Partha Panda had a long career in business before he co-founded Cysiv, a cloud-based cybersecurity service to help companies manage threat direction and response. He founded and sold a tech company in the 90s, joined another startup, earned his MBA, and launched a venture capital fund.
And he believes he knows the key to a successful business. A hint: it has to do with the customers. On this edition of UpTech Report, Partha walks us through the long journey he took to co-founding Cysiv, and the important lessons he learned along the way.
More information: https://www.cysiv.com/
Partha Panda brings more than 20 years of experience in the IT and cybersecurity industry. Over the past decade, he has held a broad range of leadership roles at Trend Micro including partner (Trend Forward Capital), SVP of strategy and corporate development, VP of business development and global alliances, and VP of global channels.
Prior to that, he had leadership roles at Third Brigade (acquired by Trend Micro), Entrust, Encommerce (acquired by Entrust) and CMC Ltd. Partha holds an MBA degree from the Robert Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from Sambalpur University, and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Partha Panda 0:00
So making sure that you have the right people and the talent that you’re attracting as you grow and having the organization is important.
Alexander Ferguson 0:14
I’m excited to continue our conversation, your journey. You’ve been in the cybersecurity world for 22 years. Imagine there’s a lot of insight and knowledge. And as leading several of these different organizations you’ve been in and now being CEO of decisive. I would love to start off like, what what was this journey been like? And how did you get to where you are today?
Unknown Speaker 0:39
Yeah, it’s been absolutely fascinating. And I like to think I’ve been very blessed and lucky along the way. I started pretty early in the cybersecurity business mid, late 90s. And that’s when cybersecurity was not even called cybersecurity. So we didn’t even have a name. We used to call ourselves information security, all kinds of different names. And those were all today’s fun days, we, we learned a lot, I was very lucky to be part of a disruptive company at the time a startup my first startup company called N commerce. And we learned so much for me that was my first brush with kind of the disruption cycle VC bag disruption cycle, right and being able to solve a big problem very focused and and helping our customers. So fantastic, fantastic experience for everybody involved absolutely myself. And then we sold the company at peak to another large cybersecurity company, a public company called entrust technologies. So I kind of went from early web based single sign on to a company which had products on the on the Enterprise on the desktop and encryption kind of very different work right from web to more desktop encryption kind of world and fascinating for me, I picked up so much I learned so much about the technologies go to market and, and where honestly, cybersecurity was heading now, the investments were coming in lots and lots more companies were getting creative. And after after interest, joined another startup called third brigade out of Areva founded by executives out of out of interest, very close friends and mentors over the years. Again, third brigade, we built some fantastic technology, we are clouds, we were a server security company. And the concept was to create a self defending server, so have a piece of software providing security on the servers, and it was able to adapt automatically based on the changing footprint on the server. So as we were building that company, a couple of very interesting events happened in our industry, virtualization took off headed by VMware, right, so they took off in a big way. And thankfully for us, hindsight, 2020, always right. But at the time, as you can imagine, you’re a startup, you’re a small company, you have a limited amount of resources, and very limited amount of dollars to invest. But at the time, we decided to go all in on VMware, and we created a new technology called agentless. Security came to brought to the market. And that technology took off we were early, we were the first innovators. And it was a fantastic run, we went from a few customers to you know, over 2000 customers in 1824 months, and then eventually 10,000 customers from that relationship. So fascinating journey. And then right as that was winding up, cloud happened with Amazon and AWS. And again, we spotted that trend early. Hindsight 2020, we decided to kind of go all in on cloud. And that was the start of my personal and my co founders association with cloud, it was very early. I want to say maybe 2009 timeframe, right? It’s been 11 years and cloud was early back then. But it gave us an opportunity to kind of grow with the cloud. We were early co designing with AWS and then eventually with the Microsoft Azure as well. And we co design how security tools can be provisioned to customers in a effective way. And that that journey was priceless. We sold third brigade we got acquired by Trend Micro a large cybersecurity company this time, one of the largest in the world in 2009. And just been a fascinating journey all along right. Like I said, the pleasure and the honor of working with some really talented individuals have had some fantastic mentors all the way from my first startup all the way to now and just been a great, great experience. What i my i think the biggest change for me is I’ve had so many different roles. I often look back and laugh on on how many things I have put my hands in right I started on the technology side, engineer by by education, then I ended up doing my MBA. But I went from technology to business to running bizdev and strategic alliances running corporate strategy and m&a, launching a venture capital fund up being a founding partner of of a venture capital fund, and then eventually, co founding and launching sicb. It’s been a fascinating journey. And I hope I don’t wake up ever.
