Mike Brown: CEO of Talion
Marc van Zadelhoff: Hi everybody, welcome to "Cyber CEOs Decoded" where we speak with CEOs from established security giants to up-and-coming disruptors, getting the inside track on what makes a cybersecurity company tick. I'm your host, Marc van Zadelhoff, the CEO of Devo. Today my guest is Mike Brown, co-founder and CEO of Talion. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike Brown: Thanks. Thanks Marc, I really appreciate it.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Now for our listeners, you may not have heard of Talion. But they're doing some very cool stuff in the cyberspace as an innovator in the MSSP and MDR space. We're going to spend more time on this, but I just wanted to give you some context before we get to know Mike. Talion was actually the result of a buyout Mike orchestrated from BAE Systems. And that business was originally started by BAE as a business designed to, or set up to help secure the 2012 London Olympics against, you know, nation state threats then. So it's got a really interesting background, and we're going to come back to that, but that's what Mike spends his days on today. And I wanted to have Mike on because he has an unconventional story compared to some of my other guests. And I get to work with Mike in my day job. He and I work together sometimes on some projects and he's got a huge tenacity which I admire. And so that unconventional story and that tenacity, I wanted to dig in to that and see how did he come this way? So first, Mike, where are you from? Where'd you grow up?
Mike Brown: So I was born in South Dakota. They call it the Black Hills. It was up there where -- if any of you have been through Mount Rushmore National Monument, that's where I was born. Where I grew up, my parents moved a lot, so I kind of lived all over. So I really didn't have roots in any one place. But my -- it was an interesting childhood growing up, getting to see a lot of the US and traveling quite a bit with my parents moving.
Marc van Zadelhoff: So where are you based today?
Mike Brown: So I'm based in Texas. We're a little bit north of Dallas itself in between Dallas and a place called Denton.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Awesome. Well, where I wanted to start this is, you know, I always ask people what their first paid job was, but I think in your case, I believe that maybe one of your first paid jobs is that you started a company in college. And I wanted to start there, because I think it kind of is the beginning of your business story is starting a business as a -- inspired by some things you were running into during your college days. Walk me through that story.
Mike Brown: Yes, so when I went into college, I became an accountant, because my mother said either be a doctor or an accountant, because they all have good money. So this was in South Dakota. And so I joined the accounting program, and back then that was when the mainframes were the only computers around. And so this was the first exposure of me to a computer. And it was going to be to set up a -- it was a one-on-one accounting program. And we had to set up and manage a business for the term of the class, and then turn in the report at the end and print it out and everything else. Well, as a undergrad -- undergradman [phonetic], I had very little pull on getting any kind of time on the terminals, because you had to go into the lab. So it was usually at 10:00 at night or later, or early in the morning. So one of the days, I was sitting in the lab waiting for a spot to open up, I was reading in a tech magazine -- there was no internet, no way to search.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes. We almost have to -- we may have to explain to some listeners what the mainframe is, but I think we can kind of assume that getting time on a computer for a -- yes, okay. We're going. It's good.
