A little over seven years ago we started something special. A little dream that I had back in March 2015 to create cybersecurity education that’s fun for everyone. And today, I’m announcing a new chapter in our story: Curricula has been acquired by Huntress for $22M. Before I get into the weeds on what’s next, how the industry is going to change, etc., I wanted to share more context about how one of the greatest cybersecurity stories of our time came to be.
Back in November of 2021, we launched a new Curricula Free plan, designed as a free security awareness plan to help SMBs with up to 1,000 employees get started with a fun security awareness training program at no cost. This plan also helped businesses transition out of their legacy security awareness provider and open their eyes up to what a remarkable security awareness training program can actually do for their organization. It’s safe to say this is what the world needed. This is what our community needed.
I’ll tell you why this matters to me. In our early days I was naive and met with the big paid research groups ( that’s what everyone does, right?). I distinctly remember the friction on that call when the “head researcher” told me insultingly to stop calling our training “episodes” and use the more legacy term “modules” in all our materials because “that’s what the industry wanted.” I told them no, and they seemed upset that I didn’t want to conform. In a genuine way, I said we wouldn’t conform and feel free to exclude us if that’s what this is about.
Long story short, we were excluded from every report after that, and their “head researcher” shortly was hired at our largest competitor to lead their industry research. Shortly after, our competitors started creating “episodes” along with other vendors in the space. I’ll take the win there for shifting the industry in the right direction by standing up what I believed was the right thing.
You might ask why this is important. I wanted to share that deep down there were dozens of these types choices made along our 7+ year journey at Curricula. As a founder, you have to do what you feel is the right move, even when it leads you down a rough path. I found this to be true after meeting with several VCs during our Series A. We never seemed to align with venture firms we chatted with on both our strategy and industry focus. Then we met RCP Equity back in the Fall of 2019. RCP Equity was a newly formed, small private equity fund founded by Joel Smith, the former CTO and co-founder of AppRiver that recently sold his business the previous year. What was special to us in these convos was a discussion around working with channel partners, an area we had spent little to no time with in previous years. The big vision RCP and Curricula had together was for channel partners to have a simple, fun, and effective security awareness program that made MSPs and MSSPs look like friggen super heroes. They deserved it. We believed together we could make that vision a reality, so our team spent the past year exploring and building what would become our foundational channel partner program. We announced our $3M Series A with RCP Equity in January 2020 and got to work.
Curricula found its voice in the busy security awareness market. One thing that stood out to me was that we worked **REALLY** well with small and growing businesses. Our platform was easy to setup by anyone, it was self-service, and more importantly people absolutely love our content and creative process more than anything else on the market. We’re obsessive with the storytelling process and how information is created, communicated, and retained throughout our training. I still remember to this day when we created our gamified phishing simulator, we put DeeDee, our 5-year old villain hacker, as the face of the experience.
Our animation studio spends a lot of time—with me included—walking through every single written and spoken word, scenery, character development, and emotional intelligence behind how the training connects to everyday people. Heck we even throw in a ton of easter eggs like writing fully detailed newspaper articles that are in the background of an episode for .2 seconds! This is the type of care and attention that makes Curricula’s security awareness training special. This is what makes Curricula the choice of the modern SMB workforce. After watching thousands of organizations go through our training, we hear the same things over and over: our content is second to none.
I also started to see patterns change in the business. Signups and growth were moving quicker than we expected. I even remember saying to my wife as we were watching TV one night that every commercial we just saw was one of Curricula’s customers. That was a pretty wild moment for me personally. We caught the attention and hearts of employees across the world. For a brief moment of reflection, I realized we have already made an impact bigger than ourselves. Today, that impact is about to scale beyond my wildest dreams under the Huntress brand.
How did Curricula meet Huntress?
Towards the end of 2021, we had several strategic organizations inbounding me for discussions around an acquisition of Curricula. I setup several chats and listened a lot. I personally had two goals in mind if these discussions were ever going to become a reality: 1) I wanted to continue focusing on helping SMBs and channel partners in making a material impact to their security culture using our product, and 2) Continue to work with leadership and a company that has a similar passion towards security education, mission, and ethics that I do. To be transparent, I never wanted myself or teammates to work in a stale corporate dull and boring cubicle environment ever. Because if that happened, the product would soon too turn into a dull and boring product, vanishing into a sea of similarities.
