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Posts Tagged ‘cylance’

Who Is Your Go To Mentor When You Don’t Have The Answer?

August 20th, 2016 Comments off

One of the staples that I have had in my career has been a mentor. Fortunately for me I was able to meet this individual and strike a good relationship, and friendship, that has lasted the better part of 20-years. He’s been there in my early career transition days where I was moving from Operations and Product Planning into a more Finance-specific track. In fact, it was his prompt that really directed me towards the Finance path I am on today.

While he has been a staple through those years, I’ve also aligned myself with people that I very much enjoyed both working with…and for. Folks that challenged me individually and people that I was able to learn from as well. There were three CFO’s in particular that I was able to work for that really challenged me and gave me all the rope I ever wanted…with the challenge presented that it would only by my actions that would cause my hanging. Fortunately I always kept the rope pretty taut…

However, as you move higher on the climb, the challenges become more pronounced and quite often the experience you bring to the table may not be sufficient to get you through the next challenge. This is when both the strength of your mentor(s), as well as the strength of your network, need to be of sufficient levels to carry you through. Each individual’s challenges will be unique, but still a minefield that needs to be walked and navigated.

In particular at Cylance, there is nobody on our team that has been through the kind of growth that we are currently realizing. From the increase in our billings, to the increase in our headcount, or the international rollout and rapid formation of subsidies. We’ve never seen anything like it, and typically have only come across it in a B-school case study. We’re living the case study right now at Cylance…

  • How do you accurately forecast growth when you continue to blow out your numbers and nobody has seen similar growth in quite some time?
  • How do you ensure that you’re preserving the culture, intimacy, and execution in the coming years that you’ve seen over the last 4-years?
  • What are your key metrics to measure and how often will those metrics evolve as the company continues to mature?
  • What are the key areas of risk that you need to have on the radar and keep a focus on regardless of how well things are going?

For someone that measures every watt, pedal stroke, and heartbeat when I’m on the bike, these are the things that I completely geek out on when measuring the performance and health of the Cylance organization. This organization is an athlete that will be continually be subjected to fine tuning and unplanned shifts. Shifts that will be influenced by our employees, our executive team, our investors, and the mentors that we all should have in place to successfully navigate a race that is ours to lose…

Who is your go to mentor when the race stakes get high?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Is Your Corporate Security Worth The Cost of a Monthly Latte?

February 18th, 2015 Comments off

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredibly sharp Finance folks, many of whom are able to deliver on their budgeted results regardless of what curveballs are thrown at them. Some are able to effectively deal with shades of grey while exhibiting a focus on what is best for the company. Others are rigid, run the company with an iron fist, and if not budgeted….it’s not going to be spent…no matter what. It’s the latter approach that I have seen quite often recently and it leaves me scratching my head as to the flawed logic that drives their actions.

As you can imagine, I’ve had the opportunity to watch our team deal with some of the most serious breaches, which are usually reported across most newswires. Breaches that could have easily been prevented, but are now going to cost companies a significant amount to repair, as well as have to rebuild their reputational goodwill with customers…or in some cases, spend more to offset the loss of critical IP.  In the midst of these breaches, I’ve seen companies argue whose budget will carry the cost of the response because it wasn’t part of the original plan. They sit and quibble about the lack of Budget dollars in the face of a breach where millions of records have been released or critical IP has been compromised.

Let’s back up though to a point in time prior to the breach. The Cylance team goes in and walks through our technology and displays its absolute effectiveness to the prospective customer. It is all too clear that our solution crushes the traditional antivirus “solution” and would either protect them from malware that has hit their competitors, or in the most optimal display, would have prevented the breach that had just occurred. They’re also shown the efficiency in which our platform operates and places a CPU load in the low single digits, which again, is at the opposite end of the traditional antivirus spectrum that typically has the CPU redlined under an attack. Let’s not even talk about the additional cost of incident response that have to be carried in the event of a breach, which is often in the range of $400-500/hr depending on the seriousness. Don’t like paying legal fees for frivolous actions? Try paying those fees when you know they could have been avoided for the cost of a latte…

As simple as this sounds, it really does come down to the cost of a latte…and this is no joke. Companies cater business lunches for “working meetings”, companies tend to get a bit loose in the wallet for other “business events”, but there is also the retort of “we don’t have any open spend for this area…”. So let me rephrase what you just said:  Are you saying that you don’t have any open spend equivalent to the cost of a coffee for each endpoint in your enterprise to ensure the security of your employee records, customer records, and critical intellectual property?