Mike Brown: Yes, so -- and patience has never been my virtue. You know, you talk about my tenacity, well part of my tenacity is patience is not -- I don't sit around and wait. And so I was digging through this magazine, just reading it. I went back in the Wanted ads, just to see what was going on in the ads, and I saw an advertisement for the Atari 800 and 400 computers, with accounting software for a small business. And so I immediately said, I'm tired of sitting in this lab. I got up and I left. And I went home and I called them on the phone, because it was the only way to get to them. And I talked to them about what it did, and I told them about what I wanted to do, and they said, oh yeah, you could run your little business on -- your school project on that. So I had to ask my dad to borrow some money to get that first computer. This was way before Dell. This was way before IBM's PCs. This was back on this little, little tiny box. And it had a little monitor that had a computer in it. It had a disc drive that you put to it, and then you plug in a printer. It was as archaic as they get. Today everybody'd look at this, and look at this boat anchor. And I got that and you had to come into a rhythm of sticking the application disc in, pulling it out. Put the data restorage [phonetic] disc in, back and forth. And there was some process to it. But I figured out how to do that, and I started doing my accounting project on it so I didn't have to go in the lab. And as I got fairly proficient with running the books, I asked my dad who was a CEO of a surgical supply company, I wonder how many other people are facing this problem that I'm facing that, you know -- because I could see how quickly I could build and manage books versus the traditional way that was being done at that point in time, which was a general ledger. And so I'm now doing accounting and computer and they're coming together at the same time for me and I'm going oh, wow. So my dad hands me the newspaper and says here, go find out. And so I looked at the Wanted ads, and there was about 10 companies in there that needed a bookkeeper. So I sat down with my dad, because I had this project that I completed from school, and I'm thinking, this is pretty cool. I've got the balance sheet, the PNL, et cetera, et cetera. And so my dad helped me put together a presentation. And I went out, and called up every one of them. Made interviews with every one of them. By the end of the week, I had signed a contract with every one of them to do their bookkeeping and provide them monthly books and monthly PNLs. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun to do it. And then once I got those contracts, and they each paid me $90 up front for the first month, so I had $900 in my bank account from a company I had just started, right? And that was back in, you know, 1976. And so then I had to sit down and start doing actual accounting and that's when I realized how much I hate accounting, at least that level of accounting. And I was like oh, this is horrible. And so I went through the process, and I said, wait a minute. So I went to school and talked to one of my friends that was in my class and said hey, do you need a job? Do you want to make some money? So I hired him to come in and do the bookkeeping so I didn't have to do it anymore. And I went out, and over the next 18 months, I turned that into a real nice business. And I was one of the big -- well, I think I was the first automated SMB accounting system. I ended up buying three or four more of those platforms. I had -- from the kids from my class, I brought them in to do all the bookkeeping. I was just selling, and every week, I'd go in and I'd present the numbers. So here I am, an Accounting 102 student, and I'm presenting to these small businesses how to run their cash better, how to do better at information. Loved that aspect of it. Had no desire to do the backside of it. And then when I got ready to leave the college, I had built this really nice business, and it was just kind of running itself. I had four or five employees that were working there. And so I went to a bigger accounting firm where he was a CPA and said hey, would you like to buy my business? We negotiated, and I ended up having a real nice exit from there. And it was about -- I think it was like 12 or 17 months, somewhere in that neighborhood that we were running it. And I sold it and I moved down to Texas, which is what brought me to Texas. And it was that point in time where I started doing that transition into computers and really liking computers. And just by sheer luck, I got a guy call me up and say hey, I got an opportunity to work for a company selling technology. And I was like, okay, great [laughs]!
Marc van Zadelhoff: But so -- but we talk about your unconventional story, but in a way it's the most conventional of all in that you were kind of a CRO R and D leader and CEO before you graduated college.
Mike Brown: I was all of it. I had to stand it up, I had to run the books, do everything on it. Yes. So that was my first role into it, and I was 18 when I did that. And it was a lot of fun. I mean, I really enjoyed building that. It was -- it was just -- and that's always motivated me in anything I've done is, what can I do to disrupt the status quo to do what I do? And I think that's when I got hooked onto the fact of I want to do that, and I saw my dad and what he had to do to climb the corporate ladder to get to CEO, and I was never going to do that. I didn't want to do that, right? So that's why my path kind of started going down the sales and marketing side, because when my dad's company -- I would go in and I would meet his sales guys. They were always happy; they weren't grumpy. They didn't have to deal with employees. They just sold stuff. They had nice cars, nice homes, nice clothes. And I went -- CEO doesn't make -- I'm going to go down this sales path. And then when I built my business and I did it actually myself, that pretty much cemented I was going to be going down the sales path and not going down the corporate structure. And I know I never became an accountant. [ Laughter ]
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes. I could have predicted that, based on the -- and so, you left college and you didn't go right into the tech space, you went into the military, I think.