Alexander Ferguson 5:21
I love also you’re mentioned several times of, of 2020 hindsight like, oh, yeah, that was a brilliant move, but at the time, you’re always making a decisive risk, a calculated risk to move into and then later you find out something that I’d love to dig into over the years and your different roles in both in business development, and now leading a new entire new endeavor. What kind of tactics and do you implement that have helped it grow from from early on getting those first customers to go beyond that? What are some tactics that you found that have worked well that another business leader could learn from?
Unknown Speaker 5:59
Absolutely, I think from day one, I always believed in the importance of culture in the company, a culture which is very inclusive culture, which is customer centric. For us, that’s really important. Everything we built and I think it started early for us incisive day one from have co designing this platform, we always work with a large customers and partners to get the input. So we are a very customer centric organization. And we have a culture where the decision making is decentralized there is power at everyone’s hands, and you know, driving you innovation, but more importantly, putting yourself in the customers shoes is always the most important thing you can do in the company. Right and and I have seen that work magic over the years, just making sure that it is when you’re working that hard, and that fast, often there isn’t, there is a risk of of misalignment or getting off the track, or, or even conflicts internal, because you know, everybody’s trying to work very hard, right? We’re building a massive company, and we are innovating and We’re disrupting on many different fronts. And it’s easy to get carried away in one over the other. And other discussions inside of the companies always take it a step back and put yourself in your customers shoes and see how this discussion is going to add value or not to the customer. And then let’s have a conversation. That’s so important, Alexander because that is the essence and key to building a successful company. In my humble opinion, the more customer centric, we are making sure that we are constantly adding value to our customers, I think we can build and we are building a fantastic company
Alexander Ferguson 7:37
focus and focusing on the customer both both of them not getting too excited about where to go. And being focused on what the customer needs. Digging into a little bit deeper of when you were had maybe a handful of customers and then and start to scale. But whether you if you want to choose at third brigade or beyond, what did you find that worked to truly scale up from just let me just have a couple conversations to wow, it actually is taking off? It seems to be growing faster. What tactic? Did you use it? You found work? Well,
Unknown Speaker 8:11
um, yeah, a few things. So having an organization that can support that scale is important. So as you go from, you know, building a product, doing some initial testing, to testing product market fit to scale internationally, it’s a journey for us like any other company. And having an organization that is constantly getting tuned to that scale is important. And realizing that you need a certain set of mass muscles in every state and muscle that works in the first 100 meters you need to augment that muscle with something else right as you go from, from the 100 meters to the next mile and then eventually running the marathon so and making sure that you have the right people and the talent that you’re attracting as you grow and having the organization is important. So that’s the first part always it’s about the people we are in the business of people having an attracting the right talent and motivating and making sure that we are all working this together is important. The second piece is is an effective go to market and making sure that you have a combination of different go to market strategy, you will have to work directly with your customers because that’s where you get to learn the most. It’s not a you know, when you think about scale, the first step in that scale in that scaling is learning and making sure that you’re in tune with the market and what the customers are expecting. So working directly with some customers is important. Then obviously there’s fantastic set of partners that you have to build your business around channel partners who can help you scale and size MSPs who can take your technology and make it better and bigger for your customers or you know that’s that’s important too. So having that that strategy around channel I had the luxury of running global channel at Trend Micro and I’ve seen the power of how effectively we can work with partners to to fan out globally and And then the third way is, I feel association with big brands and and sensing some wave and creating magic together, I use the example of, of cloud platform that we’ve done in the past. And we continue to do with with Seisen. Here, we have a strategic relationship with Google, a large cloud platform provider, where we are imagining things together imagining the future together, right, both on the technology side, as well as how we take the market to product together, right, that’s the important piece. You know, fighting the battle alone is one part of it. But making sure that you have the right allies at different levels is important. So Ally like Google, or Trend Micro, our our parent company is important because we can go and work with them together to imagine the future, build it together, and then take it to market together because we are helping our joint customers. And again, back to my my comment on being customer centric, it’s all about the customers. And if we work together with some of these large partners, we learn a lot. But and we also have a lot of access, we have a lot of access to the customers the problems and and being able to help them is fantastic.