While I certainly don’t like surprises or unplanned spend, we are certainly operating in different times and need to be able to adequately protect the data and prior investments we’ve been entrusted with. It used to be a failed ERP implementation that might cost a CFO or CIO their job, but now it will likely be ineffective security spend and ineffective deployment that will cost jobs. When the situation has the absolute ability to effect revenues and jeopardize key data…the CFO has to be involved and do what is best for the business. Perhaps that’s something to consider when you’re sipping that latte during your transitional networking meetings…

Thanks for reading.

Jeffrey Ishmael

2-Years and Marking The Milestones…

July 25th, 2014 Comments off

It really is hard to believe that two years have already passed since the company was started, as well as equally amazing to see what has been accomplished during those two years. Coming in as employee #8, I still laugh at my first day sitting down with our Founder over a fold-up table in his living room when he handed me a laptop, tells me it has Quickbooks installed and if I can get payroll entered the next day. Welcome to the start-up world!

Fortunately I had already done an honest self-assessment and knew the dedication it was going to take to play a role in the building of this company and the necessary pieces I would need to put in place to have a solid foundation. I knew that I was going to have to hire people that had an equal dedication and focus. While Stuart was going to need to keep a laser focus on the product side of the house and assemble his technical “A-Team”, I was going to need to focus on everything else that would support that mission. I also knew that I was going to have to modify my approach and decrease the level of rigidity in my operational approach since we would have a heavily dynamic environment that was likely going to be changing on a constant basis. However, there needed to be one basic premise that everyone would need to operate under….Deliver what you promise. It becomes apparent, and very quickly, that there is no place to hide in a start-up.

In order for people to deliver on what was necessary we needed to have the proper tools in place. Two years later, it’s very satisfying to reflect on the systems we’ve been able to implement and track the progression of our business and the contributions of individuals. In many respects, while not the grandiose scope of SAP (thankfully), we have an incredibly robust reporting and forecasting structure that started with the implementation of Salesforce.com. We then added additional platforms that have resulted in a seamless flow of information from identification of an opportunity to final invoicing. We’re in the process of implementing additional functionality with the addition of a revenue recognition module to track what is a rapidly growing product offering.

Systems and reporting aside, how can you not be motivated to deliver when other members of the team have developed a fantastic product that is not amazing in our own minds, but being recognized throughout the industry?!?!

  • Cylance was the runner up at the 2014 RSA Innovation Sandbox program. This was only 18-months into our existence as a company. Amazing!
  • Cylance has just been named one of CRN’s 2014 Hottest Emerging Technology vendors.

When I look at the customer base that we have assembled I see a virtual mirror of the customer base that I was servicing during my time with a Schneider division that supported a variety of customer ranging from SMB’s, to Large Enterprise, and Government. We had a $125 million Services & Product business that employed over 300. While we are still on the upward revenue trajectory, it took them decades to build a quality customer base…and we’re 2-years in. Really a fantastic accomplishment!

It’s all the base hits along the way, and the reflection of those, that really keep me motivated and excited about what lays ahead for Cylance.

  • The creation of a team that is intensely focused on delivering the Cylance mission.
  • The establishment of a successful and profitable Services business
  • The creation of a truly industry disruptive technology that is already being embraced by a notable customer base.
  • The continued development of relationships with key financial partners, as well as new partners brought in during a successful Series-B.
  • Establishment and collaboration with Board level committees adding additional oversight to the business.
  • Successful onboarding of a key accounting partner for additional oversight & auditing.
  • Successful onboarding of a new Director of Human Resources and the continual building of an already successful program.