Mike Brown: Yes. Yes. So my family was military. My dad served in World War One. Most of my family has served in everything from World War One to Vietnam and on. So it was just one of those callings that it came to. And it was in a peace time, so it wasn't like, you know, there was any subscription going on or draft. There was none of that. And I just had a calling to go into the military. And I ended up getting into what they call bomb disposal, or EOD, for disposal of bombs. And I did that for about 6 1/2, 7 years, and then realized okay, it was really cool, really fun. Did a lot of really cool stuff, but I wanted -- it didn't pay a lot [laughs].
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes, you probably could have predicted that, but that makes sense.
Mike Brown: Yes. And the risks and return were quite stacked against you [laughs].
Marc van Zadelhoff: Any seminal lessons or stories from that experience that you still hearken back to in terms of what's made you today?
Mike Brown: Well, the -- when you're in that role, you learn to become kind of bulletproof. You have to be really, you know, strong in what you do. The first -- I guess, the introduction to when I went into bomb disposal, the Air Force was the only branch of the military they sent people right out of basic training. Everyone else, you had to be an ordinance person as well so you understood what ordinance were. So the Air Force would send you to a small base where you literally would just get some OJT from the EOD team that was on the base. And so I showed up the first day after basic training and was sitting in the back, and there was, you know, fake grenades and all kinds of stuff. Bombs and everything else around you, and you're playing with them, right? And it was kind of cool. And then they had manuals that they had to be starting to read, and they were kind of getting me up to speed with my first day, and I heard them in the other room talking about a situation at the NCO club, the non-commissioned officers club, and that they needed to roll. So they're all standing up and getting ready to roll out, and they said, come on with us. And they're getting all this -- you know, all these different pieces of equipment that they needed to take with them. And they put it in the truck, and so they're all getting in the truck, and I'm kind of standing there just waiting for them to take off, and the master sergeant said, what are you doing? Get your butt in the truck [laughs]. I was like, okay. So we pull up in front of the NCO club. Now really, I have literally not gone through a single day of training. And we walk up and there was an event going on where there's supposedly a bomb in the NCO club. And so we walk in, and they start to walk in, and I'm still kind of thinking okay, well, I'm just here to be an observer. And they hand me equipment, said come on. I'm thinking, wait a minute. I haven't even agreed to go into this field yet, and I'm already walking in on a bomb. And so they walk in and they open up the bathroom door and there's a box underneath there. And the guy, the master sergeant, stands up and he's real carefully lifting it up and moving it. And all of a sudden, he just throws it and hits me in the chest with it [laughs]! Needless to say, yes, that wasn't fun. Everybody just busts up laughing, because all it was was a training exercise. That's all it was. But they didn't tell me that, and that was initiation into the group [laughs].
Marc van Zadelhoff: That is -- I mean, we talk about peeing our pants or worse. And you said you were in the bathroom, right? Were you in the bathroom for this?
Mike Brown: Yes. Yes, yes. It was -- it was close, but yes, exactly. I mean, I didn't want to go there but definitely it was one of those situations where, you know, I was shaking pretty heavily when he threw it to me. And then of course, they laughed and then I felt like a fool. But that was -- that was -- so I did that for a while, and spent some time in the Air Force doing that, and then I got out. And my brother-in-law actually got me my first selling job, selling marine and RV dealerships' technology software. Just to -- RV stuff. And I just kind of worked my way up from there until I ended up actually my first real professional job was at Boole & Babbage. And you know, the thing that Boole & Babbage taught me, one is --
Marc van Zadelhoff: What do they do again, for?
Mike Brown: So Boole & Babbage -- Boole & Babbage was mainframe system software. So they competed against IBM for all the mainframe technology software; managing, running it. And so when I got there --
Marc van Zadelhoff: I haven't said the word mainframe so much since I was at a company that secured the mainframe that we sold to -- That's when I first got into the mainframe.
