Pieter VanIperen is a 20-year software engineering veteran who acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups.
His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.
Pieter is also the Founder and Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, where he leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs.
You fell in love with computers at a young age, could you share the story of when you first discovered this passion, and when you began to program?
At a young age, I was lucky enough to participate in my school’s advanced learning program. Part of that program involved learning to program and draw logos using LogoWriter. Something about that process really clicked with me. I have always enjoyed putting things together and building, even taking household items and creating toys as a kid. I understood programming and everything blossomed from there. I started seriously coding at the age of 12 and was working professionally by the age of 16.
You’ve started multiple companies over the years, what drives this entrepreneurial instinct?
I really think it boils down to my love of building. Figuring out new ways to solve old problems or finding solutions to complex situations has always been something I enjoy. Starting a business is no different than building a puzzle or creating a product, it’s finding all of the necessary pieces and processes and putting them all together in a way that functions.
In 2016 you became the Founder and Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries. Could you share the genesis story behind this startup?
Throughout my time in the industry, I spent a lot of time on both sides of the consultancy relationship. I knew where the communication gaps were, where the biggest obstacles would be. I had seen so many projects go wrong, sometimes not even getting off the ground, and I sought to find a way to make consultancy relationships provide actionable value and be successful. I had a laundry list of things I did not want to do, and I knew there was a reason that the most difficult problems were so often thrown my way. I know what it takes to be successful and how to run a successful project with desired results. My goal was to create the un-agency, the antithesis to the traditional consulting relationship. In doing so, PWV Consultants and Radical Production Transparency were born.
What type of projects does PWV Consultants take on?
We seek out difficult, interesting and complex challenges, so we are selective in the projects we accept. We generally do not take on run-of-the-mill projects, instead focusing on projects that are problematic for others.
As someone who specializes in cybersecurity, what are some of the most common mistakes that you see small and large companies make?
The three biggest mistakes are not having cybersecurity, not updating known vulnerabilities and skimping on security/configuration during the development process. Small businesses and startups are notorious for not having cybersecurity beyond what is provided through their ISP. It’s mainly a lack of knowledge and/or lack of budget, but it’s a big problem if they suffer a breach without the proper protections in place. Many businesses procrastinate on patching known vulnerabilities. This happens for a variety of reasons, but threat actors will continually use tactics that exploit known vulnerabilities until businesses start patching them. If it’s a known issue and a business has the fix, they’re on the hook for anything that happens as a result. Lastly, business leaders are so focused on getting the next product out that they make concessions in security and configuration. Those concessions result in unstable products that are easy to exploit. Even if the intention is to go back and fix those problems, that often does not happen.
How important is having a vulnerability assessment?
A vulnerability assessment is incredibly important. It will tell you where your business is most vulnerable, where an attack is most likely to succeed. When you have that information, you can fix it before a breach happens.
You are also a Certified Penetration Testing Engineer, who should companies hire to perform penetration testing?
When it comes to pen testing, it is always best to hire well-known companies within the industry. I could list names, but each business should do its own research and see which of the top companies can perform the test to their requirements. This also means that they should be looking at companies which focus on pen testing rather than having it as an add-on service. You want someone who is most likely to be successful in hacking you, otherwise you’re paying someone to tell you everything is great when there are weaknesses they didn’t find. For things like secure code review and advice on solving the problems a big firm finds, businesses should hire individual consultants who can spend focused time fixing problems than the company seeking to find them.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about PWV Consultants?
PWV Consultants strives to provide a positive, productive and transparent consultancy relationship. No blackbox development, no BS. Our system of RPT strives to ensure that all parties involved in a project have access to all of the information all of the time. We ground projects in reality, which allows teams to know what concessions are being made, what obstacles have presented themselves, why certain decisions are made, etc. When everyone has all of the information, there is less friction within the team, less tension and it results in better outcomes. We set out to be the un-agency, and through RPT we are doing just that.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit PWV Consultants.