How did your background as a hacker lead to you becoming a founder? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Jobert Abma, Co-founder of HackerOne, on Quora:

Being a hacker has many meanings, but the definition that stuck and resonated with me was "One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming limitations." To me, computer hackers are a subset of all the hackers out there. I'm a hacker first and a computer hacker second.

I get a lot of my excitement and satisfaction from being challenged with hard problems. The problem that I couldn't wrap my head around was how we would overcome the economy's dependence on insecure systems. Traditional penetration tests were not the answer. Before starting HackerOne, I was a penetration tester. We recognized that we'd need to come up with a scalable model that would properly incentivize people to find security vulnerabilities. The scope of that problem and challenges that it brought with it lit a fire in me that continues to push me to build a company that makes hacker talent accessible around the world and help empower the world to build a safer internet.

Having been in cybersecurity for over 15 years has taught me, among other things, to be extremely humble (although my parents did a good job with that, too). The field is simply too broad for a single person to learn everything, so we depend on each other to be successful together. Humility enabled me to decouple the ideas we had as founders from my ongoing contributions to the broader mission. This led me to focus on my strengths and hire for all the weaknesses my co-founders and I have. Surrounding yourself with people you can learn from has been one of the best decisions we've made. Many founders struggle finding the right role at their company and learn on the job, which typically comes with (rookie) mistakes. Many founders fool themselves into thinking they need a fancy title or responsibilities to be in control and have impact; I don't believe this is true and I am much happier focusing on how my strengths contribute getting us closer to our mission.

I want to share a great "hack" my co-founder Michiel and I did when we were 19. We were two years into our penetration testing consultancy business and struggled convincing companies to contract us. We had been hacking for six years at this point. We didn't blame them though, we had no credentials, no real prior work experience, and were still in university (computer science). Instead, we came up with the idea to buy every lead cake or pie if we wouldn't be able to find a security vulnerability in their systems within 30 minutes. Everyone loved it and took us up on it. The year and a half we ran this "promotion", we never bought anyone cake or pie. It showed people what we were capable of and many chose to contract us as penetration testers.

Together we creatively overcame a limitation, which eventually led to the foundation of HackerOne.

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Published on: Sep 12, 2019