Mike Brown: So that's how far I go back. And when I got in, my boss walked over, opened up a closet. There was a bunch of boxes with files, and he goes, there's your territory. So I had to dig around to try to find out what I was going to do. And as I was reading through these files, this one product just kept coming up over and over and over again. And it always ended with the same thing. They couldn't -- they weren't going to replace the IBM equivalent. Well, it was right about that time when IBM got hit by the SEC and they had to break apart that bundling they were doing. So that had opened up the door. And it was right about when I got there. So the challenge was that Boole & Babbage sold that technology as perpetual license, and IBM was just a lease. And so I went to my boss and the CFO and said, hey. Could you guys convert this into a lease? And they were like, well, we haven't done anything with it because we're about to sunset CMF. And I said well, if you do that for me, let me take a shot at seeing if I could make some sales on that. So they did. They put together a financial lease. And I took all those customers who had looked at CMF and went back. And within the first six months of my very first job as a real sales guy, I was already about 150% of my number. And CMF went on from being a product that was going to be sunset to one of the most successful-selling products there, because we went after IBM and just had -- and that's kind of where it taught me how to look at the value in what you're selling. Find a way to make a deal, and you can really make a lot of money as a sales guy. And that was my mindset right there. And that was probably the next thing after building my company, where there was a big shift from me going oh, now I know how to sell and make money. And that was kind of why I was going down that path.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Pricing matters. And in a way, you talk about leasing, but it's kind of subscription revenue before that term really -- ARR before ARR existed. That was the funny thing about the mainframe, and the way it was priced. So Mike, you had a number of additional roles at IBM and at Compuware. Eventually you find yourself in the cybersecurity space, which of course this is in the end a cybersecurity CEO podcast. So how'd you get into cyberspace? What was your first entrée into there? Which company and what were you doing?
Mike Brown: So I had been working for Compuware, another mainframe technology company. And I was just bored. It was old, antiquated; you know, it just wasn't fun. And I wanted to do something more fun. And I also wanted -- I could see that that was a dying technology, and I wanted to get on the front edge of something new to sell. And so I -- headhunter introduced me to this opportunity at AlgoSec. I went and interviewed with their CRO, and he had been the former CRO of Checkpoint. And I just liked the guy a lot. He was just an amazing leader. And he convinced me to come over and work there. Now there were only eight -- about 8 1/2, 9 million in revenue. They were based out of Tel Aviv. And I'd never worked for a Tel Aviv company before, so I was like oh, this would be cool. I'm -- kind of a new thing for me. And so I started working for them. And when I got onboard, the thing I realized very quickly is that they had a massive opportunity in front of them. There was three competitors in a massive market. Great place to be. But they were selling feeds and speeds, and they were worried amount their competitors. And I said, guys, stop worrying about competitors. Let's just focus on value. And so I redesigned and redeveloped how they go to market in terms of selling. And of course, their initial reaction was, oh I don't know if we can do that, you know? You're going to -- the competition's going to come and take it. I said guys, just sit back and watch. And I also realized that the MSSP market was where they needed to play. Because they do more changes. They actually generate revenue off of those changes. So savings in cost for them dropped right to EBITDA. That goes back to some of my accounting days, right? And so I redesigned. It went out, and within about the first 12 months, I closed seven of the largest MSSPs in the world. And they were all multimillion dollar transactions. Part of my success in being able to do that came from IBM. Because one of the things IBM taught me was how to sell to the C office. And how to negotiate and how to discuss at that level, which I would have never gotten in those smaller companies, even though I prefer a more -- a smaller company to work for, because it gave me a lot more latitude and ability to do more like I like to do, as opposed to the rigidity of a big company. But I'm glad for that time I spent at IBM, because they gave me a level of knowledge and understanding how to sell to these executives, which is what turned that around for AlgoSec.
Marc van Zadelhoff: And you guys were competing -- was it FireMon was one of the competitors?
