Cory Siskind, Base Operations: Using Technology to Secure Global Workforces, Ep 81

How do you keep a global workforce up to date on daily security threats and confirm people are ok in the event of a natural disaster? Most companies are still stuck in phone call and paper based systems that are extremely expensive and hard to update.

Base Operations’ founder Cory Siskind realized there was a better way than the standard practice that most multinational corporations give to employees who travel abroad for work: thirty page risk reports which mostly don’t even get read. Base Operations is an app that provides just-in-time information to its users in markets with high crime rates but poor access to crime data. Global workforces can quickly get a feel for their surroundings as soon as they touch down in a new city or country with the app’s features: intuitive heat maps, safe routing, geofenced alerts, and check-ins.

Cory has always been passionate about emerging markets, specifically interested in how security and crime affect a country’s growth. But what was the spark that pushed Cory to start the business? A business plan competition while studying for her Master’s degree at Harvard!

I sat down with Cory to talk about her early interest in emerging markets, how she came up with the idea for her company (also part of Magma Partners’ portfolio as of 2018), her experience in Harvard’s business plan competition, and what it’s like to operate between the US and Mexico. 

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more about how Base Operations uses data to help multinationals keep their employees safe in emerging markets. 

High crime, low transparency cities

During her undergrad at Tufts University, Cory became interested in international security and how organized crime can hold back development. Specifically, she focused on how these criminal organizations damage businesses and affect people’s economic growth. After spending time in Washington, DC she moved to Mexico City and became a geopolitical risk analyst and ran into a big problem: the lack of information about crime and risk management in emerging markets.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more about Cory’s solution to this lack of transparency in emerging markets.

Seeking validation in Mexico City

Cory and her team needed to be sure that their product would be something that clients actually wanted. To be sure Cory and her team moved to Mexico City for two months and spent $20kto create a prototype of their product and run initial tests, which gave them the validation they needed to move forward.

Listen to this episode to learn more about the development of Base Operations leading up to its launch in the summer of 2018, and why that initial trip to Mexico City had such a powerful effect on Cory and her team.

Why monthly email updates are so important

Techstars’ Impact Accelerator was a huge propeller for Cory and Base Operations’ growth. One of the biggest lessons learned was getting into the habit of writing monthly email updates to current and potential investors. It pushed her to work harder, faster, and better by having added pressure to have something to share with their network. Multiple investors that had initially passed on Base Operations came back because of the progress they’d seen through their email updates.

Check out this episode to hear more tips Cory has to share about her experience on Techstars like key parts to include in email updates

Show Notes:

  • [1:25] – About Base Operations
  • [3:11] – The problem with multinationals’ current standard practice
  • [4:30] – Getting involved with security and risk management
  • [6:25] – From academia to entrepreneurship
  • [7:26] – A passion for emerging markets
  • [10:15] – Misconceptions in the US about LatAm markets
  • [11:45] – Start local, then go international
  • [13:40] – Motivation behind Cory’s entrepreneurial journey
  • [17:20] – Product testing in Mexico City
  • [19:57] – Experience in Techstars Impact Accelerator 
  • [21:37] – Advice for Techstars entrepreneurs
  • [23:27] – Drivers for success in e-mail updates
  • [24:29] – Tips on raising money
  • [25:51] – Target companies for Base Operations
  • [27:07] – What companies look for in Base Operations
  • [29:38] – Books, blogs, and podcasts Cory recommends
  • [30:41] – Women in entrepreneurship
  • [33:00] – Advice for Cory’s younger self
  • [33:54] – What’s next for Base Operations?

Resources Mentioned: