Cybersecurity firm finds home in rural Michigan

A small city in rural Michigan might seem an unlikely location for a cybersecurity tech firm, but that’s where BitLyft Cybersecurity is calling home.

Instead of following the typical path of tech entrepreneurs, founder Jason Miller  decided to make the investment in mid-Michigan rather than an established tech hub. He has set up his team of some 20 employees in a renovated century-old building in downtown St. Johns, a city of about 8,000 people north of Lansing. 
“I made the choice to move both my business and my home to Saint Johns in 2021 and I’ve never looked back,” Miller says. “In this connected world, we can accomplish just as much in a small town as we could in a larger city. Plus you get the unique advantage of a close knit and collaborative business community that is hard to replicate anywhere else.” 
The company plans to hold a celebration in its new space from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 25. (October also happens to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month).
The company: An innovative tech company, BitLyft Cybersecurity was founded in 2016 by Miller, a local entrepreneur and information technology veteran. The company initially operated out of leased space at the Technology Innovation Center in East Lansing. When the pandemic struck, employees pivoted to working at home, like a lot of other workers. The team missed the collaboration and eventually Miller began hunting for new space, buying a building in downtown St. Johns. 

What the company offers: Miller says companies today need a mix of offerings to target cybersecurity: People, software and tools. It’s a different business model than most other cybersecurity firms, but that’s what BitLyft Cybersecurity offers: security software and people (to back up software and handle other issues). The security product,  BitLyft AIR® , available at various price tags, is a win-win for companies concerned about expense and struggling to find cybersecurity help. “It’s difficult for companies to find people right now to do cybersecurity. There are hundreds of thousands of job openings in the cyber security space. Companies are having trouble deciding on which tools to use for the budget they have. All these companies are working with limited budgets, no matter what their size,” he says. “We wanted to offer software and people. Our tagline is ‘automation backed by human intervention.’”
Jason Miller
How did the company come about? Miller had been working in IT since 1996, starting out as a network engineer and system administrator. He learned as much as he could, curious about how businesses and humans could live with technology, automation and “things of that nature.” He launched a cloud company startup in 2009 in Tampa and sold it several years later. He became a consultant before his idea of a cybersecurity company took shape. “What resonated with me – as I thought about building another company here in mid Michigan – is that everybody was focused on cybersecurity.  Everybody has this challenge. It doesn’t matter what size company you have or what kind of budget you have. We were seeing a lot of people wanting cloud offerings but were concerned about cybersecurity,” he says. Data Breaches continue to escalate. “It’s the biggest threat that could cause a business to go out of business. That is what really fueled my fire inside to build another company.”
The company’s software works for companies of various sizes. Customers include higher education, Department of Defense manufacturers, and financial institutions, among others. The majority of his customer base is outside of Michigan. 
Why St. Johns: “The one thing I think of first and foremost about what I love about St. Johns or a rural town is lower stress,” Miller says. “We don’t have the volume of traffic; you can get from one side of town to the other in minutes. I think it just provides a much more relaxed atmosphere than downtown Detroit or Ann Arbor or even Lansing.”
Smaller communities like St. Johns, the county seat of Clinton County, are able to compete with bigger locations, he says, because of the availability of high-speed internet. Additionally, taxes are lower in smaller communities (benefitting both the business and employees) and mom-and-pop restaurants and coffee shops are accessible and enjoyable, without being overly busy.
In St. Johns, Miller purchased the century-old building, a former family-run jewelry store, on North Clinton Ave., right in the heart of the city’s business district in 2021 and just completed a full renovation of the second floor, which houses their security operations center and staff. 
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