of the two is the ability to see and understand a potential problem, often before their clients can. “We were lucky to be a part of the Estonian cybersecurity ecosystem in the years 2012-2015 when important developments were taking place,” Must recalls. These developments include the cyber practice field called CyberRange for the Estonian Defence Force, NATO’s Locked Shields exercises and investments into cybersecurity curriculums made by Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech).
“These events led us to reflect on the lack of skill in the field of cybersecurity,” says Must. “And we had a vision — to tackle this problem and solve it.” In other words, companies and organisations require not only cyber-training, but also cyber-exercises. It is exactly these two needs that RangeForce — founded by Jaanus Kink, Margus Ernits and Taavi Must in 2014 — provides for.
InvEST insights: cyber security with RangeForce
Global goal from day one
The second cornerstone of RangeForce is its choice of market. As is the case with most Estonian startups, RangeForce decided to operate globally, rather than locally. “We immediately knew that we wanted to create a global enterprise,” says Must. Thus, RangeForce is active in two countries simultaneously — in Estonia and the US. Estonia houses the core development of the company and the US is home to its sales team and customer support centre where they gain input for further development of their services.
“You may have a good product, but it’s useless if your clients know nothing about it,” says Must about the importance of the US location. In other words, they’ve been tackling problems and preparing services for global clients from the very beginning. For example, Must stated that — unlike in Estonia — there’s a demand for simpler level training in the US. Both specialists and regular employees require cybersecurity training.
RangeForce is trusted by the cream of the crop. Their clients include banks such as Barclays, as well as famous technology companies like Microsoft and Pipedrive. This works the other way round as well — RangeForce’s platform teaches the use of such cybersecurity tools as Recorded Future, Splunk, Virus Total and Carbon Black.
Cybersecurity and IT specialists from a variety of fields utilise RangeForce to train new employees and use CyberSiege simulations to assess the skills of new teams. The company’s platform is able to show users their shortcomings in expert knowledge and offer the necessary training to fill those gaps.
Reasons for Estonia’s success
RangeForce’s co-founder insists that Estonia is a great location for engineering work. “Many companies have based their cyber-defence centres in Estonia, proving this to be a reliable and successful model,” says Must. He encourages companies to think bigger.
“I would recommend considering the establishment of research and development units in Estonia as well,” he says. “RangeForce is proof that success is not solely reliant on engineering or operating, but rather a unique network of scientists, engineers and businessmen who help you create something completely new.”
How did this come to be in Estonia? “Giant leaps often start with small steps,” Must explains. “There was a group of who believed in the necessity of cybersecurity in the very beginning of the 21st century, when it was not yet taken seriously. They helped to overcome the first cyber-hurdles and brought all their knowledge and skills to Estonia,” he recalls how the country begun its climb towards becoming a flagship of cybersecurity.
The key events during that climb, according to Must, were the establishment of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre, Taltech’s cybersecurity curriculums and the Defence Force’s cyber-defence exercises — all of these pooled the necessary knowledge and skills into Estonia. “Once you obtain critical mass — and I believe this has very much happened in Estonia — great talents and companies alike start gravitating towards you,” he says.
Estonia is a small country, with only 1.3 million citizens, however being a centre of attraction for cybersecurity provides it with plenty of talented people from all over. “RangeForce is a good example,” says Must. “We have employees from the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Canada and other countries.”
Moved to the unicorn office
RangeForce involved over 13 million euros in last year’s A-investment round. The investments were headed by an international investment fund Energy Impact Partners who gathered existing investors such as Paladin Capital Group and Trind VC. The international technology giant Cisco joined as a new strategic investor, who uses RangeForce’s platform to train its teams.
Gibb Witham, Vice President of Paladin Capital Group who had always believed in RangeForce said that often the human factor gets lost when talking about cybersecurity — the specialist working in that area. “Thanks to RangeForce’s platform, both companies and governments have a much quicker and more effective way to introduce programmes necessary for developing new specialists,” said Witham during the disclosure of fund allocations. “RangeForce has a key role to play in developing the human-centered cybersecurity.”
Nazo Moosa, the European CEO of Impact Partners agreed that while companies invest large sums into cybersecurity tools, they fail to prepare their employees to use those tools in order to prevent, discover and stop cyber-attacks. “Hence we see a continuing lack of cybersecurity specialists around the world,” said Moosa, quoting this as the reason RangeForce has a bright future ahead of it.
The invested money has helped the company grow with tremendous speed. Today, RangeForce employs over 100 people, over half of whom are located in Estonia and less than half in the United States. For the non-believers, RangeForce’s success may also be predicted by the fact that their Tallinn office moved to where Bolt, one of Estonia’s most successful unicorns, previously had their offices. The Luther Machine Hall located in the centre of Tallinn became too small for Bolt and they relocated their head offices to a commercial building newly built on the other side of the same street. Bolt’s previous unicorn factory rooms are now in the hands of RangeForce.