Chandra Pandey is founder and CEO of Seceon, a cybersecurity company dedicated to protecting data on a global scale. Pandey talks to Red Herring about new business partnerships, dealing with VCs and the future of his company.
What prompted you to found Seceon?
The cybersecurity industry is pretty much broken right now. All these breaches are happening, huge amounts of data gets lost and nobody hears about it – until it’s sold on the dark web or appears in the news.
We thought we could create a solution to address this market, started asking people, “What are you doing to make sure you are secure?” The problem is so much traffic flying between data centers–we’re looking at billions of bytes traveling per second–which can’t be monitored. We decided to do something about that.
How did you first fund Seceon?
We went to the investment community and had a couple of meetings and those guys said, “This is a great concept, but this your company is too small and poor to do something so hard: you should double up a feature or silo, forget about the whole platform…” So our approach is, look, I’ve had a couple of companies before this and we never shy away from a challenge. We wanted to solve the problem that addresses the real customer market, not just try to pretty something up and just sell it out.
We decided to stop wasting time trying to convince people we’d be able to do it and just did it! That’s the way we started. We didn’t even take money from anybody out there, I just put in my own money and the people who came with me put in their money to make it a reality.
So things worked out with your own funding but in terms of what you present to the investors, would you change anything? Any lessons learned?
One thing we realized is that most of the investors they don’t have their own understanding of where the market is going to go. What they do is look for people to come and present to them, and then taking the ideas from those people and combining it together, figuring it out and seeing what it work.
The lesson from our point of view is that the only way you get the VC money is you tell them what they want to hear, not exactly what you are going to do, and that is something I cannot do. My view is we want to carve something in stone, mobilize our team, and just do the right thing for industry: success will come our way.
Success is not easy to come by but at the same time if you and your team are excited about it, you get involved directly with the customer and see a lot of energy. Rather than chasing that VC investment what you should do is get a good run of success behind you, and then escape the VC crowd altogether and go via the strategy of business with partners and the growth equity. That’s the more meaningful way to do things.
In our previous two companies we were pretty good at what we did, we changed the industry altogether, but the VC didn’t understand the whole dynamics of it, so even if it’s a success for them they were always worried about what will happen next. You may find some great VC, but at the same time you should be open and dedicated to do it to a certain level all by yourself.
You gained some investment from Information Development in Japan: where did that partnership come from and what did it allow you to do?
Information Development actually found us. Towards the end of 2016 they were looking for some partners in the cybersecurity area and they reached out to us. Being a US company we weren’t immediately thinking about going to Japan, but we went over there to a big event they’d organized and met the team members working on the platform. After spending time with them, looking at their passion, we took a small investment.
I felt so moved by their dedication: the work they have done market-side in Japan is even better than what we’ve done in the US, so a lot of kudos to them! We do hope to see a huge amount of revenue coming from the partnership with them over the next two years.
You don’t hear many stories of cybersecurity teams reaching out and connecting so deeply with a firm in another country. Has this inspired you to look further afield for partners?
Yes exactly. There are some others to follow and lead a similar model with us. We have another in another country we have not announced yet because we’re still in negotiations. We might announce that in a month or two, so we’ll spend a couple months with them to check they’re ready to hit the ground running.
What is the immediate future for you: how do you continue to scale the company, is it a specific strategy different to what other companies are using?
Scaling for us is enabling our partners, especially the ones providing comprehensive cybersecurity to their customers, as well as those who are value-added reseller partners. That is key. If you empower them, get them on board to do the right thing for their customers.
One thing we have learned in the cybersecurity community is that it’s not just about having great product. What you have to do is this industry works based on the trust. Good companies are not just trying to give customers something for six months or a year, they want to build that for the next 10-20 years, they want to become their trusted partner. We always tell our partners our intention is not just make money for today: just do things right for the customers and the money is a byproduct of that. That’s what we want to do.