SynSaber OT security startup team picture at Universal Studios

The Ups, Downs, Ins, and Outs of an OT Security Startup

Jori VanAntwerp, CEO SynSaber
Jori VanAntwerp
CEO, SynSaber

Our OT security startup recently conducted our first-ever employee onsite event. Since SynSaber was founded during the pandemic, this was the first time that most of our employees had a chance to meet each other in person. 

It was a great way to wrap up the year, and it struck me that many of the activities we participated in during the onsite were symbolic of the year we’ve had in 2022. The roller coasters at Universal Studios, tinker toy tower/team building project, magic wand selection, and other activities had me reminiscing about the ups and downs and the ins and outs during the past year at our growing OT security startup.

Buckle Up, and Hang on Tight

Launching a startup during a pandemic, or any other time for that matter, is a similar experience to riding a roller coaster. There are highs, lows, twists, turns, and that addicting mixture of adrenaline tinged with a bit of fear. 

SynSaber founders at Disney

Ironically enough, when I first began to discuss this venture with my co-founder, Ron Fabela, it was during a trip to a theme park.

Planning, dreaming, and riding some amazing coasters. We didn’t fully grasp it yet, but we were getting ready to embark on the most epic ride of our lives.

So we thought it was fitting that our first team onsite event concluded with a full day’s outing at Universal Studios theme park. 

SynSaber OT security startup team picture at Universal Studios
SynSaber team members, family, and friends at Universal Studios

Much like those in line for a new roller coaster they’ve never ridden before, starting a company takes faith, determination, and a willingness to accept a certain level of risk. It’s a thrilling and often unpredictable ride. There are challenges and setbacks along the way, but the rewards can be significant, and the journey is truly an adventure.

Building OT Security Startup Teams and Tinker Toy Towers

I’m not usually one for corny “team building” activities (think trust falls, two truths and a lie, etc.). But my co-founder and I recently participated in a tinker toy tower building project that we found enlightening and fun, so we decided to conduct the activity with the rest of the team during our onsite event.

The goal of the exercise was to build the tallest self-supporting structure out of tinker toys, while learning about your team dynamics and communication styles. The steps are relatively simple, so you can recreate this exercise with your teams:

Round 1

  • Break the group up into two (or more) teams. Each team receives a random set of tinker toys.
  • During the first round, the teams have 5 minutes to plan and strategize how they would like to build their structure. They’re allowed to lay the pieces out, but may not connect them yet.
  • Once the planning phase has concluded, the team has 40 seconds to assemble their structure.
  • Time’s up! The teams openly discuss what they learned, what they would do differently, who (if anyone) took the lead, and other insights they gathered from the first round.
Tinker toy team building 1
Tinker toy team 2

Round 2

  • The second round begins with another planning and strategy phase, and once again, the teams have 5 minutes to discuss their ideas and lay out their pieces.
  • As soon as the planning phase concludes, the building phase begins, and the teams have 40 seconds to connect their pieces and build their structure.
  • Time’s up! At the end of this second round, the structures are measured, and the team with the tallest structure receives the award or bragging rights.
  • Everyone openly discusses what they’ve learned about how they work together, what insights were gathered from the two separate rounds, and anything else they’ve gleaned from the activity.

As we moderated this activity for our employees, it was interesting to see the team dynamics and different communication styles in action. I’m proud to say that both teams built structures that were taller than the tower that Ron and I constructed ourselves when we first participated in the tinker toy activity. 

The Wand Chooses the Wizard

During our fun-filled day at Universal Studios, a few adventurers acquired magic wands and robes for the full wizarding experience. There are sections of the park that include interactive displays that respond to your wand movements. Our wizards-in-training learned that the swishes and flicks were far more challenging to master than they had originally anticipated. 

SynSaber team members with wands

You had to stand in a specific spot, pointing your wand in the exact direction of an arrow on the floor, and follow the precise movements indicated by a symbol near the directional arrow. When everything fell into place and the movement was deemed successful, a set of lights would “magically” switch on, a fantastic beast would rear its head from a cage, or rain would appear to fall from the sky.

This is similar to a security startup: having the right resources and tools is imperative. Not just any old wand will do! The displays use infrared cameras to interact with a reflective tip on the Universal Studios wand. And just like at a security startup, your movements and directions must be precise and well thought out. No awards for sloppy wand-waving or haphazard business practices!

Our offsite event was full of synergy and startup magic, and we can’t wait to share some of our plans and innovations with you in 2023.

~Jori 🤘⚔️