Rahul Sasi is an Indian entrepreneur, security expert, and white-hat hacker. He is the Founder and CTO of Artificial intelligence-based information security company CloudSEK. He has presented his papers in 28 different forums in 18 different countries. He was listed among the top influential Indian Security researchers of 2015 by the Null community. Prior to founding CloudSEK, he was a Sr Engineer at Citrix and iSight(FireEye). Rahul Sasi is one of the name no one will forget when talking about Machine Learning and Cyber Security. He has done briiliant work in this domain and been a consistent contributor in this community.
Let’s have a look on the below conversation, Hackers Interview team had with Mr. Rahul Sai.
When and How did you come up with the idea of entering the Cyberworld?
I joined Computer Engineering back in 2006. I was highly passionate about technology and security. Hacking was top of my interest. I started focusing on cybersecurity from my first semester. I started skipping my courses. I did not find much value add concentrate on contributing to open source communities and projects. By my third-year people in the industry started recognizing my work. One such person was Mr. Muslim Koser – Director of Research at a Cyber Security startup named iSight partners. In my 7th semester, he offered me an internship. Unfortunately, my college did not allow me to take a six months internship. This was very much disappointing. End of the 7th semester, I decided to quit engineering and decided to go work for iSight as an intern. I worked for iSight for four years. While working for iSight, I knew I had to put more effort than others to survive without an engineering degree. So I started spending after office hours researching one random cybersecurity topic at a time and started publishing papers on it. These researches got me the opportunity to travel to 20+ countries as a speaker and met a lot of cybersecurity folks, this improved my knowledge, influence, and confidence. FireEye later acquired iSight. When I quit engineering, a lot of people told me that I would never be able to work for a large company without an Engineering degree. I wanted to prove them wrong. Later I got an offer from Citrix, and I was the first person to get hired without an engineering degree. I had full support from my hiring manager Mrityunjay Gautam (Director Security), Rakesh Singh (Managing Director Citrix India), who believed in my capabilities.
I was always a risk-taker and believed in focusing on things I was passionate about. I also knew if you put enough dedication and effort into things that matter, sooner or later, great people would start supporting you.
Brief about organization and founding members. What challenges did your organization face, as time went on?
I quit my job at Citrix in 2015 and founded CloudSEK in 2015 in November. The dream was to build a Cyber Securit company that focused on external threats. We have products like IDS, IPS, Anti- Virus that monitors internal threats. There was hardly any product that monitored external threats. So the idea was to build a system that monitors external threats. Currently, CloudSEK Xvigil is the only product that provides a 360 view of external threats. Our AI-based technology analyzes millions of data from the Surface Web, Dark Web, Internet exposed infrastructure to provide attackers views of your brand, infra, and potential cyber threats.
Describe how your journey was, from being a nobody to a successful entrepreneur.
We built the initial version of the product and was launched in January 2017. I went on my bike, demonstrating the products to friends from the industry. It was fun to go from one office to another, showcasing what we did. Within a few months, we got our first order from a US-based tech company. We did not even have a bank account by then. We had to rush the paperwork for opening a bank account to receive the cash. Once we had some money, the challenge was to find smarter people and convincing them to join me. It would be best if you found people who could complement your skill sets.
My initial team members were Bofin Babu (ML) currently leads an ML team, Girish Menon (joined as eng, currently the Product Manager), Rohit Sharma (Eng, Currently Architect). When we hire, we always ask one question – What the candidate’s goal is. Then we try to see if we can fulfill the individual’s ambitions at CloudSEK. This way, while working at CloudSEK, an individual is progressing in their personal goals as well.
What could be next towards the global domination of your venture?
We have fifty customers from over 6 countries. This includes the largest strategic consulting company in the world, companies like HDFC Bank, Go-JEK, Citrix , NetApp etc. Our goal is to build a world-class product that our customers would love to use daily. Our technology is analyzing millions of cyber threat incidents daily. The scale at which we are doing cybersecurity is phenomenal. All these achievements are primarily because of the team we have. I love working with the current team, we have tried to build a culture where everyone is fighting and standing up for each other, sort of like a brotherhood. We also don’t follow a centralized strategy for most things at CloudSEK.
A centralized strategy is when the management decides how and what things should be mostly by policies. This is mostly used by large companies. This is needed and used when the long term vision is not clear to the entire team. At CloudSEK tasks/decisions mostly don’t flow from the top, rather on the edges, our team members are clear about the company’s visions and decide how and what they wanted to do and execute it. This is a more efficient decision-making process and has definitely accelerated our growth. A fully decentralized system requires every node to be an A grade player. So the focus at CloudSEK is always a) in hiring more A players, b) provide coaching and feedback to existing members so that they can improve. This is something we follow at CloudSEK
Some of the achievements of CloudSEK.
Build a great company and also focus on improving the lives of people around you. We have a number of activities focused on helping young and talented students.
We believe young professionals should be kept motivated and given opportunities that would actually help them apply whatever they learn. In order to achieve this, we are have launched our “Earn While You Learn” program- a program where selected students would be able to do their studies while working with CloudSEK AI, CyberSec and Engineering teams. You can be part of the program from your second year of college. And we will pay a Stipend of INR 25,000 per month (Should cover your educational loan :). And once you successfully complete the program, we offer a full time opportunity.
We also have a “Smile while you learn the program”, where we are sponsoring over 30 school students.
Founder’s advice to budding entrepreneurs.
Focus on solving a problem, helping people and generating revenue out of that. India is the best place to be for this. We have plenty of problems and fewer people to solve them. Start looking around and ask what can be or should be improved.
“Thanks Mr. Rahul for giving your precious time to our readers.”
Author: Prachi K
Technical Writer, Branding Executive – Hackers Interview. Prachi has professional experience in the area of Branding and Article writing.