It’s been a pretty darn fantastic ride over the last two years and I can only imagine where we’ll be in another two years with the team and partners we have in place. The only thing that will limit us moving forward will be the limitations we place on ourselves and our inability to properly plan for the success ahead.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

The Value Of The CFO As An Operational Partner…

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

For those that have followed my posts over the years, I have always been a strong advocate of the CFO not just being the financial partner to other functional areas, but a true operational partner. It was great to see the recent article in CFO.com, “Double Duty”, outlining the trends of CFO’s assuming the role of COO.

http://ww2.cfo.com/leadership/2014/05/double-duty/

While some might view additional title as a bit of a “land grab”, it really comes down to the CFO’s desire to partner with the other stakeholders in the company and provide as many tools and insights, which are aimed at increasing the financial & operational performance of the company. One of the statistics mentioned in the article was the decline of the COO role at companies, which fell from 48% in 2000 to 35% in 2013. As one person interviewed mentioned, It was a layer of management that caused the CEO to be a step removed from the business at times”. While it will not always be the CFO that necessarily assumes the COO role, it will really depend on the type of company and the how specialized the underlying COO responsibilities are. However, as I have also mentioned in prior posts, it’s critical for the CFO to be involved in the daily operations of the company in order to quantify what the developments or strategy changes will mean to the Forecast and reported financial results. It’s about working with the broader team and ensuring that the deployment of resources are appropriate to support the mission at hand and that all areas are aligned in their execution. By being involved at the operational level it’s pretty easy to see where promises are being made to customers, timelines are being communicated, and expectations placed on internal resources, and if all the parties aren’t working together….then what that will mean to the actual achievement of the Forecast.

Whether my role has been at a mission critical IT infrastructure company, Retail and Apparel, or now Security, the focus has always been on ensuring that Finance is truly operating as a strategic business partner to the other functional areas. While there was always some level of resistance in the beginning, it ultimately developed into a great relationship and one that was valued on each side. In instances where that wasn’t the case, then it was usually due to underlying agendas and actions that weren’t ultimately in the best interest of the brand or company.

My involvement from an operational aspect has also been to achieve further clarity to all the inputs contributing to the achievement of the Forecast. The worst disservice a CFO can bring to an organization is to treat the forecasting process as simply a spreadsheet exercise driven by assumptions cells that are updated to provide the desired output and then push out the changes to the rest of the company. It’s about being involved and knowing if the assumptions are achievable, sustainable, and if not in the long-term, are there operational changes that can be made to ensure they are.

Part of the value I’ve always strived to bring to a company is the implementation of both financial and operational platforms that deliver sustainable results. Results that are not the product of short-term or one-time low quality deals or internal cuts, but platforms that create longer term relationships and financial results. In the end, happy customers that are properly supported by their chosen partner…us.

One of the closing points brought up in the article, and one I’ve also always tried to see realized, is the “CEO understands that the overall risk to the company will be diminished if the CFO has some direct involvement”. If you’re ultimately striving to operate in a “company first” environment, then it’s not just the CFO that can provide this value, but every member of the team.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Proactive, Reactive, & The Need To Balance Resources…

March 13th, 2014 Comments off

As we’ve recently come off a successful Series-B fundraising effort that included our original partners Khosla Ventures and Fairhaven Capital, as well as our newest partner Blackstone, it really affirmed the delicate walk we’ve managed over the last 18-months. With the initial $15 million in funding we received we knew what our mission was and the support structure we would need to have in place to make it happen. This consideration was not just to the staffing we would need to bring on, but the systems we would have in place to support our decision making.

I still remember the amusement I had when, fresh off an SAP implementation, I was given my laptop with QuickBooks installed. While that was fine for the first few months, that certainly wasn’t going to be our longer term solution. Nor was I going to pony up the dollars for an Oracle or other similar platform. With a commitment to be surgical about our spend, we mapped out what system would be needed to support our sales efforts, service deployment, as well as our financial reporting….all of which needed to be integrated. We were trying to be as proactive as possible, but new we’d have to pivot at points along the way.  We successfully brought Salesforce.com online, and with the hire of a VP of Sales, who developed the necessary criteria to report on our bookings activities. We then integrated our services management platform, which then final rolled into our financial reporting system.

