When Christian Hyatt, MBA 2016, and Christian White, MBA 2016, found themselves seated next to each other in one of their first-year classes at Georgia Tech's Scheller College of Business, they soon discovered they had a lot more in common than their first names.
"I've always been an entrepreneur at heart." says Hyatt, a metro Atlanta native who earned a business degree in management information systems from the University of Georgia. "So when I decided to get my MBA, I picked Scheller because I was looking for a gateway into entrepreneurship. The culture at Georgia Tech is very entrepreneurial and exceptionally well-connected to the startup and technology communities here in Atlanta."
According to White, who grew up in Newington, Connecticut, and received a management degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Scheller College's MBA program offered an exceptional academic experience as well as career opportunities through its Alumni Network. But rather than advancing along a traditional career path, he wanted to leverage his education in a different direction as an entrepreneur.
"What appeals to me about entrepreneurship is the prospect of building a growth company centered around a vibrant culture and compelling value proposition that makes people want to work there," he explains. In addition, he likes "the opportunity to create and develop services, products, and solutions that directly benefit and enhance peoples’ lives and companies’ profitability and sustainability.
"To do these things successfully, you need the freedom to develop the situation in the marketplace and respond to the ever-changing needs and demands of stakeholders. Entrepreneurship provides the best way to do this."
In addition to sharing an entrepreneurial mindset, each was interested in information-technology security and risk management. Over time, as Hyatt and White got to know each other better, each saw in the other a potential business partner. They collaborated on their 17-month capstone project, which focused on software solutions for IT risk management. At a Georgia Tech startup business plan competition, their project ranked in the top three, and also provided the foundation for what would become their joint business venture.
The ideal partner is someone who is comfortable operating in an environment of uncertainties, according to White. "When you start any kind of venture, you don't know if you're going to make payroll, you don't know if you're going to bring in customers, you don't know how you're going to scale. You have to be OK with that. So there's a lot of risk involved, but if you've done your homework, have the skillsets to deliver, and are comfortable operating in that kind of environment, then you've reduced the risk. Christian is that kind of partner.
"Beyond that, he's a very ethical person, a very smart person, and he has a strong work ethic."
For his part, Hyatt was impressed by White's humility and "thoughtful approach to conversation," which disguises "a genius-level business IQ."
"Since about age 16 he has read over 100 books on the topic of building and scaling a business," Hyatt says. "He has a very mature perspective on what it takes to grow a successful business that people want to be a part of. Based on that, we both agreed our two skill sets made a great team."
After nearly two years of planning, in 2016 Hyatt and White felt the timing was right to launch risk3sixty, a technology risk-management and regulatory compliance company headquartered in Atlanta. Each serves as a managing director. Like all startups, there was a certain amount of risk involved, but it was a calculated risk. The IT security market was hot, each subject-matter expert was in place, and the company had recruited an impressive board of advisors.
Hyatt was not at all surprised to find the expertise they needed within the Scheller College network of alumni. One of those advisors is Robin Bienfait, EMOT 2001, CEO and founder of a consultancy called Emnovate. She and Hyatt first met when she was guest speaker before one of Hyatt's first-year MBA classes. At the time the chief enterprise innovation officer for Samsung, Bienfait previously served as CIO (CISO and CTO Software) for Blackberry, and senior vice president and chief compliance officer with AT&T. She is a member of the Georgia Tech Advisory Board after having spent six years on the Scheller board. Bienfait spoke to the students about her education and her career journey. After the presentation, Hyatt approached her and said, "I would really like to talk to you when you have a chance," recalls Bienfait, who also participates in the Scheller College's Alumni Network. "What you've done is very interesting, particularly your work in the cybersecurity space — that's an area I'm interested in, too."
Over the next couple of years a mentoring relationship developed as the two would meet occasionally for coffee or lunch. Hyatt told her about his desire to become an entrepreneur in the risk and compliance area; specifically his idea to automate what had long been an expensive, labor-intensive task. Bienfait related immediately.
"I'm very interested in people who have that light in their eyes that they understand the B-2-B space, but at the same time understand the challenges of being part of that space and want to solve some of those challenges," she explains. "I also believe that innovation for large corporations happens on the fringe of the corporation or outside the corporation.
"Christian had a very good value proposition, and I said to him, 'You have kind of a disruptive mindset, and that's what's needed because the compliance function hasn't been disrupted in many years.' And I told him that I'd like to partner with him and help him grow his business."
Risk3sixty provides consulting services in the areas of risk assessment, information security, cybersecurity and both government and industry-mandated regulatory compliance such as ISO or PCI requirements.
Bienfait is presently helping Hyatt and White build a software platform that will automate the compliance process, allowing risk3sixty's customers to perform those functions in-house and avoid the massive amount of paperwork, follow-up, time and money spent on outsourcing the task, thus improving their risk profile.
"We have a wide range of customers," Hyatt says, singling out two Atlanta-area markets in particular: financial technology and healthcare IT.
"The Alpharetta corridor is called 'Transaction Alley' because more than 70 percent of the U.S.'s credit card transactions pass through that area at some point," Hyatt elaborates. "It's a highly regulated space and a high-technology-driven space, and they're interested in the kinds of services we provide such as navigation regulations like PCI or performing various IT audit functions."
Healthcare IT companies are likewise extensively regulated and at risk for security breaches that could affect the tremendous volume of sensitive patient data they maintain.
"Complex regulatory-compliance requirements, and technology and systems — any business where those things intersect is a business that's attracted to what we provide," Hyatt notes.
Based on his experience, Hyatt would advise prospective Scheller students to "start the MBA program with an idea of what you want to get out of it. For example, if you want to start a business or a new career, set those goals in advance and develop relationships that facilitate those goals."
White agrees, adding that the MBA program "presents an environment in which you have world-class professors covering a wide range of business topics and classmates who provide a lot of value because of their diverse backgrounds.
"As long as you take action within that environment," he adds, "something is going to shake out and materialize, whether it's finding a job, expanding your network or starting a new business."