DataTribe Challenge Finalist Q&A: Sai Venkataraman, Co-Founder and CEO; and Santhosh Purathepparambil, Co-Founder, at SecurityAdvisorDataTribe recently closed submissions to its second annual DataTribe Challenge, a global competition to identify and develop high-technology startups with a vision to disrupt cybersecurity and data science.
Three finalists were announced, who will split $20,000 in prize money, and the winner will be eligible to receive up to $2 million in seed capital from DataTribe. The investment could also potentially include a follow-on investment up to $6.5 million in Series A venture funding from DataTribe and AllegisCyber, a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity venture capital firm.
In a new Q&A blog series, we are interviewing all three of the finalists to highlight their innovative business models, how they are disrupting their respective industries, and why they chose to participate in the DataTribe Challenge.
For this installment, we spoke with Sai Venkataraman, Co-Founder and CEO, and Santhosh Purathepparambil, Co-Founder at SecurityAdvisor, an enterprise-grade application that teaches employees cyber hygiene through Teachable Moments and thereby fortifying an organization's most vulnerable attack surface with a resilient cyber culture.
grew up in management consulting in Bain & Company, where I worked in itsTech, Media and Telecom practice across geographies with projects around cybersecurity, IoT, mobilityand related services.FromBain, I joined Intel Security as a Director of Strategy. That's where I met my co-founders Santhosh and Rohan. After a brief stint in the strategy team, I transitioned toproduct management for data security. I focused on building a product that protects data across endpoint, cloud and network, wherever data went, especially as perimeters dissolved in enterprises.
Then I joined Fortscaleout of Israel where I was a VPresponsible for allgo-to-market initiatives and business development. After they were acquiredby RSA,I joined forceswith Santhoshto create SecurityAdvisor.
Santhosh: My background is primarily in cybersecurity. Beforewe formed this company, I workedasa senior director of engineering in McAfee, leading itscorecybersecurity platforms called ePolicy Orchestrator, whereI workedwith manyenterprise customers and managedmillions ofendpoint nodes. Prior to McAfee, I workedfor a startup called myCIO.com,wherewe built a cloud-basedsolutionin 2000. myCIO.com merged with McAfee, which ishow I joined McAfee.
Sai: Our third co-founder, RohanPuri, was responsible for engineeringthe cloud management platform at McAfee,and is also now atSecurityAdvisor responsible for all engineering.
Sai: When we werepreviously working together, the three of us would meetand discuss how there were waytoo many security incidents. Eachof our products would produce hundreds of thousands of alerts. It’simpossible for most enterprises,and definitely impossibleformid-marketcompanies,to handle so many alerts.
The second thing we noticed was that most of these incidents were caused by human action. It's the human who falls victim to phishing, it's the human who clicks on different links, and the human who shares the data.That got us thinking, what can the CISO do to reduce the number of incidents,and be more secure?
At that point in time, the only choice CISOs had was training, and users hate training. Wewanted to come up with something that wasmore intelligent, that coulddeliver personalized tips, and be an advisor to the human –a Siri for cybersecurity. That’s wherethe idea for SecurityAdvisor came about.
We are all about providing micro-messages to users that are relevant tohelp them to avoid common cybersecurityerrors.
Santhosh: We looked atthis problem we faced in ourown work life. We used to take training modules,and found thatwe never really paidattention. Thenwe looked at the market and we couldclearly see 90 percent of the money corporations werespending was on protection technologies only. Eventhough the stats very clearly showthat people cause more than 60 percent of incidents. The appropriate money was not being spent to secure those incidents, and there was no innovations along that line. From that,we got the idea of a solution to build on it.
Sai: In business, there aretechnology, processes and people--and the people part of the equation is no longer working. We aim to help people become immune to cyber attacks, and build a new category focused on cyber hygiene.
Sai: As I mentioned, the people sideof cybersecurity is very underserved, and we see thisbecoming amuchlarger category. The emerging cyber hygiene category has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar category.
It will ultimately become even more imperative for organizations and enterprises to engage with their employees and give them meaningful tips that will help them stay secure. It will become a more pervasive, employee engagement-focused market.
If you can teach people to havegood oral hygiene as an example, this will positively influence their overall health. With this analogy in mind, we aim to teachemployees to have good cyber hygiene, which will enhance theoverall security healthfor any organization.
Outcomes measurement will also become a big part of our efforts, whereevery engagement with employeesis measured in terms of ROI. In addition, CISOs will be able to measure their security risk,and show improvement over a period of time.
Santhosh: We look at itasanimmersiveexperience,but not disruptive, for the employee. It does not disturb what employees do,and it's relevant and appropriate. When you have someone proactively helping, and coaching employees to develop the right set of habits for a positivecybersecurity hygiene,then corporationswillget better securitytoo.
Sai: There are three major threats in the cyber arena today. The first part isloss of control, where data is everywhere. Second, there are way too many security incidents. Third,there aren't enough trained employees available to tackle all these challenges. Wehelp with all of these challenges that CISOsface today.
We can reduce the number of security incidents by directly engaging with employees. As data goes everywhere, ultimately, an important control point is the actual user. By engaging with users, we can control the flow of data andmitigate risks from data leaking outside the organization. In addition, by reducing the number of incidents, the number of employees that you need to investigate and address these challengesbecome fewer too.
Santhosh: The commercial sector is going through a digital transformation. Withthat comesa lotof challenges in terms of adopting thetechnology, and empowering the people for maximum productivity. With more and more digital tools,such ascloud apps and self-service tools, corporations and employees need to be able to safely uses these innovations.
Sai: Someone we trusted initially referred us to DataTribe. Once we applied for the challenge, we loved it. The DataTribe team is highly responsive, and has already taught us some very valuable things, and helped us to brainstorm new ideas for the business.
Santhosh: When we seek out guidance, we lookfor the quality of the people, becausewe know this is not a short-term relationship. We're looking for a long-term relationship. We have big ambitions for our company,and DataTribein on the same frequency as usin terms of helping us to achieve our potential. Also, DataTribe has the most talented people in the industry.
Sai: Essentially to bea category creator. We want to create a new category forcyber hygieneand wewant to bea market leader init and deliver results inthat space. The most important result would be delivering security outcomes for our customers. Can we reduce malware threats by99 percent? Can we reduce data leakage incidents by greater than 90 percent? Our current customers are already seeing these types of results. And
Santhosh: We want to provide aninvisible and ubiquitous solution that helps any organization to advance their security hygiene through their employees and people.
We would like to thank Sai and Santhoshfor speaking with us. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the three finalists present and answer questions from judges on November 14th at City Garage, Baltimore MD. Clickhere to request an invitation to this event.
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