16/ Bootstrapping: Zack Schuler of Ninjio
Founder & CEO, Ninjio
Seemingly everyday a security company announces that it has raised a new, big round of funding. While taking venture capital to fuel a company is normal, it’s certainly not the only way to get started. As we close out our investor series, Jack and I wanted to highlight the bootstrappers— those brave people who kickstart their businesses using solely their own resources. Our conversation with Zack Schuler of Ninjio illustrates the experience security awareness training company that began with no funding but a loan from his bank account. While Zack had the benefit of a previous exit (he bootstrapped his 1st company at the age of 21), his mentality and practices are that of someone who hustles for every deal, obsesses over each hire and makes painstaking decisions about how he uses his time and money.
Ninjio’s story is unique - it is first and foremost a content business in a city, Los Angeles, where he has access to a Hollywood talent pool others may have a hard time finding elsewhere. Zack’s approach to equity is also very different than what you would typically see in a security software company-- especially in the Silicon Valley. We enjoyed this interview exactly for this reason: it does not offer a conventional model that others can follow but rather an example of the success one can find off the beaten path with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.
In July 2015, two years after his I.T. services company was acquired, Zack Schuler was struck with an idea after reading an article about the state of Security Awareness that focused on the difficulties in educating users on security awareness. Within minutes Zack envisioned a security awareness business that would use Hollywood-style storytelling to educate people about cyber security, breaches, and easily avoidable threats. This wasn’t going to be a “check the box” training program; this was going to be a platform driven by emotionally connected content that could change human behavior. Ninjio (and Zack) are based out of Westlake Village in the northwestern corner of Los Angeles.