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ISO 27001 for startups – is it worth investing in?

In the days of data breaches and growing public awareness of data protection, startups should take information security seriously. Most startups also need to generate revenue quickly, so securing growth and revenue are their main objectives since everything centers around the idea of bringing a product to the market and gaining market shares. In this article, you will learn why you should invest in ISO 27001 for startups, and how the implementation can provide your company with the competitive edge you have been looking for.

Being advanced in information security

Startups want to reach positive cash flow as soon as possible in order to survive, so they might go after specific clients that require ISO 27001 as a condition to start working with a new supplier. The fastest way for startups to generate revenue and quickly build up loyal customers is to specialize. By narrowing down on a niche and provide laser-focused services, startups improve their chances of survival and growth. Whatever niche you choose, one thing is certain – to be more attractive to clients, you need to be advanced with information security. Some corporations even make it mandatory for suppliers and B2B contractors to be certified according to ISO standards, with ISO 27001 being one of the most important.

Apart from above requirement, an ISO 27001 certification offers a competitive advantage that can influence the decision. Corporations and consumers alike are increasingly aware of data protection and information security. An ISO 27001 certification can make or break the survival and success of a startup. Besides this, every startup should consider investing in ISO 27001 as the following benefits prove.

What do startups get with ISO 27001?

There are four important aspects for a startup to consider when it comes to the benefits of ISO 27001 implementation and certification.

ISO 27001 for startups - is it worth investing in?

(1) Compliance

Obeying the regulations of a company’s market is essential to the survival and growth of a startup. It is crucial for a young and more vulnerable company to avoid fines and obstacles which would make the hard start even harder. Unnecessary problems infringe on relations with authorities instead of strengthening them. By law, some companies have to follow strict rules, i.e. in the health and financial sectors. Other companies are well advised to prove compliance in case of incidents. Compliance – whether startup founders like it or not – has to be secured. After all, it is a pillar of business management, which leads us to the next consideration.

(2) Risk reduction

While some companies might not have their main focus on information security, most startups should.  The reason this is especially important for startups is the risk of potential damage to the reputation which could occur because of inappropriate risk management or security breaches. These incidents could ruin the chances for success and would severely jeopardize the path of business development before the startup even began to grow.

These days, it is unusual for startups to work in areas where data protection and information security are not an issue. Handling of data – especially in IT driven startups – is the norm, not the exception. Customer data, as well as a startup’s know-how, the very core of the business, need protection. Losing data can easily cost a startup its right to exist, either by infringing regulations or by gambling with its customer’s trust.

Evaluating potential risks and threats to a newly-founded company often quickly proves the need of information security. Taking aspects of compliance and risk reduction into consideration is vital to a startup’s future success. With this in mind, it is time to take a closer look at the advantages that ISO 27001 brings.

(3) ISO 27001 brings competitive advantage

Customers are becoming more and more aware of the value of their data. News about data breaches spreads fast. Even before the EU GDPR came into effect, data handling was already a hot topic.

Customers want their data secure and protected. So, when deciding which company to choose (that is where to take their money), customers more often tend to go for the secure option.

Taking information security seriously is a game changer – especially for startups – in order to get the attention of clients among myriad of older and stronger competitors. When considering a certification according to the ISO 27001 standard, founders should be aware of its benefits. This leads us to the next big issue founders have in mind – costs.

(4) Cutting costs

Now, you may wonder, how is the ISO 27001 certification helping a startup to save time and money? An ISO 27001 certification – or at least working according to the ISO’s standards – can help your startup cut costs from the very beginning. By using the standard, you might need less capital to break even. By implementing standards according to ISO 27001, startups lower the number of incidents. By clearly defining responsibilities and tasks from beginning, employees are trained effectively. Awareness amongst the employees is created and established. When aiming at information security, investing in processes and – most importantly – employees is the route to choose. Compared to that, costly software solutions to protect data are needed less often than you might think.

With smaller numbers of employees involved, startups can implement ISO 27001 more easily than bigger, existing businesses. If you are looking for a practical solution for implementation of ISO 27001, and your budget is limited, check out this ISO 27001 toolkit.

A strategic decision for long-term success

So, is it worth investing in the ISO 27001 for startups then? As always, it depends. After all it is a strategic decision that the founders must take. Compliance is mandatory when going for the long-term success of a startup. Furthermore, a sound risk assessment will give a founder an idea of the likelihood and costs of potential risks and threats. Compared to those risks and threats, security measures gained through ISO 27001 can be an efficient answer.

With that in mind, startups should also always consider the advantages the ISO 27001 standard brings. The competitive advantage, combined with potential cost reduction will pay off in the mid- to long-term. After all, the combination of adhering to regulations and taking advantage of the competitive edge that ISO 27001 can bring is tempting.

Find out which cost savings you can achieve with ISO 27001 implementation by using this free online Return on Security Investment Calculator – additionally, find out what the ISO 27001 requirements are and what the structure looks like.

Here you can learn whether to go with a quantitative or a qualitative approach in the risk assessment process.

Advisera Andrea Giesler
Andrea Giesler
Andrea Giesler is an Internal Auditor based in Cologne, Germany, specializing in the areas of ISO 27001, ISO 9001, and the EU GDPR. She is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and is certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) by ISACA.