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Rising Up In A Downturn: The Role Of Innovation Amid Market Uncertainty “(Forbes Tech Council)”

Alberto Yépez

November 22, 2022

  • Blog Post

There are always two sides to every situation—glass half full versus glass half empty, difficult challenges balanced by silver linings and so on. This rings true for uncertainty, too, especially when it comes to technology and cybersecurity.

Similar to how technology can be used for both good and bad, times of uncertainty can yield both good and bad results. While it’s easy and natural to fear the unknown, periods like this can actually enable innovation, achievement and human resilience.

Current events and pivotal points in history clearly illustrate this. Let’s break down some examples to understand how to transform today’s economic climate into tomorrow’s surge of innovation.

Today’s Geopolitical Tensions

On February 24, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine, spurring global unrest with rippling effects across the economy, the energy and nuclear sectors, cybersecurity and more. Since the initial invasion, we have learned that Russia has been using malicious cybersecurity capabilities as a means of attack. Microsoft identified eight different families of destructive software used by Russia, with the primary targets being “Ukrainian government websites, energy and telecom service providers, financial institutions and media outlets.”

However, necessity is bred through conflict. As cyberattacks rise, so does investment in innovation. In March 2022, CISA announced its “Shields Up” initiative, providing organizations with detailed guidance on how to tackle these emerging cyber challenges. And according to the Enterprise Strategy Group, 69% of organizations plan to spend more on cybersecurity in 2022.

In our own CISO Security Priorities Model, a survey of over 100 chief information security officers, 76% of respondents said they expected security budgets to increase in 2022. As the importance of proper security measures explodes across industries with every hack, data breach and ransomware attack, cybersecurity companies are gaining momentum as they find ways to address these new challenges, helping us better prepare for tomorrow.

Beyond cybersecurity, tensions have risen further with Putin threatening nuclear war on September 22. The United States responded less than one week later, warning Russia of “catastrophic consequences.”

This prompt confidence is attributable to historical problem-solving. We are well equipped to handle these threats due to the Strategic Defense Initiative established in the 1980s. Known as “Star Wars,” this missile defense program has since spurred new initiatives like Aegis, the Missile Defense Project and more—which all demonstrate that a future issue could be addressed through the inventive measures developed under past duress. Anticipation and innovation amid uncertainty helped the U.S. better prepare for and face the unknown.

Trailblazers Amid Booms And Busts

Let’s look at the technology boom in the early 2000s. Primed by the dot-com bubble of the mid to late 1990s, security standouts like Fortinet emerged. Founded in 2000 by the Xie brothers, Fortinet addressed the pressing need for DevOps and cybersecurity solutions for an increasingly more connected and mobile world—especially with the introduction of smartphones, including the iPhone in 2007.

While some organizations could not keep up with changing times, others understood emerging needs and created solutions that addressed them. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, the world was thrown back into uncertainty. Yet some of the most successful companies in history boomed during these times, including Palo Alto Networks (founded in 2005 before shipping its first product in 2007), Zscaler (founded in 2007) and Cloudflare (a Forgepoint partner founded in 2010).

Meanwhile, Fortinet went public in November 2009. These companies flourished during the post-recession boom by working closely with their customers to examine and anticipate challenges, then developing technology that solved immediate problems while forming strong product road maps and the right infrastructure to build for the future. Fast forward more than a decade and they are considered market leaders.

Sensitive to the pain points of their target customers, the leaders of these companies asked bold questions and built bold solutions that won the market and have over time retained that intense customer focus to become the sustaining brands they are today.

What This Means For Entrepreneurs

What Palo Alto Networks, Zscaler and Cloudflare achieved is crucially important for emerging companies today. My advice for entrepreneurs is to validate the need and that your solution meets it before you invest time and resources into scaling.

This is harder than it sounds and is more than taking notes on what your customers say and do—you need to have a clear and deep understanding of their challenges, how their products and businesses are evolving as well as how you can continue to help them collectively and individually. You must remain agile and adapt your strategy based on the changing threat landscape and market conditions.

V1 of your solution may be a wild success initially, but where do you go from there to ensure your traction isn’t superficial? True product-market fit means finding that product truth while identifying how to serve your customers for the long term and build for scale that is sustainable.

The biggest mistake I have seen entrepreneurs make is thinking that they need to go to market right away without making sure they have the product fit. So take your time, identify and own the white space with your product, and stay focused on your customers. Customers are your lighthouse to help you navigate amid uncertainty.

Are we there yet?

To agonize over market forces at this moment accomplishes nothing, especially since the hyperconnected world is here. We are now seeing the broad adoption and application of emerging technologies designed to meet new needs, from 5G to satellites and space exploration—to the ability to literally protect Earth and the human race from asteroids.

We have the agency to adapt and move forward, continuing our ability to build great technology and new models that ensure prosperity and progress for the generations that follow.

Resilience and innovation are clearly in our DNA. The best is yet to come, so let’s embrace this uncertainty and turn it into something magnificent.

***This blog was originally posted on You can read it here.***