Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is The BusinessMakers Show. My guest today is Joe Alapat, Co-founder and CEO of Liongard. Joe welcome to The BusinessMakers.
Joe: Thank you for having us Russ.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Liongard.
Joe: Liongard is really a culmination of the last 20 years of being in IT. Both me and my Co-founder Vincent Tran managed IT for large environments like the Department of Defense, large banks in the U.S., Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo here in Houston as well as small and mid-sized businesses and from that vantage we saw a very big transformation in the last 20 years. Where IT used to be about a data center and about laptops where now we’re seeing IT be everywhere; it’s in the Cloud, it’s on our smartphone.
There’s a Cloud explosion that’s happening – app explosion – and really what we’ve seen with that is that business is getting so much value out of all of this technology where IT now is having a real struggle to manage all of this complexity. And so while this near exponential rate of improvement has happened with adoption, our capability to manage has grown at this linear pace where we’re throwing a body and a tool at every problem. The end result is a huge gap; that gap results in those data breaches that we’re seeing in the headlines at an increasing rate. So that’s really the problem that we’re seeing and what we believe is that there needs to be a better way to address this linear problem.
And we meet with IT teams all the time and although they have this bad rap for being rough on the outside they’re well-meaning folks. These teams are really looking out for the best interests of their users, of their customers, and they’re struggling and they want to make that leap. And so what we feel at Liongard is there has to be a new way and that’s what we’ve been building is a software platform that gives them this leap; that gives them this advanced automation and access to all this information that shouldn’t take 2 to 3 hours to do a simple task. They get it at their fingertips in one dashboard.
Russ: Wow that sounds interesting. The question that comes to my mind right away though is do the IT leaders acknowledge it’s changed so much that it’s kind of getting out of our reach?
Joe: That’s kind of the dirty little secret that these IT teams are overwhelmed but they have to showcase that they have confidence. But when you talk to them and when you really get down into the details they’re struggling and they want to do better. The issue is that they don’t have the technology or the capability and as you see in the headlines there’s a lack of cyber security talent out there, so if you don’t have the resources and you don’t have the tools how do you address this? So they do recognize it. They’re not going to tell you that up front because they have to showcase confidence, but when you get down to it they want a better way of doing business.
Russ: Right, right. It just seems to make sense too as it’s become so dispersed and gone to the Cloud and gone to our portable devices too that cyber security is – it’s easier to come in and violate the system which is just scary quite frankly.
Joe: Yes, it’s a lot of surface area and it’s very compelling for a business to say you know what, Salesforce is the best thing for me right now because it will improve my sales organization. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s a good decision, the issues is that every choice that we make creates surface area. And what we believe is that the businesses should be able to make those decisions without increasing their risk and we believe that the IT teams should have the ability to protect and manage that and say great decision, I have a way to manage that for you, go for it.
Russ: Okay. My favorite cyber security guy that I heard speak one time – he was on a panel that I was moderating, from IBM actually – and he said companies really fall into two categories when it comes to cyber security. It’s those that have been hacked and know it and those that have been hacked and don’t know it and it was real revealing to me. It’s difficult to keep out some of these people, but you’re saying with your platform and your system you’ve increased the odds that you can keep them out or you can keep them our completely?
Joe: The challenge with cyber security it’s an issue of who has the capabilities and right now it’s tipped in favor of the intruder; it’s tipped in favor of the attacker. And what we’re looking to do is turn that seesaw effect and turn the odds in favor, and let’s stack that deck in favor of the folks that are trying to protect the infrastructure. The way that you do that is you should have immediate access to all of the information that tells you where your weaknesses are and you should be able to act on that in a rapid fashion.
Today if you ask a typical large organization, an enterprise IT organization, they’re going to have trouble telling you this is my critical weakness. And when an attacker comes in and they want to compromise your environment where you spent $100,000.00 they will go elsewhere. They are going to find your weakness. So the struggle that IT is facing is to go wide and to cast a net on the whole thing and say we’re going to approach this as all boats rise with the tide, so we’re going to lift the tide up incrementally and make this progressively more difficult for someone who wants to do you harm. To let them struggle, let them make it difficult and for us we see a breach as actually an opportunity.
You have 100 ways to disrupt that breach rather than looking at it from you can only misstep in one way and that one misstep will result in a catastrophe. The way to look at it is well I could have disrupted that in 20 or 30 different ways. And realistically you can and we’re exposing that; we’re automating that, we’re making that easy to understand so that it’s at the fingertips of not the super guru but the IT teams day by day who are dealing with this so that they can make the right decisions.
Russ: Would you say also that the fact that the surface levels – the amount of surface has increased so substantially now that maybe IT staffs are underfunded or that they need more people than they have?
