Microsoft Ignite: Why the Most Promising Startups are Choosing Azure - Abnormal Security

Microsoft Ignite 2020 Session

Why the Most Promising Startups are Choosing Azure

Listen to Jeff Ma and Evan Reiser discuss the technical and business considerations that went into Abnormal’s strategic decision to partner with Microsoft and build on the tremendous traction with some of the largest enterprise customers in the world.

Scroll down for a full transcript

Speakers

Evan Reiser

CEO & Co-Founder of Abnormal Security

Jeff Ma

VP of Microsoft for Startups

Why Abnormal

Learn More About the Abnormal Difference

Transcript

Rick:

When it comes to choosing your cloud platform, your choice matters. Now more than ever, startups are looking to Microsoft Azure to get their footing into the cloud for the very first time. Now, for more on that, please welcome Vice President of U.S. Partner Development at Microsoft, Mr. David Smith. Hey!

Donna:

Hi, David.

David Smith:

Thanks, Rick and Donna. We’ve got some really great guests joining us right now to have a little bit of a conversation about startups with Microsoft. We’ve got Jeff Ma, who’s the VP of startups at Microsoft and also Evan Reiser, who is the CEO and founder of a startup called Abnormal Security. Let’s start with Jeff. Jeff, why don’t you introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about Microsoft for Startups?

Jeffrey Ma:

Yeah, so I came to Microsoft about six months ago after sort of four … Sorry, 20-ish year career as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and came here with the goal of trying to make Azure the default platform for startups to build on. And Microsoft for Startups is a program that really helps accelerate the business growth of startups, so we’re really happy to be working with startups like Abnormal Security.

David Smith:

Great, and of course, Abnormal Security is indeed working with Microsoft Startups. Evan, how about you introduce yourself, as well, and tell us a little bit about Abnormal and what it does.

Evan Reiser:

Yeah, first of all, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a really exciting day. My name is Evan Reiser. I’m the founder and CEO of Abnormal Security. I’ve been an enterprise technology entrepreneur for over a decade. I started four different companies, all focused on bringing enterprise solutions using AI and machine learning. Abnormal Security is a next generation email security platform. We use AI to protect enterprises against targeted social engineering attacks like supply chain compromise or fraud or business email compromise, which is currently the number one cyber crime in the world.

For additional context, Abnormal Security, we’re a young startup. We started about two years ago, but we’re growing very quickly. We have over a dozen Fortune 500 companies using our product today. We protect everything from healthcare systems to nuclear power plants, and we’ve been recognized by Forbes and Gartner as one of the most promising AI startups and a top vendor for email security in 2020.

David Smith:

Well, that’s awesome. And we’ll drill down into all those things you just talked about, but let’s just talk about startups in general and how startups relate to cloud. And Jeff, I know you’ve got a background as an entrepreneur yourself, so how do you think startups in general should think about their choice of cloud platform?

Jeffrey Ma:

I think when startups, at least how we want sort of to look at picking a cloud platform is not thinking about a platform and instead thinking about a partner, because ultimately, what we believe is that much of the technology that exists on cloud platforms is pretty similar now, and where we can provide value as Microsoft and Microsoft for Startups is providing really good customer access and really good go-to-market for startups.

We really want to be a partner where we have great, a partner ecosystem and great customers that we can bring to startups. And like, as I mentioned, accelerate their business growth. So the decision of which cloud to build on needs to be more than just a technology decision now. It needs to become much more of a business decision.

David Smith:

What do you mean by that? Like what is the difference between that technology decision and that business decision you’re talking about then?

Jeffrey Ma:

Well, ultimately, when you think about what we can do as a company is we really want to partner with our startups and partner with our companies to help them grow. We have so many great customers, great enterprises. We can help startups sell into the enterprise. As an entrepreneur that’s built companies before, I realize how hard it is for startups to sell into the enterprise. And a lot of that is because you have things like procurement, you have 12- to 18-month sales cycles. And as Microsoft, we can really help you avoid that by allowing you to publish in our Marketplace, transact on Microsoft paper. We can connect you to some of our top customers and really make it easier for you to work with enterprise, which is something that’s very traditionally hard for startups to do.

David Smith:

All right. Gotcha. Evan, did you have some of these same considerations yourself when you are thinking about working with Microsoft for Startups and using Azure as your platform?

