Game Changers 2020 Essay Series: Fostering Ideas of Community From the Individual to the Whole

Fostering Ideas of Community From the Individual to the Whole

Ainsley Bruan, Co-founder and CEO, Tinfoil Security

Values Guide Action 

Our values guide all our actions at Tinfoil. Every year we revisit these values, ensuring we all believe in them. My favorite value, community, has held strong since our first values discussion. To Tinfoilers, community is more than just volunteer work and communities that directly impact us. We believe that community starts from your neighboring desk up through federal decisions that affect minorities and disadvantaged individuals. Fostering a value of community isn’t always the easiest, and the examples always have to come from the top.

Pay it Forward

My cofounder and I first proposed community as a value because we’ve been part of startup communities (500 Startups, StartX, Dogpatch Labs, Founder Friendly Labs, and many more) that have given us so much along the way. We take the approach of giving back as much or more than we take. We run “neighborhood” roundtables for other startups, engage with startup boards encouraging more women to be entrepreneurs, and try to be as active as possible. If our employees face a challenge, they have access to networks of other startup employees with whom they can bond and bounce ideas off of. We strive to build an environment in which we’re always willing to pay it forward, even if we have no expectation of any return.

Greater Good

This value has beautifully translated into ways we approach our customers and the security community as a whole. If we build something that’s useful to the greater good (outside of sensitive IP), we try to open-source it. Many of us are on and lead a CTF team (hacking team), whose focus is teaching those interested in learning offensive security. We film an internal lecture series and write up descriptions to help other engineers learn principles we ourselves have learned.

Do What’s Right

The best approach to community I’ve seen from my employees is the idea that security overrides profit or customer happiness, within reason. When in doubt, they always do what’s right by the customer, even if it’s at a cost to the company in the short-term. Our employees have actively made decisions to support companies, free of charge, as they go out of business. They have foregone making a sale to someone who our product won’t help. Our goal isn’t solely to obtain a customer at all costs, but to make the Internet (our community) more secure, one business at a time. Sometimes that’s through our products and expertise; other times, we’ll advise and recommend other solutions.

Give Back

Of course, there are other ways we support our community, like our charity matching program. However, the best ways I’ve seen community demonstrated have come from the ideas of an individual being pushed through our organization and encouraged by others. Events are often organized with giving back in mind, and managers encourage flexible time off for groups to volunteer and build up our community together.

May 24, 2019