However, as the business continued to mature, we found ourselves having to react to changes that forced us to pivot. We reached a point that it was necessary to extract ourselves from an early PEO commitment and bring all of our payroll and benefits administration in house.  Although we did not originally commit to the HR module, the time had come to add this on and react to our expanding business. This obviously meant more time and more money…that precious commodity we were so diligently managing. We continued to walk the path of being proactive on the critical elements, but reactive on those that we could push until the moment we actually needed to spend and weren’t creating any risk to the business.

Our earlier decisions on whether to spend proactively or reactively were put to the test during our due diligence efforts. Our earlier efforts to invest in systems have allowed us to continue operating in a very lean manner operationally. With myself and a one analyst, we were able to manage through the onslaught of document requests, additional modeling, and review of systems to achieve the final sign offs that led to our Series-B funding. Although there were some smaller operational elements that we could have fine-tuned in advance, it was a derivative of our decision to operate in a lean manner. Those elements are obviously being addressed moving forward, but do not affect our ability to service our employees, customers, or business partners.

Even now with a fresh round of funding, we will continue our prudence with spend and walk the delicate line of when we should be proactive or reactive. While it’s always preferable to head down the path of proactive decisions, it’s not always best for the company if the deployment of those resources aren’t necessarily mission critical and have an extended window for return. The one certainty…this period of early stage growth will continue to be a target rich environment!

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

18-months & Marking The Milestones…

February 4th, 2014 Comments off

While I try and provide updates on the path we’ve been on at Cylance, it’s also a bit difficult in that we are still a private entity, work in a space that demands confidentiality, and have still been in the development stages of bringing our product to full commercialization. However, there are also the sporadic announcements that allow us to celebrate and share in the recognition that this team has received. Not to mention, we are also celebrating our 18-month anniversary! While that may not seem like a major point, in the world of start-ups, it’s definitely a milestone to move past…as will be 2-years…and then 5-years!

It’s definitely felt like a path measured in dog years, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and made easier due to the quality of our team. Coming in as employee #7, it’s been quite a ride to the 60-employees we now have. We’ve lost a few along the way, but then again, not everyone is wired for the pace that start-up life represents. There is no free lunch…you want to eat…you need to go find your prey. While we practiced it at DC Shoes, the life of a start-up demands that you deliver on what you promise….and there is no place to hide. But when you have a solid team and you’ve hired the right folks, there’s little need to hide….we’ve all been getting it done.

That “deliver on what you promise attitude” has recently resulted in Cylance being named a finalist for the RSA Innovation Sandbox program, which is dedicated to encouraging out of the box ideas and the exploration of new technologies that have the potential to transform the information security industry. What is exciting is participating with a team that has truly created a disruptive approach to how companies can deploy and manage their security. We talk about “disruptive” companies in business school, but it’s a completely different view to actually be in the midst of one. While we are still a few weeks out from RSA, the team is full throttle and focused.

As we move into our next phase, the external recognition bestowed on the team provides a nice boost as we keep the pace high. While we all know what we need to deliver, it’s always nice hearing from those outside the circle that you’re achieving what was previously believed to be impossible.

Hats off to the team and I’m truly looking forward to the coming years and participating in the continued evolution of Cylance.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Do You Have a Compass For Your Journey…?

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve written before about the criticality of having  not only the right systems in place, but having them planned and configured in a manner that will yield the highest quality information that you can use to make your daily decisions. Although I have always worked in relatively lean environments and have always had to have a strong level of self-sufficiency, I’ve come to appreciate the quality of good information even more working in a start-up environment and having to ensure that every resource deployed ($$$) is being done so in the most productive manner.

For our company, our biggest asset, or conversely, our biggest liability, is the people that have come to work for us. We are still a small enough company that every hire must not only have the appropriate experience and skills, but also be able to integrate in with the rest of the team. Even then, the need to hire must be quantified as much as possible and have the appropriate data and long-term plan to support each new position. While this might seem a pretty simple and somewhat rhetorical point of view, its application is a bit harder in a start-up environment. While there has always been the specific business plan in place, many of the early hires were done so at a “gut” level with the belief that they would support the mission and make the necessary contributions.