Mike Brown: FireMon and one other one. I forgot --
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes.
Mike Brown: Yes, there was one other --
Marc van Zadelhoff: I remember looking to make an acquisition in that space in the beginning of my time at -- my time at IBM security, so. And you went from there to -- what happened to AlgoSec? Is that company still around?
Mike Brown: Oh, it's still around. It's still around. But I had reached a point where I had also done something different in my career. We didn't have enough cash. Neil, my CRO, didn't have enough cash to hire more salespeople, and I wanted to grow a team. And we didn't have the cash to cover payroll. So I told him, I said -- I kind of sat and thought about it a little bit. And the CEO had actually came to me when he first hiring me. His name was Yuval, and he said, Michael, if you would go on commission only, I can give you a really good plan. Nobody ever took it, right? Because commissions generally don't do that. So after my first 12 months there, I thought hmm, okay. So I went to Neil, I said, Neil, I want to hire this individual and bring them on to my team so I can start building a team. And I said -- and he goes, well Mike, I don't have any money. I said, I get that. So give him my salary, and I'll go pure commission. And so I went pure commission, and from that day forward, I never took a base salary again, because I made so much money because I took all the risk. And I just kept exploding, exploding. And I signed a four-year contract with them that they couldn't change anything about my world. I get to live where I'm living for four years. And at the end of the fourth year, that's where I got that fourth year, and I'm going okay, I've had fun here, but it's time for me to try something different. And one of the things about my -- one of the things I do really well is network. And the CMO who was at AlgoSec actually left and ended up over at Siemplify. And they wanted to grow their MSSP space. And so the CMO said, well I know the guy that will do that for you, but he's not cheap. And they brought him over, and so I went to work for them. And that's how I got to Siemplify. And I loved that whole technology, the whole SOAR market space. It was amazing, right? And by that point in time, I'd become really steeped in security after working for four years in -- with AlgoSec, and dealing with all aspects of cyber.
Marc van Zadelhoff: That's amazing. So you had other roles, and I'm going to skip over a couple. I know there are stories at every one. But I know you were at Siebel, you were at Oracle. So you built up just a big book of business in terms of experience. And I think before we get to Talion, I actually want to ask you, you know, I think by then you probably have two or three things that you came to believe as kind of key to being successful. And actually, before we get to Talion, I want to kind of understand, what are those three things that you think are key? Because I think they'll kind of explain how you succeeded in this next step.
Mike Brown: So the first one is you have to have -- for me personally, I believe you have to have an unstoppable belief in yourself. You have to believe you can do anything. You just -- you have to. And it's not an arrogance, it's just a confidence. It doesn't matter what it is, you just have to believe that. The second --
Marc van Zadelhoff: You think it covered -- does that cover insecurity, or does that cover authentic belief? How do you -- because sometimes I think we're driven by our insecurity as much as our belief, right?
Mike Brown: Right, right. So what it really boils down to is, and my second thing is you have to build rock-solid goals. So -- and you have to put timelines to those goals. A lot of people write goals. But they don't say by a date. And then -- and once you've done that, then you tell your friends and family what your goals are and what date you're going to make them by. Because now the insecurity side is going to come into play very strong for you, because you've told them what you're going to do, and either you do it or you're going to look foolish. And that's why I used that. And then of course, the last one is building an amazing network.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes. Yes, well you said that in the beginning. You're -- or in the middle of the conversation, your network is something you're very good at. So let's get into Talion. Talion is an MSSP division built in BAE Systems. BAE is British Aerospace, right? Is the original origin of that. Built to help secure the Olympics. What gets Mike Brown to hop on an airplane, go to London, and try and buy that business? How did that happen?
