The workday had barely started when an employee of a New York investment firm opened a hacker's email and inadvertently downloaded ransomware onto the company's system. There was great reason to worry: a second download had triggered an attempt to encrypt the firm's huge volumes of data, and came with an ultimatum to pay a ransom or lose all this information.

But the company also had great reason to hope – and expect – a positive outcome. As part of its cybersecurity program, it had hired a Cambridge, Ontario company named eSentire Inc., to monitor, detect and respond to system and data breaches. Within 60 seconds of the attack, eSentire technology had blocked the first ransomware occurrence while an analyst at the company's security operations centre disconnected the network connection to the hacker and started investigating the second attack.

"We need to be very rapid in our response," says J. Paul Haynes, CEO of eSentire, which launched in 2001 with only its two founders on board and has since grown to a global company with about 250 employees in Ontario and another 50 in the company's offices in New York, London and Cork, Ireland. "Typically within 35 seconds we have eyes on glass and our analysts are making decisions on whether or not a client is facing a threat and what needs to be done to remove the threat."

J. Paul Haynes, CEO, eSentire

A game-changing approach to an increasingly complex problem

eSentire's logo

eSentire is among Ontario's fast-growing group of cybersecurity companies – a hub of innovation that's gaining recognition for advanced solutions to today's complex data protection challenges. eSentire's "managed detection and response" approach to data protection has been game-changing, says Haynes.

Where other cybersecurity companies might simply rely on tools such as firewalls and anti-virus programs to detect and – fingers crossed – block hackers, eSentire takes proprietary, leading-edge detection and prevention technology and combines it with live security analysts who swoop in during critical times to assess and resolve attacks. This approach has earned eSentire a great deal of respect in the industry – and hundreds of companies on its client roster.

"We capitalized on selling to financial services firms, such as brokerages and investment advisory firms, in New York and as of last count we are responsible for securing $5.7 trillions of assets under management," says Haynes, who notes that about 85 per cent of eSentire's revenue comes from North America – largely from the U.S. – with the balance coming from the rest of the world. "We are in a market leadership position with 20 per cent market share in an industry that is expected to see dramatic growth over the coming years."

How did eSentire get to where it is today? Beyond the company's unique solution, says Haynes,a big factor in eSentire's success story is its Ontario location.

Ontario provides a deep pool of high-quality talent

Like most technology companies, a big and ongoing challenge for eSentire is finding people with the right skills. Ontario's deep pool of high-quality talent has been a boon for the business.

"For us, the biggest benefit to being located here is access to technical talent that we can train to become cybersecurity threat hunters and software developers," says Haynes. "We recruit from colleges in Ontario with specialty programs in cybersecurity, and we know that their graduates come out knowing all of the latest tools in the field."

To help ensure a steady stream of graduates with up-to-date skills and knowledge, eSentire works closely with six Ontario colleges, providing guidance on cybersecurity curriculum programming, says Haynes.


Great quality of life is key to attracting and retaining top workers

The province's reputation as a great place to live is especially critical to prospective employees coming from the U.S.

"Ontario is attractive on so many levels," says Haynes. "When it comes to housing, for example, Ontario is quite affordable compared to other major cities in the United States. This is important to us because we hire a lot of people who are just buying their first house."

Going places: Access to airport and transit eases travel to clients' sites

Toronto's transportation infrastructure has also been critical in making it easier for eSentire to build and grow its business, says Haynes. The company's head office in Cambridge, Ontario is only about an hour's drive from Toronto Pearson International Airport. Travel within the region is also eased by a network of large highways and a regional train and bus transit system.

"The access to Toronto airport is especially important because it gets us to many places on a direct flight," says Haynes. "As you build a firm that's export-oriented you're in a lot of planes to meet customers, so proximity to the airport is an advantage for us."

Poised for growth and greatness in a place that leads in privacy legislation

As cyber attacks and identity fraud continue to threaten companies and consumers, eSentire continues to grow in North America and on a global scale. The company is expanding beyond the financial industry and into other sectors such as legal, information technology, healthcare, biopharmaceutical, engineering and construction.

Haynes says that while it still has some ways to go, Ontario is well positioned to lead the world as a cybersecurity hub. Besides its growing ecosystem of cybersecurity businesses and support organizations, Ontario boasts privacy legislation that's "second to none in the world, he says. As other countries grapple with their own rules around privacy and cybersecurity, many are looking to Ontario as a best-practice case study.

All this is good for eSentire, says Haynes.

"Revenue-wise, we expect to grow at 60 per cent a year over the next five years, and our goal is to become a $300-million company within this timeframe," he says. "The company owes its success to starting and growing here in Ontario."

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