Joe: Yes. Everyone need another 3 to 5 headcount, they need that extra tool that they wish they had to solve this one problem and so our solution to that is why don’t we automate some of this? Why don’t we simplify some of this? Why don’t we enable the teams that are there to be more efficient and more effective? And so that’s our solution to it and to really – our belief is that this security voodoo and all this technology expertise is actually simple stuff. You just have to deliver it in a user experience that makes it understandable; that says that’s actually not so bad, I get it and let me go fix that issue and address it. And those are meaningful changes that will protect you from not just a breach but an outage or a flood coming in that will take down a data center.
Russ: We know what that’s all about, absolutely. Real interesting, so how old is Liongard?
Joe: We founded it in 2015 and from that point forward we’ve really been working on the platform. It’s been a big undertaking. And so we’re right at the cusp of going to market right now, so our hope is that folks are going to hear about Liongard. And we’re actually actively now selling the solution first to IT service providers who are managing a large number of these small midsize businesses and midmarket businesses and eventually to go to larger entities that have the same problems in managing IT and scale.
Russ: Okay and you’re officing at Station Houston right?
Joe: Yes, Station Houston, we love that place.
Russ: Does it sort of feel like it helps you make things happen to be in that environment?
Joe: I call it a little piece of Silicon Valley, our piece of that Austin atmosphere, that startup world – Blair, the folks at Mercury, J.R. who operates the place – we love that place and really for us we joined on very early on – middle of last year – as a member and it’s really a startup hub where technology companies like ourselves all come together and we get the benefit of mentors. We get the benefits of all the meet-ups and the content and the presenters as well as having access to folks like Blair and Aziz to just over like earlier this week just visiting with them, getting advice that it would be impossible for me to get sitting in my own office.
Russ: So you’ve already described the fact that you had a 20 year career; what was you prior company?
Joe: My previous company was an IT service provider, a company called Channel Dynamics, and we operated it for 12 years and through that process went through this learning process of observing the changes and really getting crushed trying to manage this IT at scale for government, for larger enterprises. And that was a very unique perspective to look at the disparity in the ways that these environments approached IT and having to service into those groups really gives us this perspective to say how do we solve a problem that is so wide? And how do we solve it in a way that can address all of these different needs? And surprisingly behind that there is a level of consistency and that is where Liongard is focused on, is addressing that consistent problem around reconfiguring all of this craziness in a very secure manner, in the right way.
Russ: And you sold your other company too, right?
Joe: Yes. We were fortunate to have an acquirer come so someone thought it was a valuable business. It’s been acquired and then 2 years after continuing there me and one of the partners, Vincent, decided to leave to build Liongard to solve this problem that we saw. Since then the business has been acquired once more and split and so it’s got its own life. It’s great to see that and we want to do that again. We want to do that with Liongard and achieve success and see how we can really scale this thing out.
Russ: You mentioning 20 years and looking back and I always contend that the general population, the business population, does not comprehend the amount of change that’s taken place forever in IT and it’s just hard to keep up with it overall so it’s challenging. They just look at the IT department and they want them to solve problems and fix their computer and stuff like that, not realizing how everyday they come in and it’s a new opportunity and a new battle and a new potential problem.
Joe: Yeah, I did a little bit of research on you so I found out you were from the IBM days, so you’ve seen double of what I’ve seen and what’s your take on the changes?
Russ: Number one when I first got in nobody used the term IT at all, it was all data processing which meant just crunching numbers all the time and there have been so many just unbelievably dynamic chapters that came along. People sort of underestimated the whole thing about microcomputers. They thought they were always here but when they started people treated them and IBM called it the personal computer – you can keep recipes on it and play Solitaire and stuff like that – how quickly that changed. But it changed a lot because of a dynamic Houston startup, Compaq Computers. Those guys took it up to another level completely.
Joe: People forget it started here in Houston.
Russ: Absolutely, it was the most successful startup in the history of business. But all of it – I was trained on VisiCalc – I was a coder at one time too trained on VisiCalc and how that world has come along. And simultaneously then the Internet is just almost beyond comprehension how much that changed it. So my bottom line with you is Liongard has some challenges out there but I guess that’s what might make you successful too?
Joe: Yeah and we see this same thing now, people are playing Solitaire on their iPhones now. And it’s the same repetitive cycle but the technology keeps getting better and we just need to make that leap to be able to manage this complexity so that we can put an end to these data breach headlines, or at least reduce the intensity and feel more confident about selecting this technology and then moving our businesses forward and our personal lives.
Russ: Well that’s definitely needed. Joes I really appreciate you joining me, it sounds exciting, we want to stay in touch with you and hope you’re successful this time again.
Joe: Appreciate it, thank you Russ.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Joe Alapat, Co-founder and CEO of Liongard and this is The BusinessMakers Show.
brought to you by