Chatting with David Shipley on Monday, I was curious to know how a guy goes from being a business journalist to CEO of an up-and-coming cybersecurity startup. It happens when the guy works in-between the two for an organization that receives half a billion cyberattack attempts each week.

Shipley is the co-founder and CEO of Beauceron Security, a Fredericton company that measures clients’ cybersecurity risks. A former business reporter with the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, he spent five years as the director of strategic initiatives of information technology services at the University of New Brunswick.

He was amazed at the attempts to hack the university’s IT system — 500 million attempts each week. He explained that many of these cybercriminals use Canadian universities as a beachhead for broader attacks in Canada.

“They’re what’s known as brute force attacks and are the cyber equivalent of rattling the doorknob or trying a window,” said Shipley. “They’re noisy, but the truly dangerous attacks are the malicious emails, and we saw an increase in those from 140,000 to more than 1.79 million between 2015 (and) 2016.”

Beauceron helps businesses and organizations protect themselves against this sort of attack — and, of course, more severe attacks. It’s an online product that helps organizations assess whether they have the right systems and culture to protect themselves. Named for a sheepdog from Northern France, it helps organizations make sure they’re not sheep in a world full of wolves.

“Most cybersecurity companies are founded by people steeped in math, computer science and engineering — let’s call them systems thinkers,” said Shipley. “There’s a bias (among them) that says that people are stupid. They’re going to click on links so you need a better system. But we believe that if a company is full of stupid people, then cybersecurity is not its greatest problem.”

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Beauceron introduces all employees to the realities of cyber crimes, and offers them a simple quiz that can test their knowledge of cyber-risks and online habits. It even sends these employees emails that resemble messages from hackers — If the employee clicks on them, Beauceron knows they need extra attention.

Shipley, COO Benjamin Steeves and CTO Sean McDougall began working on the company in 2015 and last year took it into UNB’s Energia Accelerator. Their company offers a subscription service so that, over time, it provides a scoring system to indicate if organizations and individuals are improving in their cybersecurity.

The company has partnered with such leading New Brunswick tech companies as Mariner and Bulletproof Solutions, which have become resellers of its product. It also raised $500,000 in equity investment in June from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and East Valley Ventures. The company has used the money to build up its development team. It now has five full-time and five part-time employees.

As well as money, Shipley said the investment round brought invaluable relationships that have helped the startup grow into a bona fide business. For example, Jeff White, the CFO of East Valley Ventures, now serves as Beauceron’s CFO.

Beauceron now has 15 customers, including such large organizations as Mariner and the City of Fredericton.

Shipley said the company expects to break even on a cash flow basis in the second quarter of 2018.

“We’re now moving out of the early-adopter stage,” said Shipley. “The fact that we’ve recruited 15 clients already demonstrates the interest and the enthusiasm for the product.”