Codean Sets Sights on International Expansion in 2023
Startup and HSD Partner Codean raised €400.000 in EU funding last year and received 1 million euros from TIIN Capital and several angel investors. Since then, the young company, under the leadership of co-CEOs Kevin Valk and Arthur Tolsma, has been growing steadily. Now they are looking at opportunities to market their product internationally. We talked to Tolsma about how they experience these developments as an organisation.
Codean is developing a toolbox that allows application security experts to work more efficiently. They focus on a so-called white-box pen test or code review, because this process often takes a lot of time and is therefore also expensive for customers. When founder Kevin Valk started Codean three years ago, he was looking for tooling for security experts that went beyond the standard SAST and DAST tools, because they could only find the simple vulnerabilities.
“A hacker will find your complex vulnerabilities,” Tolsma explains. “With enough time, and if your data is valuable enough, they will just get through. Current tools are often developed for software developers, but not specifically for security experts. They can work with what is available, but it can all be done much faster and more precise.”
Earlier in 2022, Codean already raised money through, amongst others, the Dutch Security Tech Fund of TIIN Capital. “A year and a half ago we first spoke to TIIN Capital”, Tolsma recounts. “They are former entrepreneurs as well, and it was nice that there was a good click right away. In the end, they and our five angel investors found eachother in a unified vision.”
Now, Codean still has regular contact with the investors to spar and to provide updates. “We all get together twice a year, and we talk to TIIN every two weeks,” says Tolsma, “They ask if they can help with anything, or if we have already thought of certain things. We are very happy with this level of interaction because these are very useful sessions.”
In August, Codean also announced that they received a grant of €400.000 as part of the REACT programme. “Our previous investment has given us the opportunity to expand the team with top quality people. This subsidy is now very important for us to further develop our toolbox.”
A glimpse of the future
“We are on the eve of a year in which we have to really prove ourselves,” Tolsma states. “We have developed good technology, and the customers were really enthusiastic about it. Now, they have to start using it, and it must come through clearly that our toolbox is user-friendly and indeed delivers that added value.”
There is also an interest in Codean's product from abroad. “We hear from foreign customers more often, and we are also taking active steps to internationalise. We recently participated in the Globaliser Cyber Security of DutchBasecamp, InnovationQuarter and HSD,” says Tolsma. The Globaliser is a programme where participants receive individual feedback and advice on their product, specifically with the goal of internationalisation in mind. “There we also learned how to calculate which market is most interesting for your company, and which prices you can charge there.”
During the programme, the participants also got the opportunity to pitch their story to established entrepreneurs, says Tolsma. “For example, Menno van der Marel from Fox-IT came by to listen to us, which I thought was very cool. In any case, I really like that there is such an open atmosphere within the field of cybersecurity, in which people help each other and think along with each other.”
Business abroad and Codean Days
The exact ambitions for other countries have not yet been fully defined. “A milestone that we are already looking forward to is the first American customer. The US is still an important focus country in our field. Our targeted customer base is so specific that the Netherlands as a market may quickly become too small for us. That's why we're happy that Finnish and German companies have already shown interest in a pilot as well.”
To explore and enter the German market, Codean has also joined the Partners for International Business Programme Germany on Cyber Security. A 3-year programme for a group of companies to enter the German market led by HSD in close collaboration with InnovationQuarter and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
This international character also reflects in how Codean has put together the team over the past year. For example, one of the software engineers came all the way from Greece to join the team. In addition, Codean is not tied to one country in another special way; the company does not have a physical office.
“We work completely remotely,” Tolsma explains. “It is very nice for everyone to be able to be so flexible. You are never stuck in traffic, and there are plenty of tools you can use to still work together productively. Think about Slack or Notion. For example, we also use Gather.town, where we have a very digital office where we can still knock on each other's door.”
To promote team building, Codean also organises so-called 'Codean Days', says Tolsma. “Those are days on which we all physically meet up to do an activity. Think, for example, of an escape room, or a lockpicking workshop. Once a year we also rent a nice house for a weekend, and then we do a hackathon together. Those are very fun days that give enough energy for a month, until the next one. That way we remain a very close-knit team.”
These teambuilding initiatives are also necessary because the team is expanding quickly: there are now nine of them. “A year ago, it was just the two of us, Kevin and I,” says Tolsma. “He is the brilliant brain behind Codean. So, we grew very quickly, and that is because we had to build very distinctive but also complex technology. Our ambition is really to become the standard in the market for application security. This year we will really prove ourselves.”