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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 3 years ago

Safety first

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Two well-known Southwest Florida technology entrepreneurs formed a company to help small- and medium-sized businesses defend themselves from data breaches.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Two leading Southwest Florida entrepreneurs came to the same conclusion over beers one night in late 2014.

Security is becoming such a significant issue for businesses that they're going to need the equivalent of bodyguards for their networks. But much of the technology now is prohibitively expensive for all but the largest enterprises, providing an opening for firms that will cater to small- and medium-sized businesses.

The two entrepreneurs, John Benkert and Greg Scasny, aren't newcomers to technology. Benkert is the CEO of CPR Tools, a company that specializes in data recovery and destruction that posted $15 million in annual revenues last year. Scasny recently sold his stake to his partners in consulting firm Golden Tech last year after reaching $10 million in sales.

Together, they formed Cybersecurity Defense Solutions, a Fort Myers-based company that helps small- and medium-sized businesses ward off cyber attacks. Scasny says the potential for annual revenues is 10 times that of Golden Tech, or $100 million.

Benkert is already well acquainted with data security issues. With 30 employees, CPR Tools specializes in helping companies and government agencies destroy or recover data from computers. The company makes a range of hardware and software that comply with strict government regulations concerning data disposal.

Benkert is widely recognized as a computer-security expert. His last assignment at the National Security Agency was branch chief in the computer and information sciences research group. Benkert was awarded the National Scientific Achievement Award for his technological innovations in data security while at the agency. Benkert also served in the U.S. Air Force, flying on Compass Call, a modified C-130 plane from which he tracked satellites as a member of Space Command.

Currently, only the largest companies can afford to pay for the most sophisticated security systems that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Later this year, Cybersecurity Defense Solutions will offer a hardware and software package that will cost less than $5,000 a year.

In addition, for $2,500 to $10,000 customers can hire Cybersecurity to assess a company's risk by probing weaknesses in their systems. Then, the firm can train company employees how to be more vigilant because they're often the unwitting victims of hackers, regardless of the security system in place.

For example, the company recently trained 1,800 employees with the city of Cape Coral. “It's a people problem, not a technology problem,” Scasny says.

Cybersecurity is becoming a tech specialty that many information technology firms can't manage properly, Scasny argues. “There's a shift coming in IT services,” says Scasny.

Specifically, technology is becoming so complex that even techies must specialize in a specific area. “You can't be a generalist,” Scasny says.

Well-publicized network breaches such as the one at Target and Sony give prospective customers the sense of urgency that their networks need better protection. “Anti virus isn't going to save you,” Scasny says.

New Tech Scene
Fort Myers city officials hope more technology companies will relocate downtown.

After all, city officials reason that downtown is the perfect match for companies that seek to attract young technology workers, who want to work in communities where they can live nearby and walk to restaurants, shops and bars.

“The tech employees are happiest when they're in that sort of environment,” says Don Paight, executive director of the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency. “They don't have to get into their car and drive five miles to meet a friend for dinner.”

Plus, tech workers are relatively well paid and will help continue to transform downtown into a busy place in the evenings. “They work all kinds of crazy hours,” Paight says.

Already, downtown Fort Myers has 56 restaurants, bars and nightclubs and 39 shops. Besides government employees, engineering firms, law firms and architects have filled up office space downtown.

The city earmarked $120,000 for this fiscal year to use as incentives to attract technology companies downtown. City officials are particularly keen to see technology companies move into an area called midtown, a transitional area now home to the bus stations, bail bond shops and the Fort Myers Police Department on the south side of Martin Luther King Blvd.

CPR Tools was the first company to take advantage of the opportunity, landing $77,000 to relocate its headquarters from LaBelle, to 10,000 square feet in a building next to the police department headquarters in downtown Fort Myers. John Benkert, the CEO of CPR Tools, says a better location will help him recruit employees, and he's pledged to help the city's technology recruitment efforts.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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