It seems like every week there's some new high profile data breach. Credit card numbers, addresses, nude photos, Democratic National Committee emails—you name it, hackers have stolen it.
Amit Saha, the CEO of Saviynt Inc, the El Segundo-based security vendor, said the problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic, with so many people working from home and using their personal computers to access corporate networks.
For Saha and his company's 750 employees, that's created a lot of work—and an opportunity. Saviynt announced Monday that they've secured $130 million in capital financing from HPS Investment Partners and PNC Bank to expand their cybersecurity SaaS technology. It's a big bet that the pandemic-fueled demand can help them build a more global company.
The principle behind the tech: trust no one. "Whenever someone is presenting an identity—claiming who they are—we do not trust the credentials they provide," said Saha. "Rather, we factor in all the different attributes. Where are they logging in from? How frequently are they accessing? What are they trying to access? Based on all those factors we decide what is the right level of trust we need to impart."
This concept of verifying identities and controlling who has access to what is paramount to maintaining network security.
Data breaches can start, he said, with something as simple as a contract HVAC worker clicking on a suspicious link and inadvertently installing ransomware on his home computer. Suddenly, hackers have a portal to a corporate network.
"That contractor's access got compromised and that compromise, in turn, leads to compromise on some other access," said Saha. "The hackers are able to hop from one system to another until they got to the right set of resources, which in turn leads to breach of sensitive data or in some cases breach of your IP. The IP could be a movie…without naming names," he said in what seemed to be a nod to the infamous 2014 hack of Sony Pictures.
Saha said the funs will help the company expand to new geographic markets. The company has a strong presence in North America and India, and much of the new cash is earmarked to help them build up a presence in other countries.
Additionally, some of the funds will be used to invest in system integration partners like Deloitte, who help to install Saviynt's technology on corporate networks, many of which are cloud-based and require extremely fast response times and greater degrees of scalability than traditional on-premise networks.
The rest of the money will go towards research and development as the company seeks to bring new products to market that allow the company to verify human and machine identities across networks.
If the company has its way, their "Zero Trust" philosophy could help companies like Sony, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Yahoo, or Alibaba, or Marriott, or AdultFriend Finder, or Adobe, avoid another embarrassing breach.
"We are all about, 'how do we secure the person's access?'" Saha said. "How do we assure that people accessing that resource are the right people and that they're behaving the right way?'"
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On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Alejandro Guerrero talks about transitioning from running his own startup to entering the venture capital world.
Guerrero met his soon-to-be business partner, Michael Stilton, at UCLA. Soon after, Stilton invited him to start a venture capital fund even though neither were looking to be venture capitalists.
Guerrero became a partner at Act One Ventures, a community focused early-stage fund leading pre-seed and seed rounds in ecommerce infrastructure, vertical SaaS and fintech companies.
"I got here because at some point in my life, in multiple points in my life, somebody who didn't owe me anything saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and opened the door for me. And not only did they open the door, they walked me through the door. They told me how to think when I got through the other side," Guerrero said.
For Guerrero, entering the world of venture capital was hard because of the lack of people in the industry who looked like him. He was a first-generation kid who came from a low-income home. He wanted to bring other underrepresented communities in.
Guerrero said he was deeply moved by the death of George Floyd, which inspired him to author the "diversity rider," a promise that VCs add language to their term sheets that states the startup and lead investor will make every effort to bring on traditionally underrepresented individuals on as co-investors.
"If we're sitting here hoping that someone is going to come and save us or save our community for us, we're tripping," Guerrero said. "If that was going to happen, it would have happened by now and it's not happening. I just didn't want this moment to be like a gun shooting in America where it's like thoughts and prayers," he added.
Guerrero noted that founders actually have more control than they think about who they bring into their rounds.
He also shared insights on how Act One Ventures operates: They are light touch investors and believe in mostly getting out of the way of the entrepreneur, but also leaning heavily on bringing in their network of advisors and LPs to work with portfolio companies as needed.
dot.LA Audience Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.Want to hear more of L.A. Venture? Listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
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It is a frustrating but not uncommon issue in the workplace: an employee approaches a task, but they are unsure of how to complete it. Maybe they're a new hire who hasn't been shown how, or they haven't done the task in a while.
The problem's bigger than you might think. Workers spend nearly 20% of their work week seeking help in performing specific tasks, according to a report from McKinsey Global Institute. That's a huge concern for workplace productivity.
Tango, a Los Angeles-based startup, aims to offer a solution by making it easy to create how-to guides as a resource for employees. The company, which brands itself as a "workflow intelligence platform," raised a $5.7 million seed round this week. It had previously been bootstrapped by its founders.
Wing Venture Capital led the round, with General Catalyst, GSV Ventures, Outsiders Fund, Red Sea Ventures and a number of angel investors also participating.
Tango sees an opening as tech companies become more reliant on a growing number of software-as-a-service companies to improve their workflow.
Tango co-founders, from left, Dan Giovacchini, Ken Babcock and Brian Shultz
Users can use Tango's browser extension to record their screens as they demonstrate how to complete a task. As the application records, it also automatically creates a how-to guide, complete with screenshots.
Once the recording is complete, Tango allows users to edit the guide if needed. The user is then left with a video and a guide that can then be exported as a PDF or converted into code for embedding on webpages and wikis, allowing companies flexibility in how employees can access the guides.
Because it's a browser extension, Tango currently only supports applications within browsers. However, it plans to develop a product that goes beyond the browser.
Tango's three co-founders, Ken Babcock, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz, are all former Harvard Business School students who dropped out in March 2020 to start the company, which has grown from three to 13 employees since its founding.
The initial idea for Tango was fairly different; it had the working title of "Twitch for work" and revolved around the idea of watching a company's highest performers while they work. Babcock, who is the CEO, said the mission of the company that evolved from this idea is represented well by its name.
"A lot of our founding story is kind of rooted in this idea of mentorship," Babcock said. "I think what we liked about 'Tango' is, you say tango, people are always like, 'Oh, it takes two to tango!' It's a dance where someone is leading and someone is following."
Other companies have tried to make the creation of tutorials simpler, including Camtasia, which aids in the creation of video tutorials specifically. Documentation tools such as Bit.ai have been helping companies create tutorials for software for years. Still, Babcock said he doesn't feel that Tango has any direct competitors.
"We felt that a step-by-step how-to guide actually would have several advantages over video: cutting through the fluff, the ability to follow at your own pace, and from the creator's perspective, fewer re-dos and awkward pauses," said Babcock. "These capabilities really differentiate Tango from every other technology [available]."
Tango is not expected to officially launch until September, but a few companies have already been using its system as pilot customers, including real estate service Bungalow and recruiting platform Dover. Babcock said the departments that could benefit most from a product like Tango are customer success and sales enablement.
With the new round, Tango plans to hire, execute a product-led growth strategy and build upon their customer support functions. Also on the roadmap is expanding the product to offer more services; what those services will be is currently unclear, but Babcock said the company is far from its limit.
"The initial product is about saving people time and creating documentation," said Babcock. "Once you have organizations using Tango, creating workflows, sharing them internally, you unlock a really rich data set about how people are working, what those best practices are, who might need help. The future state of Tango, the way we think about it, is a coaching platform."
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