CEO Pavel Gurvich, CTO Ariel Zeitlin, and VP business development Dror Sal’ee
83North (formerly Greylock Partners Israel), Battery Ventures, Cisco Investments, Dell Technologies Capital, and Ehud Barak
Hundreds of Israeli startups are currently active in the hot cybersecurity market. "There’s a rash of cyber companies," says GuardiCore CEO Pavel Gurvich. "The only thing that has grown faster than investment in this sector is the damage caused by the attacks. Enormous damage has been done to the economy recently. Beyond the reported attacks like WannaCry, there are also things beneath the surface that affect significant processes like elections. The weaknesses of information systems is having a substantial influence on strategic matters, as well as on our most personal records – for example, I get calls from friends who lost all the pictures of their children that they saved on their computers. It’s affecting the entire spectrum."
Gurvich founded GuardiCore in 2013 with CTO Ariel Zeitlin and VP business development Dror Sal’ee. Gurvich and Zeitlin met in the army, where they worked in cyber. Sal’ee, an old high-tech warhorse already responsible for several exits, joined them. Since it was founded, the company has raised $48 million from high-profile investors, including Battery Ventures and 83North (formerly Greylock Partners Israel), corporate investment arms Cisco Investments and Dell Technologies Capital, and even a well-known private investor - former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.
GuardiCore, which provides a software solution for server farms, has 85 employees, including 60 in Tel Aviv. Gurvich says that the company identified the change taking place in IT, involving a switch from computers to cellular technology and cloud computing. "The technology and the servers have changed completely from physical to virtual. Customers no longer buy servers and equipment such as cables. Today, they tick a box, and the entire package comes ready connected from Amazon or Cisco." According to Gurvich, IT consumption has changed, becoming easier and quicker, from large servers to micro-servers that communicate with one another. "Security for mobile devices has made great progress, but has barely advanced at all for datacenters and cloud computing," he comments. "A window of opportunity has opened for a company like ours that focuses just on servers – anything that has no screen or keyboard."
GuardiCore protects both physical and virtual servers. Gurvich explains that 75-85% of communications in datacenters usually takes place between servers, not with the outside. "Who secures this? If the servers are stolen, all the enterprise's information is on them," he points out. GuardiCore tells the customer which server communicates with which other server, "and it’s very impressive for IT people, who can suddenly see what’s happening on the cloud," Gurvich says. With GuardiCore’s help, the customer establishes policy – what's allowed what's forbidden. When a break-in is detected, an order can be given for the affected server to stop communicating with the other servers.
The company’s list of customers includes major enterprises, including Santander Bank, which is one of the largest banks in the world. "A server stores information on thousands of people. Actually, hundreds of millions of people are protected through us, and we detect tens of thousands of attacks daily," Gurvich says.
The main types of attacks are attacks for ransom purposes and for mining digital coins, and also attacks from inside by employees trying to discover information from within the enterprise – about salaries, for example.
GuardiCore’s principal competitors are mainly in the US. They include Illumino, which recently raised $125 million from JP Morgan. "We’re more modest," says Gurvich, who believes that GuardiCore’s experience gives it a competitive advantage. "In Israel, people know how to develop superb technologies modestly and effectively, without a huge team."
Gurvich has 20 years of experience in the sector, starting when he was a teenager. "Systems were once less protected, and 14 year-old boys were considered a threat. Today, the threat now is much more organized, and can assemble resources in order to achieve the goals. At the same time, the world is more connected and accessible, so that vulnerability has increased. These are long-term trends."
Where will you be in 3-4 years?
"We’re active in an enormous and not very competitive market. We don’t run into competitors in every deal. The major companies in the sector understand the idea and will get around to it, but before that happens, we have several years in which we can grow fast."
Is a Nasdaq IPO an option?
"If we continue growing at the current pace, it’s definitely a feasible direction. Our way is to build something sustainable, important, and real. In the management team, we have people who were senior executives in public companies."