On Friday December 10th, I met with Chris Bisnett, co-founder and CTO at Huntress. This was just a casual introduction from one of their investors to chat about potential partnership opportunities. Chris is a super friendly guy, and weirdly enough it felt like I’d known him my whole life. We just chatted around startup things, what was going on in our world, and everything in between. As we got deeper in discussion, I distinctly remember saying multiple times that it felt like meeting an alternate universe version of myself talking with Joe Rucci our CTO. The things both our companies said, did, and how we thought about things was eerily similar. Like really weird almost a deja-vu kind of moment.
Fast forward a few weeks later into January of 2022 and I got a chance to meet Kyle Hansolvan. As expected, after talking with Kyle in just a few minutes I saw a lot in him of what I see in myself. What I saw was a person that has expertise in their field, relentless focus, drive, ethics, charisma, and most importantly I would personally trust to always do the right thing. These characteristics are why people put their trust in me, so I would expect no different in someone I would hand over the keys to the city of good ole’ Curriculaville. Kyle was pretty straight with me saying they were interested and the convos kept building from there.
The more I got to know Kyle, Chris, and the rest of the team, I continued to notice bizarre similarities on how we operate. I’m not saying these things to embellish, I am saying them because this is what we all refer to as “a gut feeling.” Finding similarities on how we perceive things to make an informed decision. Deep down Huntress and the team behind it felt like the best choice for Curricula’s next chapter. The impact they have on the partner community and giving back was aligned with everything I believe in.
Ultimately we decided that Huntress was a perfect home for Curricula’s mission to expand into the next stage of growth together. I believe what we built at Curricula over these past several years with our small nimble team is nothing short of a startup marvel. Not because of what we did internally, but what our product, characters, episodes, and people have done to change this world for the better. Effective cyber security education should be widely accessible for every business, no matter how small. We helped globally lift the bar for what the future of security awareness will look like.
We have spent a lot of time working towards solving this problem by ourselves and have fought some really tough battles along the way. I personally sacrificed everything I own, taking out several personal loans, selling cars and homes off, racking up personal debt, and doing everything in my mental and physical power to keep the heartbeat at Curricula going these past 7+ years. Huntress started their business around the same time we did back in 2015. Although we took separate paths building separate answers for SMB cybersecurity, the time is now for us to align.
What is next for Curricula at Huntress?
It’s important for me to share the story of Curricula’s journey because there is not enough transparency around why deals happen. Cybersecurity education is the one area of a security program that is smushy, gushy, and filled with emotions. We are not human firewalls. I don’t know who started that phrase, but humans don’t operate like computers! We have thoughts, emotions, personalities, lousy memories, and lots of uncertainty in our day. In other words, this problem to help protect people will not be solved without a lot of really smart and creative people spending a lot of time focused on lifting the bar.
Together we realized that our powers combined will make 1 + 1 = 100. (I was never that great at math, but you get my point) Together, we are joining Huntress’ mission to lift the cyber security poverty line for the 99%. SMBs need to have access to powerful cyber security resources without the complex navigation and operation of those resources. We believe that together, we’ll make a dramatic impact on our preventative and detective cyber security protections that SMBs need now more than ever.
I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Curricula and what we have built as now being part of the Huntress umbrella. I will continue to lead the Curricula training product along with my co-founders: Joe, Juan, and Daniel as we merge processes, platforms, and everything in between. Will there be some hiccups along the way? Absolutely. But know that what you’ve come to expect from being either a Huntress or Curricula customer will remain intact—you will be taken care of by some of the best and most mission-driven people in the world. So please bear with us as we polish up the process together to create what I believe will be one of the most powerful platforms in an MSPs arsenal of tools. Now DeeDee’s offense is your best defense 🙂
Stay tuned for more updates as we work through more conversations with our now joint partners, customers, and combined mission to make cybersecurity accessible for every SMB.
Finally, I would like to thank all of our customers, RCP Equity, and everyone that has supported my dream and the entire Curricula team along our journey so far. It means the world to me and we would never be here if it weren’t for all you special people that believed in Curricula and its mission.
As for the hackers out there, today is a bad day. Today is a really bad day for you.