The Strategy Behind the Startup Madness

Ratinder Ahuja

Ratinder Ahuja

June 16, 2017

Welcome to ShieldX and our Blog. This inaugural post provides insight into ShieldX, the company, its mission and how ShieldX is able to offer, within only 18 months, a validated, market-changing innovation with market-renowned recognition as a Gartner 2017 Cool Vendor in Cloud Security.

The Madness

In nature, conditions change and can dramatically impact mankind. That change is not under our control, only how we respond to it. Similarly, in business, mega trends emerge that dramatically impact markets. This is the source of opportunity for some, and a path to oblivion for others.

“Cloud computing” adoption is a mega trend that has been in play for several years now and it impacts most organizations today. Clouds are highly agile and orchestrated across compute, storage and networking. This agility creates demand for equally agile, elastic, high performance, orchestrated and converged security solutions so that enterprise multi-cloud adoption can happen with infrastructure and information protection without sacrificing the promise of Cloud.

Problem is, network security appliances as delivered by incumbent vendors today are incapable of adhering to cloud principles such as performance, elasticity, pricing models, automation and multi-tenancy. These appliances are constrained by expensive and complex hardware elements such as ASICS, FPGAs, backplanes, line cards, and complex chassis units, as well as extensive system engineering skills needed to get these solutions certified to sell and deploy across the globe.

Alas, the mega trend of cloud computing is claiming these custom hardware systems as a one of its many victims. And we understand that well because the ShieldX team has built and sold many of these systems over the past few decades.

To escape the madness, an element of madness is required. The madness of innovation to create a solution that thrives where traditional physical and virtual network security appliances are failing is germane to the inception of ShieldX.

The Strategy

I like to call the way a startup brings a solution to market the “Progress Cycle.” The Progress Cycle begins when entrepreneurs with a deep understanding of a market and the vision to foresee how emerging trends impact that market, then take steps to capitalize on that knowledge. They begin by establishing a core mission which focuses on delivering value to customers who will be impacted by those trends.

To succeed, the visionary entrepreneur also must have the necessary execution skills to establish a competitive unit, amass appropriate resources, innovate to build the offering and finally, to profitably position that offering in the market.

This process is fraught with danger if the entrepreneur and team lack the necessary knowledge, vision and execution skills to realize the mission. Strategy dictates that the only way to compensate for any lack is to stay agile. The successful entrepreneur needs to rapidly and continually perfect the various steps of the Progress Cycle until the mission is achieved.

The ShieldX Progress Cycle

To address the market challenge and our mission to offer effective Cloud security, the ShieldX founding team brings has a deep knowledge of cloud, networking and security. We saw a growing impedance mismatch between how existing network security appliances are operationalized and how clouds and cloud applications are deployed.

We learned from our continual interactions with enterprise customers who are actively adopting clouds, IaaS and SaaS providers, ISPs, Telco’s and MSPs. We’ve refined our knowledge of the market, our vision, and our execution and positioning. Throughout 2016, we did quarterly alpha releases in conjunction with our early adopters and joint development partners.

And we constantly adhered to the strategy principle of agility to ensure we didn’t stray from our core mission of enabling customers to adopt clouds with ShieldX by providing them with a Defense-in-Depth security model that was built from the ground up to protect those environments.

The Results – The ShieldX Wheel of Re-incarnation

I would like to share some of the reasoning behind why I started ShieldX Networks. This is my 5th startup: Internet Junction (Cisco Systems acquired 1995), WebStacks (Extreme Networks acquired 2001), Reconnex (McAfee acquired 2008), RaGaPa (investor and board member) and now ShieldX in 2015. This may lead you to ask – Is he a startup junkie? Needless to say, with each of these endeavors I’ve experienced the full spectrum of emotions, through each step of the process.

I’m proud to say that, from start to first release within 18 months, ShieldX is the fastest startup I’ve known to deliver a comprehensive solution to market with innovation, quality and direct customer input. Its approach to network security for the multi-cloud based on leveraging constructs such as microservices, containers, horizontal scaling, fast connectivity, APIs, orchestration, cloud economics and rapid time-to-service is a complete redesign of how network security is deployed into the reality of today’s multi-cloud environments.

Many organizations have security strategies and workflows that have network security controls deeply embedded. Regulatory regimes require security that cannot effectively be provided on the endpoint. Diversity makes for a stronger ecosystem, and having a blend of both endpoint- and network-based controls provides a stronger, more diverse security ecosystem. We are solving a problem that is more than just a cool engineering puzzle. It truly needs to be solved.

We know that our customers depend on network security controls, so we are committed to providing them with these capabilities, despite the enormous challenges posed by the shift to Cloud.

I am grateful to our team and our customers for their part in our journey to industry recognition, and I’m looking forward to the path forward.