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Does Your Start-Up Need a CISO?

CISO providing direction to team during meeting.

Does your Start-Up Need a CISO?

In today’s ever-changing world, it is no longer a question of if your company needs to hire a Chief Information Security Officer, but much more a question of when. As executive recruiters, we are often asked by our clients when the best time to hire a CISO is and what that search process entails. Let’s go over some of the basics and why it is never too early to think about making the hiring decision that can shape the security of your company. 

What is a CISO?

Starting with the basics, A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is an executive responsible for an organization's information, data, and overall enterprise security. He or She should possess a solid grasp of technology while also being able to  balance both innovation and security. CISOs play a pivotal role in safeguarding an organization's digital assets and protecting it against cyber threats.

Who does the CISO report to? 

CISO’s generally report directly to the CEO or the CTO of a company, depending on the size and structure of the company. In smaller companies, the CISO may report directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for a more streamlined communication flow. Conversely, in larger enterprises, the CISO might find their reporting path directed towards the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), aligning with the broader technology-focused portfolio within the organization. It's crucial for companies to establish a reporting structure that ensures the CISO has the necessary authority and visibility to safeguard the organization's cybersecurity posture effectively.

Why Should Start-Ups Hire a CISO?

Start-ups can often be prime targets for cyberattacks, as cyber-criminals may believe that the company lacks the resources and expertise needed to properly defend themselves against breaches. Cyberattackers may believe that the start-up's employees are undereducated and lack the training needed to protect customer information, company resources, and their own PII.  A CISO can provide start-ups with the following benefits:

  • Regulatory compliance: CISOs can help start-ups comply with industry regulations and certifications, such as PCI-DSS and ISO 27001. This is especially important for start-ups in regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance.

  • Building trust: A CISO's presence can help start-ups build trust with customers and clients, who are increasingly concerned about data privacy and security.

  • Reducing technical debt: CISOs can help start-ups reduce technical debt by ensuring that security is considered throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This can help to prevent security vulnerabilities from being introduced into new products and services.

  • Cultivating a security culture: CISOs can help start-ups cultivate a security culture by promoting security awareness and best practices among employees. This can help to reduce the risk of human error, which is a leading cause of data breaches.

When Should Start-Ups Hire a CISO?

Traditionally speaking, in the past, companies have waited to hire a CISO until they reached an enterprise level or were close to an acquisition or similar exit event. However, more recently, companies have been much more inclined to bring on a CISO much earlier, shortly following the CTO or technical VP. While, the right time to hire a CISO depends on the size, nature, and risk profile of the start-up; it is critical to understand the factors that go into this critical hiring decision.  These key indicators can be used to determine if it may be time to bring in a CISO:

  • Size: Start-ups with more than 50 employees may benefit from having a dedicated CISO.

  • Industry: Start-ups in regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, should consider hiring a CISO early on, to be sure that Personal Identifying Information (PII) is protected and consumer trust in maintained

  • Risk profile: For start-ups dealing with highly sensitive data or navigating a complex IT environment, it is advisable to prioritize the early appointment of a CISO. This strategic decision not only fortifies the organization's cybersecurity foundation but also ensures proactive risk management, fostering a secure and resilient operational framework from the outset.


As the start-up landscape evolves and cyber threats become more prevalent, the role of a CISO is critical. Start-ups should recognize the importance of cybersecurity from the outset and consider hiring a CISO early in their journey. These professionals are passionate about security and can make a lasting impact on your organization's safety and success.

If you're looking for your next CISO, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch with us today, and we can discuss how we can work together to find the ideal candidate.

If you are a CISO looking for your next role, and would like to be represented by Blackmere within your next career move, please reach out and we can work together to find your next role. 


Vaishnavi, S. (2023, October 7). When should start-ups hire a CISO and why? [LinkedIn post]. Retrieved from


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