As the company has moved from living room start-up to growing revenues, it’s been extremely satisfying to be able to have the data that honestly supports the hiring of new positions. Data that is the product of systems that were planned, implemented, and have evolved with the growth of the company. Data that looks at everything from the opportunity pipeline that Sales is working on, to projects currently being scheduled for delivery, the manner in which our consultants are spending their time, to the necessary time our consultants support the Sales team.

We can now look at the time that our folks are spending on both internal and external projects and make informed decisions on when to hire and what specific skills need to be hired in order to support the current team and developing opportunities. It’s certainly a win for the entire team when you can make a decision that is based on data and not based on gut or hope that an expected event will transpire. Although the timing may not always be ideal and the existing team might be taxed a bit longer, you’re ensuring that when the resources are finally deployed and you bring in a new employee that they will be there for the long haul and become part of the “family”.  After all, working in a start-up is no cakewalk and it’s the long days, accomplishments, and team camaraderie that ultimately deliver the success that everyone shares in.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Start-Up Fun. A Fiscal Year Review…

July 25th, 2013 Comments off

I think I have been living the adage of “time flies when you’re having fun…”.  I realized yesterday that it had been almost a full two months since my last blog entry and I was a bit mortified. Especially when I try and keep a strong discipline in all aspects of my life. However, when I look back on what has been happening the last 60-days, it’s easy to see how that could have happened. With the final wrap-up of an ERP implementation and the closing of our first fiscal year, it’s been a crazy few months. But it’s not just the last few months, it’s the satisfaction of looking back over the last year and seeing what we have been able to accomplish as a team. While I’m obviously not going to share financial results or product development achievements, the growth and operational achievements are something for the team to be proud of.

When I first started with Cylance, we were all of 7 employees, I was given a laptop with Quickbooks installed on it, and the company had signed on with a PEO to administer our payroll and benefits. The company’s founder, Stuart McClure, had just started to implement his vision and we were working out of a living room. At that point, you couldn’t have asked for a cleaner slate to move the company forward. Fast forward to now and you realize how much of a transformation this company has gone through.

While I continued to use Quickbooks for a short amount of time, we put tremendous effort into bringing a sales management platform online to manage the opportunities we were already seeing coming into the company. Once we had the confidence we had effectively installed the first phase of our automation, we moved on to implement an additional platform aimed at the management of our professional services business. How do you make effective business decisions if you don’t have the ability to measure your business? A rhetorical question I know, but those needs can easily be lost in a hectic start-up environment. Once we were about halfway through that effort, we already knew that we were going to have to upgrade the Finance side of the house so we could have seamless integration of all three platforms. Hence, the process started to interview ERP candidates. I started having bad flashbacks to the SAP implementation I had carved myself out of a year prior. However, we aligned ourselves with a great partner and the calendar was set to bring the final piece online. As with everything else, we committed to the calendar and executed to the exact day and brought all elements of the business online with platforms that will support us for years to come.

Time for a break…right? Not even close. The next big step, with a VERY underestimated effort of what it would take, was to extract ourselves from our PEO parent on payroll and benefits and bring that entire effort in house. This might have been more painful than the SAP implementation, but a worthwhile endeavor. Again, a full interviewing of partner candidates. In the end, we were able to achieve savings, enhance our benefits offering to employees, and be the master of our destiny with regards to program management. We successfully brought our benefits offering online and on time, as well as bringing all payroll processing internal.

What a year it’s been. But wait…there’s more. Toss in the scouting for a new corporate office, 3 different office moves before we settled permanently, an increase in our employee count from 7 to 60, the development of a remarkable team, customer base, and marketing results that would make most established companies envious. Ok, now for a break….right?

We’re not just knocking on the door of our 2014 fiscal year, but we’re kicking it in. It’s still a target rich environment and the task list is longer than Santa’s naughty & nice list in December. At the end of the day, you need to look back on the day, the week, and ultimately, the last year and feel satisfaction with what you’ve accomplished. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart and you need to stay motivated and driven. It’s easy to stay that way when you have a mission you’re committed to and a team that is equally committed.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

When Everyone Is Your New BFF…

February 22nd, 2013 Comments off

As I had announced in my last posting, Cylance had officially launched, and with that news came additional details on our Board of Directors, Advisors, and the funding that we had secured. More specifically, $15 million that have been secured through two of the top VC firms, Khosla Ventures and Fairhaven Capital Partners. Now keep in mind, while we are still technically a start-up, there is no shortage of work and structure that needs to be in place to secure this kind of funding. The last I checked, you just don’t go knocking on a few doors and hope that someone writes you an 8-figure check.

