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Security Startups: In Focus With indeni Founder and CEO Yoni Leitersdorf

Security Startups Feature

Company: indeni  |  Who: Yoni Leitersdorf, Founder and CEO

Indeni's solution focuses on automated network security devices monitoring. In other words, they look at the firewall from the operational point of view. Yoni Leitersdorf, Ideni’s CEO, likened it to the car’s constant checkup – ensuring it is running, that the gears are in good shape, and that the tires are inflated. In the following interview, Yoni sat down with SecurityWeek to tell more about what led him to found Indeni. 

SecurityWeek: How did you start out in the computer field and in particular, security?

Photo of Yoni_Leitersdorf

Yoni: I started meddling with computers when I was seven years-old and started programming a year later. I found work in programming –making an actual salary – at the age of thirteen. I began as a Q&A engineer at a certain startup. I then got involved in more startups and eventually became a software developer. After completing high school, I joined the IDF’s Intelligence Unit 8200. The 8200 unit is a large unit, whereas I was stationed at one of its branches which takes a look at military intelligence from an information security perspective. I spent five years there, starting as a software developer and finished as a team leader and project manager.

In fact, one of the projects I worked on won the Israeli Security prize given by the president. During those five years, I learned the different aspects of information security – from concepts to algorithms and implementation, the different products that were available then to the market, and how they were being used. In short, the entire range.

When I left the military, I joined Checkpoint where I was a Project and Product Manager for 1.5 years. I was responsible there for Checkpoint’s IPS-Blade product which meant requirement collection, implementation as well as the release of the IPS-Blade as a product. In 2009 I left CheckPoint to found Indeni.

SecurityWeek: What brought you to found Indeni?

Yoni: The general idea was quite simple when Zak Rubinstein – Indeni’s co-founder and VP Sales – and myself started out. We had one mission: how do we make the lives of firewall administrators easier? The idea came as I saw firewall admins working with different products, yet still encountering the same problems which is… they’re human. As a human, it’s difficult to deal with the workload required from the firewall admin. Normally, if you can’t deal with the workload – then that’s it. But in the case of firewalls, if something occurs, there’s a huge revenue loss to the organization. So every little mistake costs quite a lot and results in additional frustration to firewall admins.

SecurityWeek: What does Indeni do?

Yoni: We address firewall admins and their workload. Indeni takes the pain out of dealing with firewall devices on a daily basis. It monitors these devices in a way that no other tool does. Our product is capable of pulling-in data from the darkest corners of those devices. It uses the very advanced knowledge-base of possible issues and misconfiguration in order to analyze that data. Finally, it produces alerts that tell the users what issues they are experiencing at the moment – or maybe even at a future point – and how to resolve it. The end result is that Indeni predicts downtime and avoids it.

SecurityWeek: What is your business model?

Yoni: We’ve decided to replicate the business model which works so successfully for other vendors. We work with channel partners, distributors, system integrators, and VARS (value-added reseller). We offer two models: one perpetual license and service cost from the second year onwards. The second model is an annual subscription.

SecurityWeek: Who are your competitors?

Yoni: Existing tools that are used to monitor networks. These particular tools are used in the field also to monitor security devices even though they‘re not equipped to do that.

SecurityWeek: Who are your investors?

Yoni: Sequoia Capital.

SecurityWeek: What are your markets?

Yoni: Our main areas are in the US, UK and northern Europe. And in Israel, of course. We plan now to expand more in the US, the rest of Europe as well as South America.

SecurityWeek: How many employees do you have?

Yoni: Nearly 20, and we’re currently hiring.

SecurityWeek: What do you look for when you hire?

Yoni: Someone who would fit well with the team and wants to grow. We look for someone who can be independent when needed – autodidact in many cases, loyal, trustworthy.

SecurityWeek: At the startup’s early stages, what does being a co-founder involve?

Yoni: It’s basically starting out everything. Taking part in the code writing, product requirements collections, finding that first company and even investing with my own money.

SecurityWeek: How did you go about finding that first company?

Yoni: I knew to start with a customer that would agree with the perception and would work with me to define the first product. Within a few months of leaving CheckPoint, I found that new customer – Leumi Card in Israel. They’re amazingly visionary and innovative in the way they see things, as well as with their technology. They’re always looking for places to improve- which is how they got to us. They started working with us and in March 2010, they received an alpha version of the product. Immediately they recognized the product’s value and in November 2010, they became Indeni’s first banking customer.

SecurityWeek: Can you share any tips for other entrepreneurs starting their own business?

Yoni: Talk to a lot of people and consult with them. Learn from them but also remember that your road is going to be different. People in general tend not to see a different future from the present. So, if you’re going to come to a person and say that what the future going to look like, people will disagree just because it doesn’t currently exist. You’ve got to take that in to account. Second, I think it’s important to realize that it’s all about people. It sounds trite, as everybody says it and you read it in blogs and books. But it really is all about who joins the team, and the people you decide to work with – both as customers and as partners. If you choose the right people you have a greater chance of succeeding.

SecurityWeek: What is your greatest challenge as an entrepreneur?

Yoni: The biggest challenge is having big aspirations and the ability of a startup. Were we a hundred times bigger, we could get this product to every point across the globe. Because we’re not, we need to scale the company to get to everywhere we need to get. Our minds run a lot faster than time.

SecurityWeek: How do you deal with all the “naysayers” along the way?

Yoni: I take what they say because the criticism might be beneficial, but I learn to detach it from the negativism.

SecurityWeek: Other than yours, what’s your favorite start-up (whether in security or not)?

Yoni: Panaya. They help customers- enterprises of all sizes- to upgrade their SAP installations. They managed to SaaS-ify a business that is known to be slow, expensive and painful to many customers.

Note: For such a short company name, I kept warping its pronunciation. Whether it was the emphasis on the second or third syllables, or turning the ‘i’ into a ‘y’. (The correct way: think of it as “in Denny’s” – just without the ‘s’). I had to know where this name came from. I found it very amusing and would like to share with you Yoni’s response: “We needed a name so we took 10,000 words in English and translated them through an online service to all the European languages and checked the ".com" of each result. indeni came out to be a word in Danish that meant "inside" and the ".com" was available. Years later we found out there's no such word in Danish.”

Noa is a private consultant specializing in building thought leadership teams within tech companies. She is one of SecurityWeek’s first columnists with previous columns focusing on trends in the threat landscape. Her current interest lie on the business-side of security. Noa has worked for Imperva as a Sr. Security Strategist and before that, as a Sr. Security Researcher. She holds a Masters in Computer Science (specializing in information security) from Tel-Aviv University.