Introducing Brian Gallagher from CodeLock

Q: Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your startup, CodeLock?

A: I’m Brian Gallagher, a co-founder of CodeLock. We established CodeLock in 2021 with a vision to revolutionize secure software development globally. Our core focus is on enhancing the software development process, incorporating security measures, ensuring accountability, and aiding compliance in secure software development.

Q: What inspired the creation of CodeLock?

A: The idea for CodeLock emerged from an intriguing backdrop. My co-founder and I were previously engaged in a project with the US government, dealing with the supply chain of physical goods entering the United States. Our team, having expertise in AI and ML, was developing solutions involving artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies.

In December 2020, around the time we had a scheduled meeting with the US government, the SolarWinds cyberattack occurred. It was a massive security breach affecting 18,000 organizations, including many sectors of the US government. Despite the severity of this event, our meeting went ahead as planned.

During this time, my business partner, Dr. JT Kostman, who has an impressive background with roles like the chief data scientist at Samsung and chief data officer at Time Inc., proposed an innovative approach that could have potentially thwarted the SolarWinds attack. His idea laid the foundation for CodeLock’s intellectual property.

Our solution involves creating a chain of custody for software developers throughout the supply chain, focusing on their code. We aim to secure software repositories and detect unknown threats, such as malware. This concept eventually led us to join the Alchemist accelerator in early 2022, and by August of the same year, following our demo day, we officially launched CodeLock as a separate entity.

CodeLock team photo

Choosing Alchemist Accelerator

Q: What led you to apply to the Alchemist accelerator for your startup?

A: My co-founder JT had previous connections with Alchemist through his work at Samsung’s Innovation Center in Silicon Valley. He knew the founder of Alchemist personally. When we were conceptualizing CodeLock, we recognized it was different from our previous entrepreneurial ventures, especially in the realm of SaaS and software-based products. JT suggested that I, as CEO, should participate in the Alchemist program to gain deeper insights into leading and building this type of company. So, we embarked on the standard application process like everyone else.

Q: Can you describe the application process for Alchemist?

A: The application process was quite straightforward. We applied through Alchemist’s website, submitted a video to introduce our team, and went through their interview process. Being familiar with Alchemist, we had an understanding of what to expect, but we still underwent the same steps as other applicants. For me, the process involved just one interview, which is standard for Alchemist. They sometimes use panel interviews, but generally, they don’t conduct as many interviews as some other accelerators. This approach made the entire process efficient and clear for us.

Q: What do you think made CodeLock stand out and get accepted into the Alchemist program?

A: I believe it was our blend of innovation and the strength of our team that set us apart. Unlike the stereotypical young startups in Silicon Valley, our team had significant experience and success both in the government and commercial sectors. We had a history of entrepreneurial success, selling companies, and navigating various marketplaces, though not specifically in this type of tech environment. Additionally, we were addressing a real and relevant problem in the industry, and I think our ability to clearly articulate our vision for the future was impactful.

Q: Can you describe your experience with the Alchemist program?

A: The Alchemist program typically spans about six months. My participation was during the 2021 class, amidst COVID-19, so it was more virtual than usual. Generally, the program includes weekly gatherings on various topics, providing essential knowledge for tech startups, like company formation, understanding cap tables, and navigating investor relations.

Each company in Alchemist works individually, but tailored mentorship is a significant part of the program. Alchemist’s “Vault” system is particularly valuable, offering access to a wide network of mentors and resources. For example, you can consult with mentors about specific queries, from safe notes to industry-specific advice.

Moreover, the demo day at the end of the program was extremely beneficial for us. During this event in August 2021, we garnered considerable interest and were ranked highly based on investor engagement. This exposure led to significant initial funding for CodeLock. However, the subsequent market downturn posed challenges, but our unique team, product, and mission have enabled us to continue pushing through despite these difficulties.

CodeLock’s Funding Approach in the Alchemist Program

Q: Did CodeLock receive any funding directly from the Alchemist program?

A: We opted not to take direct funding from Alchemist. Typically, Alchemist offers a stipend, of around $25,000, to cover initial expenses and startup costs. This funding involves negotiations regarding equity, usually around 5%, but it’s flexible. Given our specific circumstances and funding needs at the time, we decided against taking this stipend. However, we successfully secured a significant amount of funding through connections and exposure gained during Alchemist’s demo day.

Q: Is this stipend mandatory, and do they follow on in subsequent funding rounds?

A: Taking the stipend isn’t mandatory; it’s more of an option to offset the costs of participating in the program. In terms of subsequent rounds, arrangements can vary. Each company’s agreement with Alchemist is individually negotiated, which might include rights for Alchemist in future funding rounds.

Significant Milestones Achieved

Q: What was a significant milestone you achieved during the Alchemist program?

A: For me, the most significant milestone was our demo day. We deviated from the standard format suggested by Alchemist to make our presentation stand out, which proved to be a successful strategy. While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for breaking rules, as an entrepreneur, differentiation is key. Facing the challenges of COVID and navigating market uncertainties at the end of 2021 were considerable hurdles. However, Alchemist was instrumental in guiding us through these challenges, especially in understanding complex aspects like safe notes and fundraising.

Current Progress and Future Goals of CodeLock

Q: What is the current status of CodeLock, and what are your achievements and upcoming milestones?

A: This year has been remarkable for CodeLock, especially considering the broader market conditions. We were honored by TechCrunch as one of the top 200 startups globally, earning a spot on their Disrupt stage. This recognition was significant for us as an East Coast company, increasing our visibility on a national scale, and attracting potential clients, VCs, and acquirers. We’ve also won several innovation awards and regional recognitions recently, with major companies showing interest in partnerships for 2024.

We commercially launched our product this summer with a soft release, focusing on ensuring its performance and integration. Alongside this, we’ve been building our partner network. Our immediate future is centered around sales and go-to-market strategies. Maintaining cash flow is crucial at our stage. We’re balancing investor funding with generating revenue through customer engagement. Our goal is to be revenue and cash flow positive this year, a milestone not commonly achieved by traditional tech startups in the VC environment.

Q: Have you faced any challenges in your growth and experimented with any channels that didn’t work?

A: Yes, in the cybersecurity space, especially with our type of product, we’ve observed that about 90% of sales are B2B. This realization led us to shift our focus from internal sales to expanding through channel partnerships. We made a strategic hire last month, bringing in a CRO experienced in channel partner work. This approach is in contrast to many companies that are cutting back, laying off staff, and seeking revenue-generation methods with less overhead.

Founder’s Advice

Q: Any final advice for founders considering applying to accelerators like Alchemist?

A: My advice boils down to three words: hustle, grind, and execute. As a founder, you need to focus on what you can achieve today without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. This mindset is essential not just for Alchemist but for entrepreneurship in general. Commitment to action and a keen awareness of your goals each day are vital for success in the startup world.