Prasad Parthasarathi is Director & Global Head for Cybersecurity Investments and M&A at Cisco Investments. His team is responsible for sourcing, qualifying, and transacting multi-stage venture investments as well as end-to-end M&A execution in Cybersecurity. Prior to Cisco, Prasad led multiple M&A transactions in large cap technology companies and was instrumental in EDS’ $14B sale to HP. Prasad earned an MBA from Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad and held Corporate Finance and Advisory stints in Singapore and India.
The Problem Statement
“If a thief breaks into your home, they’re not looking for your invaluable dirty laundry or worn shoes. They’re looking for your valuables.”
It is with this same cold clarity that Rehan Jalil, CEO at Securiti, views sensitive assets and sensitive data – the ‘crown jewel’ that enterprises maniacally strive to protect, regulators incessantly govern, and attackers perpetually covet.
However, while the importance of meeting all the security, privacy and compliance obligations that come with sensitive data is unquestionable, it has proven to be elusive. One big reason is that in the past, the issues of security, privacy, governance and compliance for sensitive assets and data have been addressed in separate silos. Legacy architectures have proven to be ill-equipped to handle all these needs, particularly at today’s hyperscale environments with data across hundreds of different types of data systems.
So, when enterprises started transitioning sensitive data to public clouds, Jalil and his team at Securiti recognized an opportunity to completely redefine the way security, privacy and regulatory controls would function seamlessly across multi-cloud, SaaS and SASE networks.
“It was a really big, big problem to solve,” says Jalil, “and this is the team that, frankly, can solve the problem.”
The Infamous First Slide
When sitting down with the Securiti team for the first time, they warned me right off the bat that they were taking an unprecedented approach. The first slide of their investor pitch deck revealed a big “no-no” in the VC world: a platform-first approach.
Typically, this would have most investors running for the hills. That’s because investors want startups who focus on the problem first, solving for specific use cases with a clear “tip of the spear.” However, the Securiti team laid out a strong case: “If we really want to break down silos between security, privacy, and compliance, we need to build from the ground up. We need to understand how everything all ties together to tell a complete story first.”
So, with the support and trust of their investors, that’s exactly what the Securiti team did. After a year of stealth development, Jalil and the Securiti team finally lifted the veil on their new disruptive architecture, revealing a security platform that brought together six initial products. As it turned out, the wait was well worth it.
Driving Data Privacy from the Flintstone Car into the Tesla Age
With the platform established, the Securiti team was now ready to tackle a major pain point for customers: privacy compliance.
“In our customer discussions, we learned that privacy compliance was predominantly an archaic manual exercise, driven by surveys, interviews and checkmarks. We knew there was a better way – one that was centered on a real-time understanding of personal data and automation and would take privacy beyond surveys and checkmarks,” says Jalil.
With Securiti’s new PrivacyOps solution, CISOs, Chief Privacy Officers (CPOs), compliance and legal officers could now forego spreadsheets and complement manual methods of managing privacy compliance — an upgrade analogous to trading in a Fred Flintstone car for Tesla’s Model X. This proved to be a gamechanger, but the Securiti team wasn’t done yet.
Envisioning the Future of Zero-Trust Data Protection in Multi-Cloud
After tackling privacy compliance, the Securiti team turned their attention to their next use cases: data security and governance. They saw this as a logical next step because “without data and sensitive asset security, there is no data privacy. If your sensitive data is compromised, all bets are off with regards to privacy obligations”, says Jalil.
When it comes to securing sensitive assets and data, however, today’s legacy solutions are no match for dynamic and hyperscale cloud environments with petabytes of ever-changing data. Securiti’s new solution for a distributed security perimeter around multicloud data addresses these challenges.
“You need a common view of sensitive data and to be able to track it whether it’s passing through SASE, sitting in the cloud, shared over an API, shared to a third-party app, being used or being moved,” says Jalil.
Reaching that future state, however, requires first a shift in the way people think about data privacy, moving from an appliance-driven approach to an API-driven mindset.
By incorporating a privacy-by-design approach, Securiti enabled customers to discover shadow data assets, establish sensitive data intelligence (Securiti SDI™), protect it from external threats and internal misuse, and comply with global data regulations.
Securiti and Cisco – Shared Roots
In Jalil’s previous role, he served as CEO at Elastica, a company that defined the Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) space and became a leader in Gartner’s CASB Magic Quadrant. In 2015, Elastica was acquired by Blue Coat and later by Symantec in a stellar M&A exit for the company and investors, including Cisco Investments.
Now with Securiti, we see an elegant complement to how Cisco envisions Zero Trust Data Protection – spanning granular discovery, classification and policy across multi-cloud and hybrid environments. We are thrilled to be investors in Securiti and partner with Jalil once again in realizing the vision of a next-gen data security architecture.
While investments are by and large transactional, Jalil has found, “that’s not true with Cisco.”
“I have pictures of the Cisco team at our booth at RSA and us at theirs from the Elastica days,” Jalil says. “Together, we told an end-to-end story of how we were creating value for customers. From product development to sales to marketing, the partnership has been phenomenal.”
As for the newest collaboration with Cisco, the company plans to prioritize multi-cloud, incorporating Cisco’s vast portfolio of firewalls, SASE, email, SaaS and XDR, all of which serve as important control points for data and will work with the platform to identify “what’s in use, what’s in the cloud, what’s in flight and provide Zero Trust Data Protection along the way,” says Jalil.
Advice for Future Founders: “Pick the Right Problems and the Right Partners.”
When asked what advice he would offer aspiring entrepreneurs, Jalil chooses two:
“First, pick big problems. Life is short, so find your passion, and don’t be afraid to break away from ‘how it’s always been done.’ So often, entrepreneurs fall into a trap of incremental changes and small steps, when really they need to build from the ground up.”
Besides picking the right problems, Jalil says it’s also about “the right partners” – having a team of highly competent people who are able to collaborate with each other while leaving their egos out of the equation. “Once you have that core competent team, not only will you do great things, but you’ll find joy in the journey. At Securiti, we are very fortunate to have that team.”
While these two elements – the right problem and the right partners – may seem simple, they are critical to building a solid foundation for success. As a serial entrepreneur, Jalil continues to prove this time and again, including at Securiti. Just in the last year, the Securiti team has won RSA’s “Most Innovative Startup” award, IAPP’s “Most Innovative Startup” Award, and Forbes’ “Top 25 Machine Learning Startup,” while also becoming a leader in the Forrester Wave.
Knowing the team behind Securiti, we were not the least bit surprised. The real question: what will they accomplish next?