Mike Brown: So one of my businesses I described is I have a real estate business. And I still own that to this day. That -- what that taught me was how to value assets. Because I was buying assets, underachieving assets, and turning them into cash flowing assets. And I've loved -- and I still love that business, because I've always loved architecture. But it taught me how to look at assets and determine whether they're the right asset that you could convert. And so I had -- by 2017, I had started -- my real estate business had started slowing down because the market had gotten so competitive, you just couldn't buy at a price point that would result in a return on investment that I wanted. So I was trying to look at other things. And I started looking and said, you know what? Why don't I think about doing this in the tech world? I've been in so many different tech companies. I have such a broad knowledge of all types of technology. I am going to start looking to see if I can find underachieving businesses in the tech world. And it wasn't just specifically for security, but it was -- my first vision was I want to buy underachieving, turn them around, and turn them into cash flow. Well, then I started looking and I said well, you know what? I really love this MSSP space, because it is a cash cow, because that's all it was about. You know, when I look at my real estate business, it's about cash. And I looked at this and said, you know, you sign these three- and five-year contracts, and get that wallet share, and just make sure you maintain them, they become extremely profitable. So then I was -- I literally in 2017, I wrote a goal to myself that I would find and own an MSSP before 2023. That was what I wrote. I had no idea where it was going to come from, nothing else. And so when I was at Siemplify, I had been involved in selling Siemplify to BAE Systems, to improve their environment. And so at the beginning of 20 -- at about the middle way of 2018, I called up Keven Knight, who's my co-founder, and I said, Keven, I'm going to come over to London to work with you on the next phases of the rollout of the SOAR platform. And he said, I've got some bad news for you. BAE is going to divest themselves of this business. And I didn't even hesitate. I said well, let's buy it. And he said, well, I didn't expect the conversation to go that way. And so, that was on a Thursday. Thursday night, he had shipped me the M & A packet that was already out. And so all the other competitors like Trustwave and Secureworks, and you name it; all those guys, they were all in there vying for this company. And so I was there on Thursday night. I got that. Friday morning, I went over to a very dear friend of mine who has taken two companies public, and I told him, I said [laughs] -- I said, DT, I got this business. I think it's a good business, but can you give me your viewpoint? And we went through some different points, and he said yes. I think it's a good business. He gave me the strategy with which I needed to go buy the business. Now this is the first M and A I've ever done, Marc. So I have no idea what I'm really doing. So -- and I bought a ticket. I left Saturday morning. I got there on Sunday. Monday morning I'm in the Bluefin building in the -- in London, which is BAE's corporate headquarters. And I was sitting across the table from their two senior M and A guys, and it's me by myself [laughs]. And I basically put them on notice that they're going to sell me the company, because none of these other competitors are going to buy it, because it's not a fit for them. So you know, remember my first goal? Have unstoppable belief in yourself? Well, that's what that came into play. And they kind of chuckled a little bit, and from that point forward, we started a process of going through the -- you know, I got kicked out five times, where they just removed me. Got back into the sale, into the process again by hook or by crook. And at the end, I was actually in Vietnam, and we'd taken 12 Vietnamese veterans back to Vietnam. It's an organization, I'm a member of the board, that we're trying to help deal with PTSD. And so we took these guys, and I'm in Vietnam, and I get a call from Keven, and he said, we've won. I said, won what? He said, the last candidate dropped out. And so we were the business. And so at that point in time, that was about -- I think around January of 2019, somewhere in that timeframe when they did that. And then from that point in time, I had to jump on an airplane, flew through Istanbul, got back to England, and we started the negotiation with BAE. And it was a -- that was fun, you know [laughs]?
Marc van Zadelhoff: You never involved bankers. You never -- you did it yourself.