I’m also not going to go into the details of our current structure, but I get a bit of a chuckle seeing the onslaught of marketing materials that we have received since our launch. You would think that in one fell swoop we had just filed our fictitious business name statement and only moments later had already sold the company for a HUGE payday. To start things off, there were countless solicitations for real estate representation and wanting to help us find our future home. Check. Already have that covered through a long established and trusted network. The next onslaught would be best characterized as the recruiter onslaught. With a management team that has decades of experience in cyber security then they better be able to recruit from within their own network. Check. We are already solidly moving forward with an A-grade team. Next you wonder? A myriad of folks who want to help us navigate the stormy waters of insurance coverage. Check. Already have that covered as well through our long established and trusted network. Whether workers’ comp or D&O, it we don’t have that in place we have no business being in the positions we are.

The next wave of solicitations was even more amusing. As you know, when you start a company you are destined for riches and it might as well be a slam dunk. It’s a good thing that we started receiving all the literature now on what to do with the vast wealth that will occur at some assured time in the future. Again, this is an area where I wouldn’t trust anyone I didn’t already know and was a trusted advisor or source in the past. I just have to wonder what kind of success these firms have by reading the paper, assembling an envelope of marketing filler, throwing on some postage and dropping it in the mail. In the Finance world, unless you have a unique value proposition that will help me improve my results, in a sustainable way, and isn’t offered by my existing trusted network…then you’ll have a long line to wait in.

As our work and efforts require, we secure our business on trusted relationships and a definitive expertise that we bring to the table and not a glossy brochure. A unique value & protection proposition that our customers can plainly see. What are you bringing to the table…?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Cylance, Inc. Launches & Comes Out of Stealth Mode…!

February 13th, 2013 Comments off

Cylance, Inc. today formally announced $15 million in funding from Khosla Ventures and Fairhaven Capital, along with the Board of Directors and Advisors that have been put in place to help guide the company for the years ahead. While this day is merely the culmination of months of hard work by a team I have come to admire over the last 7-months, it still feels fantastic to take a day and celebrate the accomplishments of the team and what we have to look forward to. The full details of the press release can be found on our website at www.cylance.com .

A bigger affirmation for the mission and future of this company are the backers and advisors that have come on board. Khosla Ventures was founded by Vinod Khosla in 2004 where he was formerly a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins, as well as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Fairhaven Capital is a venture capital firm focused on themes in the enterprise, physical technologies, media infrastructure, and security markets. Both are neither strangers to technology, nor are they a stranger to the talent and abilities of Stuart McClure, the founder of Cylance.

In addition to the funding, Stuart has been able to assemble an incredibly high caliber Board of Directors and Advisors with additions that include Patrick Heim, former Kaiser Permanente CSO and now Chief Trust Officer at Salesforce.com, Admiral William J. Fallon, U.S. Navy (Retired) former Commander, U.S. Central and U.S. Pacific Commands, and Alex Doll, former co-founder and COO of PGP who sold to Symantec in 2010, who will guide the Company to achieve its goals. With this Board pedigree, Cylance has a deep and diverse team to help guide the Company. An equally talented Board of Advisors brings together a diverse group of experts to solve the complex security problems that the industry currently faces. Advisors include: Paul Forney (Invensys), David Willson (Army/NSA), Shane Shook (KPMG/PwC), Robert Bigman (CIA), Stewart Baker (Steptoe/NSA), Alex Nazaruk (GetCo), Michael Rauchman (GetCo), Eric Culp (formerly of ESRI), and Joseph Gabbert (formerly of McAfee and EMC).

The team here at Cylance has an incredible opportunity, and a fantastic level of support to carry out the mission at hand. As I’ve written in previous posts, it’s all about delivering on what you promise and driving high levels of performance. With the team and backing that has been assembled, this is merely the first step. There’s more to come, but it feels great to formally step out from behind the curtain and share more detail about what has been assembled for the future.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael