Why We Invested: SynSaber
Putting hero over hardware.
Industrial operators face unique cyber security challenges and today’s detection and monitoring products are inflexible, hardware-dependent and fail to provide the required visibility into Operations Technology environments. A better solution is needed to help protect critical infrastructure such as energy, utilities, manufacturing and industrial loT from cyber threats — which is why we’re thrilled to participate in SynSaber’s seed round and welcome their team to the Rally portfolio.
SynSaber is the industrial asset and network monitoring solution that provides continuous insight into status, vulnerabilities and threats. Its unique, technology-agnostic solution enables industrial operators and security analysts to see the full picture of the environment they’re responsible to protect, detecting threats at-speed and gaining the knowledge needed to defend in real time.
SynSaber delivers a game-changing approach to visibility and security in industrial networks. The solution will be the first to be deployed on-prem or in the cloud, and it can integrate seamlessly with a company’s existing cyber security technology investments.
Today’s security threats and solutions are increasingly complex. Below is a short Q&A with SynSaber’s CEO and co-founder, Jori VanAntwerp, where he breaks down SynSaber’s technology and how he thinks about achieving true security.
1. What is the core problem SynSaber is solving?
SynSaber’s tagline is you can’t defend what you can’t see. Visibility is a foundational concept not only for security, but also reliable operations, compliance and risk reduction.
Operations technology environments are incredibly customized and disparate by nature. In order to protect those environments, you need a solution that is flexible, scalable and meets those inherent challenges. Our primary mission is to empower security analysts and operators by providing pertinent, actionable data so they can effectively defend their environments with precision.
Our secondary mission is to be fuel for existing security and analytics infrastructure. SynSaber is not another SIEM or walled garden. Our software deploys on a company’s existing hardware solutions to detect, correlate, normalize and curate data. We sort through the haystack to provide an organization with the needles. Then we send all of the pertinent information back to the company’s existing infrastructure, such as a SIEM or data lake.
2. The SynSaber founders are industrial security veterans. How does your prior experience position you as the best team to tackle this problem?
My co-founder, Ron Fabela, and I have experience from grassroots to senior leadership in the industrial and cyber security space. I’ve been on security teams building data centers. I’ve both worked for vendors and been the person on the other side selecting vendor products and designing solutions.
Ron started out his cyber security career in the United States Air Force and then transitioned to large private organizations focused on industrial cyber security and compliance. He spent a lot of time as the guy crawling through power plants and advanced manufacturing facilities, really learning and knowing the physical and digital spaces.
We’re both security veterans of 15+ years with hands-on experience in OT and IT. In the past decade, we have seen not only a push but the necessity to secure our critical infrastructure and operations technology. There has been a major paradigm shift in how you secure these environments. What gives us the edge is that we deeply understand what those things are, and we’ve felt those pain points firsthand. We’ve cried, cursed and bled over it. We’re building the software we wish we had when we were in our customer’s shoes.
3. SynSaber elevates operators and analysts — not just senior leaders — as security rockstars, making them central figures in tackling critical security issues. How do you think about building a company that empowers people to succeed in this mission?
There can be an elitist attitude in security, really technology as a whole. It’s very much, this is my piece of cheese, and it’s a very complicated and specific piece of cheese. That attitude really isn’t helpful.
Humans are the weakest link in security, and the only way we’re going to have true security — whether it’s in IT or OT — is to make it accessible and understandable. Everyone from the intern to the CEO needs to understand why security is important, and it needs to be in terms they can understand.
This concept is even more important in operations technology. Operators and asset owners are highly specialized and trained, focused on uptime, physical devices, maintaining efficient operations and making sure things aren’t blowing up. They’re often the smartest people in the room, but they’re not focused on the software or security. They aren’t security analysts, able to read packets nor do they understand security alerts, because they have other important things on which to focus.
The beauty of society today is that we’re very specialized, and you want people who have those specializations. They shouldn’t have to learn everything else, and there’s no reason we can’t provide data that’s curated in a way that makes sense to them.
When I think about the culture of our team, I want us to be the guide, not the hero. We should be Obi-Wan Kenobi. We don’t need to be Luke. Or, for the Zelda fans out there, we are the old man in the cave handing out swords. We don’t need or want to be Link. That should be our customers.
Our goals are to empower our customers so they can be the hero, and to foster that guide mentality in every person who joins SynSaber. Our team should be a group of mentors who help guide our customers to success.
4. What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of the best pieces of advice I try to keep top of mind is, “If you don’t change you can’t survive.” I think this is especially true in technology. I always want to keep an open mind.
Another piece of advice that stuck with me came from a philosophy instructor in college. He said, “Never enter a debate or discussion unless you’re willing to change your mind.” I think this ties back to always keeping an open mind and being willing to evolve.
And then I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes. “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” The things we do in life, if they’re worthwhile, are not easy.
5. Favorite book or podcast for entrepreneurs?
StartupSOS with Steve Morris. There are so many things you need to learn as a first-time founder. Steve takes all the different components that go into building a company and breaks them down. For example, he talks about how raising money actually works. This isn’t something most entrepreneurs know until you actually go through the process, but if you aren’t prepared you can end up in a pretty bad spot. I’ve found it immensely helpful.