Evan Reiser:

Absolutely. Jeff, you’ll appreciate this. As a founder, your job is to identify the biggest existential risks to the business and then focus on knocking them down. So for us, our primary motivation is scale. And to set the stage, cybersecurity is a major concern for our customers. We have a product that’s extremely effective, and despite the pandemic, we’ve seen about 2X growth in the last six months. So the challenge for Abnormal Security is all about how do we scale the business?

We have to scale innovation. We have to bring cutting edge AI, innovation to wow our customers. We have scaled technology to get 10X more customers and 10X more data. And we need to scale go-to-market programs. Everything that Jeff just mentioned, we have to get to the other people we don’t know yet, right? When you see 10X growth in a really short amount of time.

I think a lot of entrepreneurs just like me, they think about cloud infrastructure as purely a technology decision. However, I realized that our enterprise customers, who are also Microsoft customers, really want to invest more in the Microsoft ecosystem, and they want to partner with startups like us that were equally committed to building on the Microsoft platform.

We took a hard look at the different options. And when we looked at Azure, there was kind of two things that surprised us. One, we realized that the technical offering was much deeper, more robust than originally we thought. And on top of that, there’s a bunch of non-technical benefits for moving to Azure that were critical to help us scale. And even though we’ve been totally impressed by the technology, I know similar to what Jeff said, I think the major driver for us was understanding all the capabilities that the Microsoft platform had to help us scale our innovation and scale our go-to-market.

David Smith:

Okay. Give me some more examples about how Microsoft helped you connect with your customers there and then sort of bring them to Abnormal.

Evan Reiser:

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll kind of maybe talk about both sides of the coin there. For context, when we first started the company, we didn’t even think about using Azure. We were so familiar with the AWS platform, and even when we crossed the million dollars a year in spend, we didn’t really question the decision. But when we decided to team up and partner with Microsoft, there was really kind of these two sides, the technology benefits and the business benefits.

On the technology side, right, we realized that security privacy was critically important to us. Our customers trust us to protect the world’s most, their most sensitive data. And we need to have the world’s most secure platform for them to take us seriously. Obviously, Microsoft is a leader in cybersecurity. They spend a billion dollars a year in cybersecurity, and Azure has more compliance certifications than any other cloud provider.

The second thing is, right, ability to scale. Satya, this morning talked about the importance of being able to process petabyte scale data in real time. And the third part, technology, is really the ability to innovate, right? Using offerings like Azure AI, cognitive services, to empower developers to focus less on commodity infrastructure and more on applied machine learning problems that are important for our customers.

And then to kind of more directly answer your question, what are some of the benefits we got on the go-to-market side? There’s kind of three things I would call out. One is the Azure Marketplace, which allows our customers to purchase our product directly from Microsoft for easier procurement. There’s also the Azure consumption credits program, which rewards customers for consolidating and investing more in the Microsoft ecosystem. And then, finally, the Azure co-sell program allows us to work directly with the Microsoft sales team to help our customers more easily discover and evaluate our product. And very specifically, just last week, we were able to participate in Microsoft Digital Transformation Academy, and we met with over two dozen account teams to discuss how we could partner with Microsoft to bring our innovation to our mutual customers. It’s been an amazing experience so far.

David Smith:

Right. Okay, and Jeff, just in the very short time we have left, what should a startup in Evan’s position do to get started on Azure?

Jeffrey Ma:

They should go to startups.microsoft.com, and they can get all the information they need about the program. And they should reach out to us via the website to find out more information. We’re really looking for companies that are interested in accelerating their business by selling into the enterprise, and we really think that with co-sell, which is a program which allows our sellers to retire quota against selling our partner solutions, and with, as we mentioned, the marketplace and other different reseller agreements, we really think we can help accelerate the business growth of startups, which is one of the things I think that startups struggle with.

David Smith:

Okay. Well, that’s great. Well, thanks, folks, for a great conversation, and for everybody, for more on how Azure can work to fit you and your business, visit azure.microsoft.com. And now, it’s time for a message from our featured partner, Red Hat.

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Automated Triage, Investigation and response tools

Want to learn more?

Schedule a personalized product demo to see:

  • Threat analytics, insights and reporting
  • Automated Triage, Investigation and response tools
  • Platform integrations into SIEM, SOAR
  • …and more