Alexander Ferguson 11:06
Hearing those three things First, being really close to the customer at the beginning and understanding truly their their pain point, the value of channel partners to accelerate and beyond and then connecting with a larger brand, a big name. And partnering with them can also help you grow. Diving into each of these three real quick, the first one, how do you know when you’re at the tipping point of art, you’re very, you know, close to the customer, you’re talking all the time, and you’ve done that enough? How do you know when you’ve done it enough where you’re like, Alright, I’m starting to hear the same things over and over again. And now it’s time to go from just working with these few customers as close as we can to scaling more and replicating or or skin? How do you know what that turning point happens?
Unknown Speaker 11:53
Yeah, and you know, it’s an interesting, it’s a really good question, Alexander, you will get all the signals from the market, but you don’t, I mean, you will, you will pick it up. Because when you never stop talking directly to the customers, you’re always talking directly to the customers, because their needs are evolving as well, for us to continue to be disruptive and making sure that somebody else does not does not disrupt us in three, five years from now, we have to always be talking to customers. So that part is is will, will continue to play a role. But then you start to see the need to reach the greater community. And, and you will see signals of partners. Obviously developing partners you are it’s a two way street, right? Some cases, partners will come to you with some opportunities, because they’ve heard your name, they’ve heard your brand, and they’ve seen you at one of their customers, and that’s how they come to us. But at the same time investing in our partners and and training them and educating them and taking them along the way. It’s a two way street, right? It’s an investment that we make
Alexander Ferguson 12:49
that channel partner digging into a little bit more like how how have you felt because you spent several years of that I’ll be focusing on channel partners, any tactics, their insights that you said, Wow, this this extrovert worked really well to build that channel partner relationships or growth?
Unknown Speaker 13:03
Yeah, no, absolutely, I think I think investment is important investment from both sides. And it’s an that’s, that’s, that’s a piece that you have to assess fairly quickly. When you’re a small company, obviously, it’s hard to get a mind share. But you know, thankfully, we have the relationships and general partners or MSPs are as eyes are looking out for new disruptive technology. So it is a two way street. So you investing in them in terms of training and education and making sure that they see how you fit educate them on your on the success stories that we’ve had so far, how did we win those customers and, and doing that, but in turn, also expecting the partners to invest their time and resources in learning the technology and being serious about this business. And it’s gonna take time, it doesn’t happen overnight. And so the smaller you are, the larger the time it takes. But there is going to be hard at the end of the tunnel football, right. And I think it’s the two way investment, which is, which is really important. Education, Training, making sure that they have a voice, even in your product roadmap, the right partners will actually bring a lot of inputs to make our platform better. And we appreciate and encourage that. So it’s all around investment on both sides. And you should be able to assess who’s the right partner and who’s not
Alexander Ferguson 14:17
for this journey that you’re on now, with decisive obviously, you’re starting again, in some ways, the journey that you’ve been on. So you’re probably seeing some reoccurring themes. Tell me like how right now where you are with the team, the growth? What are the current challenges that you’re working on, or a recent one you’ve overcome, that you can share of maybe an accomplishment? Yes, we were able to get over this, that someone else might be going through right now.
Unknown Speaker 14:42
Yeah, but you know, we have a fantastic stage of our life cycle and I’m honored to be leading what I think is the finest team in the cybersecurity business today. So this team is the best out there and we are constantly like I said we are very customer centric, trying to figure out How to make it easier and better. And the immediate challenge that we have in our hands right now we scale, like we are going from, you know, a very decent run rate business to now a much bigger business, we are in the middle of that kind of that shift, which is pretty big and rapid and aggressive for us, which is, which is fantastic. And as we go on that journey, we have to realize that we have to adapt what worked before may not work now, right? In the past, we could have all hands on deck on, you know, one customer and make sure that they’re successful. Now it’s, it’s hard, right? We have we have so many. So we have to make sure that we divide the time. But that’s where the importance of having a proper process, how do we onboard a customer, right? Having a well defined process where we can walk them through A to A to Z and making sure that we have thought of all the scenarios are areas that that we are working through. So one of the reasons we asked about a recent example, one of our recent challenges has been, you know, we have all this data being thrown at us from our customers and in the past, we will go Oh, no problem, we’ll go in and figure it out. And then and do it. Now we have all this data from all these customers being thrown at us, right. So we now have to come up with a model where we prioritize this whole sock maturity journey is fantastic. We sit down with our customers and kind of walk them through and say, We can boil the ocean together, we can do it in three, six months, nine months, however long it takes. But let’s figure out what are the, you know, low hanging fruits and making sure that we’re building up a case. And our team has come up with a fantastic process of engaging orally with our customers. And defining that plan, which anybody in the organization can execute, right. So that planning and putting together and centralized tracking has been has been fantastic. And I love seeing how the team kind of stood up to the challenge and came up with this on their own. And now we can run multiple proof of concept and have multiple customers on boarded at the same time, no issues
Alexander Ferguson 16:52
that appreciate that concept of scale. When you get to just the first few clients, everyone can be working on it. There’s no problem there. But as you grow, instituting a onboarding process and a prioritization elements become sounds paramount. How big is the team know, I know you distributed across several,
Unknown Speaker 17:13
roughly a little north of 130 people distributed between US, Canada and the Middle East and now this quarter setting up operations in India.
