In Episode 2 of the Founder’s Field Guide podcast, Evan Reiser, CEO of Abnormal Security talks with Patrick O’Shaughnessy about technology shifts in the market and Abnormal’s selection of Microsoft Azure as a cloud platform provider.
If you missed Episode 1, you can find that here.
Listen to Evan’s segment in Episode 2 here:
For the full episode, head over to Patrick’s site The Investor’s Field Guide.
As before, we’ve included a transcript of Evan’s segment below:
This episode was brought to you by Microsoft for Startups. Microsoft for Startups is a global program dedicated to helping enterprise-ready B2B startups, successfully scale their companies. In our five-part mini-series, we are talking to Evan Reiser, CEO of Abnormal Security about his experience with Microsoft for Startups. In this week’s episode with Evan we talk about technology shifts and picking a cloud provider.
What has changed about companies’ cloud adoption? I would count us and our business in the same category of slowly and then suddenly. We had to adopt this sort of thing. So, maybe just describe what exactly… Because this sounds like a technology platform shift that often makes new companies possible. What exactly has changed and why is a company like yours positioned well for that?
Yeah, I think there are two things. One is how enterprises work and then the second is, what are the new platforms that allow small teams to do a lot with very little? So, I think in the former category, the general shift in enterprise IT stacks moving into the cloud and the prevalence of Microsoft 365 is just an example of that. So, that enables all this IT and security data to be available in the cloud and therefore accessible via APIs.
And so, if we wanted to build our product 10 years ago, we would need a fundamentally different architecture that wouldn’t allow us to get as much data at the same level of detail and deploy so quickly. And I think, with the general rise of cloud infrastructure and cloud computing, and then even more specifically, some of the higher-level services like Azure AI Cognitive Services, those are tools that allow relatively small engineering and data science teams to go build these world-class enterprise-ready applications very quickly.
So, you were just started in 2018. So, you’re a very young company, even though you’re moving quickly. I’m curious what the experience was like at the beginning, as you thought about what tools to deploy. This is one of the more interesting things for me now because the toolkit available to founders, say eight years ago, was very different from what’s available today. You can do a lot less building of commoditized stuff or stuff that’s not your core competency. So, how did you think about that? How did you address the problem of, what stack of third-party partners are we going to use to build this company on top of?
We arguably made some mistakes early on and just there are some areas where we’re very thoughtful and some areas we were less thoughtful. When we started we knew just the speed to market was going to be very important for us. So, we started off by just using the, what we were most familiar with, right. And we didn’t do a lot of research on areas. One example, inside cloud infrastructure, when it comes to things like cloud infrastructure, it’s not really just a technology decision, it’s really a business decision.
And the reasons why we decided to invest on Azure – there are two sides. On the technology side, we had to have the most secure and the most privacy centric platform to build on top of. I think the second thing is purely from a business perspective: we needed a technology platform that would enable us to spend more time focusing on customer problems and not on rebuilding commodity technology. So, being able to use high-level services, especially around AI and machine learning, computer vision, getting that out of the box, just allows a startup like us to do a lot more, faster. Of course, I realized the irony of me being an enterprise technology CEO and saying it wasn’t a technology decision, but I really think the reason we ultimately decide to invest in the Azure platform, was really around some of the business benefits. A lot of that came down to just what is most valuable to the company.
For a company like us, we currently work with maybe 3 or 4% of Fortune 500. So, the biggest challenge for us is, “Hey, how do see the other 95%?” We wanted to reduce the cost required for us to go and market and acquire customers. And so, there’s great programs like the Azure Cosell Program, which actually enables Microsoft sellers to go sell our solution and help work with us to help solve customer problems.
I think the other thing that was really important on the business side was we wanted to increase our success rate with customers by aligning to their strategy. So, a lot of CIOs today are interested in consolidating their architecture into the Microsoft ecosystem. They want fewer and fewer point solutions that are independent and they want one interconnected ecosystem that, that works well. So, you know, the ability to enable our customers to basically investment in Microsoft Ecosystem, to buy our solution and then get Azure consumption credits as part of that, and to reward them for their Microsoft ecosystem investment. That was another key piece. Big thing for us is that we realized that cloud infrastructure was much more of a business decision. And in the past I would have offloaded that to maybe the engineering team and had them decide. But for us, we brought that to the board and we said, “Hey, we think that’s all in, this is actually more important for the business and we can get a lot of benefits for both the company and for our customers by investing in the Microsoft platform, overall.”
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