When I set time aside (usually in the evening) to accomplish something specific, that’s the best success rate at that item getting accomplished.
Andrew Bagrin is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of My Digital Shield (MDS), a leading provider of Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) for small businesses. With more than 17 years of experience in the IT security industry, Andrew started MDS in 2013 to bring cloud-based, enterprise-level security technology to small businesses at an affordable price.
Prior to founding MDS, Andrew served as the Director of Service Provider Business Development at Fortinet, a network security provider. He held the position from 2008 until 2013, focusing on new security offerings as well as gaps in the security market.
Andrew’s career in IT security began in 1997, working for several network security consulting companies. From 2000 to 2004, he served as the Director of Network and Security with Regal Entertainment Group. During his tenure, Andrew developed a 500-site area network, built and migrated a datacenter, and was a key asset in four strategic corporate acquisitions, which resulted in the largest theater chain in the world. Andrew then took a position with Check Point Software Technologies, where he worked on the managed security services business for four years.
Andrew’s contributions in the security space are a direct reflection of his desire to fill existing gaps within the industry. Being the son of an entrepreneur, Andrew credits his upbringing for helping shape his creative and solution-driven mindset.
Where did the idea for My Digital Shield come from?
After spending over 5 years of researching security gaps in managed service offerings and market, one of the biggest growing was the small business segment. There wasn’t any good security solution to provide small businesses at an affordable cost. Together with some of the leaders in the security community, we came up with a clever design to address this market in the best possible way. The only issue was, establish companies that offered managed security services couldn’t build the service because it would involve too many departments working together. If you’ve ever worked for or with a big company, you know having 3 departments work together is an act of God. At the same time everyone can see this growing problem that needed to be solved. The only answer was to take off my corporate hat and put on my entrepreneurial hat. My Digital Shield was created in an effort to provide small business with an enterprise grade security solution at an affordable price.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is extremely busy. When I’m at home, I wake up and check any missed important messages from the west coast or Europe, have breakfast with the family, and get to work. Around 6pm I stop work to have dinner, put the kids to bed around 9pm, and go back to work until around 1 or 2am. I found that I can categorize the work I do in two simple categories “Work during the day” and “Work at night”. I have to do quite a bit of collaboration with various companies and people and I can only reach them during the day, so I try to avoid doing any work that I can do on my own. I’ve been using Trello to organize most of the work I have to do and keep it separated in those two general categories. This prevents me from spending a whole day working on something on my own, and at night realizing I didn’t contact someone I was supposed to discuss something important with.
How do you bring ideas to life?
There is no lack of ideas at My Digital Shield. We only work with the brightest and best. I keep a list of good ideas, along with due dates to remind me approximately when that idea would be best to bring to reality. Sometimes bringing an idea to life too early can be a negative and I’ve discovered that timing is a key component. I find that instead of telling others to bring Andrew’s idea to life, the better route is taking the time to get their buy in and even make it their idea and vision. This way they will always have this goal on their mind and it has a much better chance at becoming a reality. The two key components are making people understand the idea and its value, and to make them part of the idea, goal and mission.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
There are many from a personal level but from a technology perspective, I’m really excited about the future of peer2peer commerce through apps. I think we’re scratching the surface in unlocking the power of that little gadget everyone holds in their hand every minute of the day. Uber and AirBnB really embraced this idea but I really think it can go much further. There are lots of needs and lots of people with resources to fill those needs and the power to connect the two at a fair market value is in the power of that device everyone has.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think that keeping organized is the best habit anyone can have.