Alexander Ferguson 17:24
Very cool. Going forward. Obviously. There’s there’ll be new challenges I imagine in this world of COVID doesn’t affect you at all, because everything is already online. And are you financially though it’s more customers are needing this type of solution in this type of environment that they’re like, they want a managed service. I think you mentioned in our previous conversation.
Unknown Speaker 17:43
Yes, absolutely. So customers are are having this conversation on a daily basis CIOs and CSOs are increasingly asking the question on how can I disruption proof my sock Do I have the proper components and the process and the people in place who can do that and we have seen a heightened level of interest in the technology in the service that we have built right we are as a service company. And we have seen that that uptick in interest everybody is very interested in learning more the concept of democratizing threat hunting and sim for customers is very appealing these were you know, technologies and areas which were not accessible before even to large companies irrespective of the size right and the fact that we can make this available at a monthly consumption price is is fantastic for them. So we have definitely seen a lean in and more interest in this space
Alexander Ferguson 18:37
for you as a leader what books audio books, podcasts, blogs, articles, where do you go and have gone to to gain insight and would open to sharing?
Unknown Speaker 18:48
Oh my gosh, yeah, I have. I’m a book started big books reader. I love reading books. I listen to podcasts all the time. And I try and split my time between technology related articles and and and then some leadership company building books as well. And I just go through books whenever I can, before I was able to travel, I could read on the plane, right? That was my time to decompress and read and, and I really enjoy that I call this my me and my book time. But now with no travel, it’s a little bit harder. You’re always working and if you’re not, then you have your family kind of hovering around you. So it’s an interesting balance of my reading has gone down a little bit. But I try and drive a mix between technology keeping up with what’s new, what’s latest and what’s the future, and then some organization building books, right making sure that as we scaled, I’m learning from the experiences of others
Alexander Ferguson 19:51
and recent ones that you can say that you like I really like this one record could recommend.
Unknown Speaker 19:56
Um you know reread this book. There’s a book called Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s that it’s an old book. And interestingly, it’s in my library, I happen to just stare at it one day. And I said, You know what, we read this, it’s been a little while. Big fan of that book, I found a lot of what has been discussed in the book is what we are living through. So I, I almost take the consolation from the fact that others have gone through this book before. And right before that, I reread another book, which is interesting, because there’s so many new books to read, and I’m going back and reading books, there was a book called Escape Velocity. And I kind of read at both of these books back to back and I love them because they absolutely I see myself incisive in our company and our our team in those books.
Alexander Ferguson 20:48
What kind of technology innovations do you predict we’ll see in the near term, the next year or so. And the long term next 510 years.
Unknown Speaker 20:57
More data science and automation, I honestly think that we are just scratching the surface when it comes to AI and data science and application of these technologies in the cybersecurity business and data in general, I think we’ll see a lot more. And I’m just going to try and keep my crystal ball prediction to cybersecurity, because that’s the business I understand the most. I see consolidation happening. So, you know, customers asking for, do more with less kinda, you know, give me a solution, which covers multiple areas. So there’ll be some consolidation happening, which we have seen in the past, we’ve seen that I see this concept of SaaS evolving that I think is there going to be a biggest disruption. In the past Software as a Service was purely software. I think the future is Software as a Service is going to be backed by experts, right experts who can help customers leverage even though it’s a service, they need to be fully utilized and configured and work properly. And most SaaS companies end up as having their customer spend millions of dollars in in configuring it right and so on. And we feel that evolution happening with our experts behind behind the SAS service. So these are kind of the high level areas where there’s a lot of interest around if you’re interested 00 Trust both network identity users. So there is a lot of movement there. So we’ll see some some progress on that front as well. So lots of exciting stuff on the go.
Alexander Ferguson 22:19
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