“Thirtyseven4 started with Steven’s heart for building trusted relationships and that is a commitment that defines the business. Customers listen to Steven and his team, and the company listens to its clients.”
Here’s my November 2015 column for MinistryTech magazine, profiling Steven Sundermeier and his computer security startup, Thirtyseven4.
In this article series, we’ve discussed what it means to be a startup (in business or ministry) and defined a startup this way: a new venture working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed. We’ve also discussed what it means to be an entrepreneur, and specifically a Christian entrepreneur, which we defined as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture.
Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs. Some of these ventures and people may be ones that can help your church, ministry, or business, but my main intent is to encourage, inspire, and educate you as I hope you too will be growing as a Christian entrepreneur.
You probably already know Steven Sundermeier as a security expert based on his monthly column in this magazine on being “Protected With Purpose,” but this month I’d like to introduce you to the Christian entrepreneur side of Steven, and his company Thirtyseven4.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
In 1999, fresh out of college, Steven landed a great job with a computer security company. He got started doing the dirty work – disinfecting computers that had been hit with viruses, worms, and other malware. For the next 10 years, he was blessed with the continuous opportunity to learn and grow and advance through the company.
But in those 10 years, he also saw the bad and ugly side of business. The company hadn’t been started by Christians and the culture that had been established wasn’t consistent with Biblical morals. Vendors, partners, clients, and employees weren’t always treated with love and respect. It was wearying Steven to operate in that environment.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord
One Sunday morning in 2009, the Sundermeier’s Pastor chose to preach on Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
This message really hit home with Steven and his wife. They began praying for God to make clear whether Steven should leave his job, and if so, what they should do. They sought Godly counsel from those around them. They meditated day and night on God’s Word. They continued to hear God’s calling on them from the pulpit each Sunday.
They realized that God was calling Steven, in the midst of the greatest economic recession of their lives, to quit his job and become an entrepreneur. He started building the back-end engine for a new security offering. He was careful to be above reproach, not using any intellectual property from his first employer, not stealing any employees or customers, not speaking poorly of their solutions.
Steven’s wife was the admissions director at a small Catholic college, so they understood the education market and decided to focus their new business there. They sought to even more deeply understand what schools need and how they operate. They sunk their life savings into the business, trusting in God’s call and His provision with the business. They even named the business after Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”).
Bringing forth its fruit in its season
The business started to grow. Slowly at first, as potential clients needed to wait through the timing of their existing contracts. But then, increasingly rapidly. The company has grown every year since 2009 and continues to grow exponentially.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps along the way. Psalm 37 goes on to say in verse 7 “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” Steven tells of the time a foreign competitor decided to make their education product available for free. This may not qualify as a “wicked scheme” but it certainly was a test for the Thirtyseven4 team to rest in the Lord and not fret.
Instead of fretting, they committed their way to the Lord and trusted in Him. As always, they did not turn to putting down the competitor’s product, but instead again educated their customers of the value of personal support from local U.S.-based partners and the quality of Thirtyseven4’s product. As with many other times, the Lord turned a challenge into a blessing.
And whatever he does shall prosper
Thirtyseven4 started with Steven’s heart for building trusted relationships and that is a commitment that defines the business. Customers listen to Steven and his team, and the company listens to its clients. They have expanded from schools into other non-profits including many medium to very large churches. Customers needed ways to continue to protect when systems were off the network, so Thirtyseven4 expanded by offering a cloud-based offer. Not every customer idea is a big winner that can be pursued, but the company has been greatly blessed simply by having trusted relationships with clients, vendors, and employees.
In talking to Steven, he constantly references how God has blessed him through this startup experience. Not just in terms of business success, but in personal and family relationships in ways that he couldn’t imagine. From day one, it’s been important to Steven and his wife that the company be a blessing to others. Every year the company delivers food baskets and winter coats to the most needy in their community, and a portion of every sale provides funding for Remember Nhu, a global ministry saving young women from the sex trade.
According to their website, the mission of Thirtyseven4 “is to glorify God by using the gifts He has given us.” From what I see, it looks like Steven and his team are being true to their mission, and demonstrating what it means to be a Christian entrepreneur.