Organizing your tasks, projects and especially your time is key to being productive. It’s easy to get consumed by the phone always ringing or the overwhelming number of emails that are always coming in. When I set time aside (usually in the evening) to accomplish something specific, that’s the best success rate at that item getting accomplished. I think I picked up this habit back in the early 2000’s working at a company. I noticed that at 5:30 there was a mad rush for the exit, so I used 5:30-7:30pm as my time to get things accomplished without any distractions, and I started specifically planning items to accomplish at 5:30 every day.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I think I had a few jobs early on that were pretty bad. I do remember working at the Duracell plant packaging batteries all night on 3rd shift, and all I could think about is “I should be able to write a script to automate this somehow and go take a nap!” I think that night after night I realized that people should be thinking and talking about ideas. Machines should be doing the repetitive work that requires no thought but only a command. Robots are dumb but quick and efficient. I’m still not sure what the lesson learned from that job is, but it did make me think a lot about automation and enhanced my hesitancy to manual labor.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I had to trade all of my experience and everything I learned for doing something different, I wouldn’t change anything! There’s no point. We all make mistakes and end up in bad situations, but the key is to learn. So I guess if I would change anything, it would be to be more attentive and learn more along the way when I made mistakes and bad decisions.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep a balanced routine and don’t neglect other aspects of your life, such as your health, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. If you spend more time at work and neglect the other areas completely, it will affect your work negatively as well. I try to eat healthy, go to the gym 3 times a week, keep a good social lifestyle, spend a little time to connect with my spiritual side, and enjoy life! Of course it’s easier said than done, we all sometime don’t notice how a week goes by and we’ve only been to the gym once and haven’t done anything outside of work. I find that scheduling everything makes it easier to follow through on those things that are less urgent but still important to keep in the routine.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I have always been a big fan of staying connected to everyone in the industry and trying to leave a good impression. I was very amazed at how everyone is trying to be extremely helpful and wants to see me succeed. I wouldn’t really call it a strategy, but by staying as connected as possible and keeping in touch with friends in the industry really helps to market throughout the industry. I always send an email to a large group of friends and people I respect in the industry whenever I travel somewhere. The message is, “if you’re in the area and have time to grab a drink or just get together to catch up, I will always try to make time.” If I’m traveling I can either go to my hotel and do the same work that I can do anywhere else, or use the unique opportunity to connect with a friend, see what their up to and see how you can help each other out. This basic habit has led to many introductions of new people, prospects and has really helped to grow ideas and the company in general.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started the company, I hired an inexpensive law firm that didn’t really know much about tech startups. They incorporated in some standard way they normally do, without any recommendations on anything and started writing contracts, terms and agreements for me. Very quickly I realized that not only they didn’t understand my business at all, but they completely didn’t understand technology. I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and started working with Goodwin Procter with someone who did nothing but tech startups in Silicon Valley their entire career. It was quite a breath of fresh air working with them, but now I had to completely redo everything I already paid the other firm to do. Lesson learned, don’t cheap out on important things, and a good law firm is at the top of that list.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As I mentioned, I’m very interested in the P2P commerce through apps. I keep hearing my wife trying to schedule a nail appointment with someone who barely speaks English, or stops by the tanning salon to have to wait an hour or just leave because they didn’t have anything available. I think it really hit me when she was trying to find a good nail place while we were traveling to get her nails done for a wedding. I don’t wish that experience for anyone. I knew there had to be an easier way. There are tons of people who do nails, give massages and little tanning salons that are excellent but don’t have the means to bring customers to them because of budget constraints or because they’re too busy running their business. I would love to give them a cloud POS scheduling system for free (maybe even give them a free tablet to run it on), along with it they get a poster to hang up that says, “next time book your appointment with your mobile device. Download the app”
This app will find your location and give you the best rated nail, massage, tanning etc.. in the area and you can book and pay right through the app (similar to Uber) Now you’re connecting real people with real needs to the people who provide those services and are the best at it. You’re bringing new customers to those services. Imagine being in a different city and putting in the app that you want to get a tan between 3-4pm (because that’s when you have free time) and the app brings up all the nearby locations that have that time slot available (sorted by rating). Users can leave ratings and I’m sure you can think of all the other possibilities.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I always act like I’m happy with everything, but I get easily annoyed by silly little inconvenient things. “you don’t accept credit cards and there is no ATM around?”, “I have to print out this form, fill it out with a pen, mail it (not email) and hope for the best?”, The SPG green choice really bugs me because instead of just giving you points every day, they PRINT on PAPER (not green) a card and bring it to your room which you have to give right back to them at the front desk.!.!?? Can’t you just deliver it straight to the front desk, or avoid the paper all together? There’s got to be a better way! If someone asks me to fax something, I pretend I’ve never heard of that technology. I often feel that our day to day lives are way behind on tech and that we waste so much time doing things the old way. I always remember that statement from the movie Bad Boys 2. “The rats are eating my money! This is a very stupid problem to have!”
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I’m not really tied to anything specific, I use the standard Google stuff (Drive, Voice, Gmail etc.). Trello for organization, personal data is on Dropbox, the usual social media (FB, Linkedin, Google plus, Twitter recently, Skype, hangouts. Godaddy for buying domain names, host in various locations (primarily Linode for business), Evernote, DI.fm and Sky.fm for music, Uber conference, Uber car service. I like using apps and services that are very easy and quick to setup and easy to use and that save me time and hassle. If an app or service requires too much integration or time to get going, I will probably delay doing it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
For entrepreneurs I would recommend “The Lean Startup”. It’s not a thick, long boring book that you feel it never ends. It may be a bit long at times but very useful information. I’m a lazy reader and rather enjoy things like Ted talks. Although they might be a bit light, they often have some hidden gems.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I have some friends that really helped me believe that I have good ideas worth pursuing. If I was going to name some obvious public figures, I’d have to say Dale Carnegie and Steven Covey are big ones on my list of people who have influenced the way I do things. For motivation, I sometimes look to fictional characters. Everyone wants to be a super hero! J
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.