Mike Brown: Yes. Yes. We just did it ourselves. We had some solicitors, and that was it. And basically what it doled down to was that it could not be a share sale. Because it was just -- it was just -- it was just, you know, going back to my bomb guy, it was so many wires that you cut the wrong one, and it blows up. And so it was going to be a difficult removal, and that's why a lot of people dropped out. Because getting it out of BAE was going to take some special skills. Because everything was just commingled with everything. [ Multiple Speakers ] Everything. And so the only way we could pull this together is we had to do a asset sale. So you know, we bought it out asset by asset. Negotiated asset by asset and pulled it out. So we went through that, and then on March 31st, I was actually back in the US, because I'd been there negotiating, and then I went back to the US, because my 90 days on my passport were coming up. So I went back, and so I was here in my office in Texas, and I signed the contract at 6 -- at 5:59 my time, which was one minute to 12. And if we hadn't of signed the contract before then, then the contracts were going to expire. Right? The terms of it were going to expire.
Marc van Zadelhoff: And that's March 31st, 2020?
Mike Brown: Yes, correct.
Marc van Zadelhoff: And then COVID kicks off.
Mike Brown: [laughs] yes. So yes, that was a whole another really interesting fact. So.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Could you get back to the UK with COVID?
Mike Brown: No. I could not get back until June of 2020. So from April until June, I was in the US, and the rest of the teams are in the UK. And you know, when I think back of how we pulled this off, I don't really -- all I can say is that we've got an amazing group of people, because we were locked down immediately. You couldn't leave your homes. You couldn't go out. We were trying to build a SOC, because we didn't have a SOC. So we had to physically build a building, find it, get it built out. We had to -- the system that we pulled out of BAE was an on-prem system. It had a lot of IP that we got with it for like, EDR tools and things like that that BAE had built. We didn't want any of that. We had to move away from all that. So we were going through this massive transition while supporting all these large customers that we had, because when I bought it, the reason I bought it was because it had a strong customer base with cash flow. And that's why I bought it. Going back to my real estate side.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Real estate days, right.
Mike Brown: Yes, it's like this is good. Now I just got to cut down all the business to get it to profitability, and now we grow it. And that was kind of my goal. Well, try to do that when you're locked down, you're now 3,000 miles away, so you can't even be there to shepherd it. And you know, we had to do so many things of physical moving stuff and standing up an actual NOC because everything was still, you know, on-prem, so we had a physical NOC and not just in the cloud. And so that was a -- that was an interesting time where, you know, we're -- and then throw into that, on April 1st, all of our team was remote. So we had to go make sure the VPNs and you think about all the stuff you have to do to protect those homes, and this is being done with me here, team in the UK, and everybody being remote, so it was like [laughs] --
Marc van Zadelhoff: Well, it's been fun to partner with you on some parts of that journey, so that's even better. Where you and I have gotten to know each other, and you guys have done an amazing job of setting up that business.
Mike Brown: So you know, and all of that started to culminate into the -- my vision that I had when I came from Siemplify is I wanted to create a business that was running on best of breed technology. So that we could always be the most advanced data technology that's in the market. We don't -- I wasn't going to build anything. I wanted to be the best at integration, and then I wanted to create a platform, because in my roles at Siemplify and AlgoSec, I had seen the closed nature of these big, big players. It's not that they're bad companies, it's just how their business works. It's very rigid; it's very closed, and that's the way they run it. And the market now was looking for -- they wanted more openness, especially we go after the upper mid-cap market. So they're big companies, and they have small cyber teams that are really, really good experts. But they just don't have enough. And so when they have to give it all away, that's just very uncomfortable for them. So what we came to the market with was -- and this was my vision. I wanted to have something that was open and transparent where they come in at all aspects of my business and our platform, and they control as much as they want, and we will augment the rest, so that they determine how much of this MSP/MDR service that they want to manage. And that's been very successful for us, because these bigger, upper mid-cap companies want that, and they had a lot of time, like you and I have worked with, Marc, they want to own their own SIM for example. They want to own that technology. Well, we let them on it. Then we'll just wrap services around it so they get the benefit of owning their own data. And the reason they want to own it is if they decide they want to leave a vendor, it's easier if they own the data. And that's the reason they do it. And so we built a system like that. And the business we took from BAE couldn't do that. We had to completely rebuild this whole platform into this kind of componentized capability to where we can plug and play what they wanted, however they wanted it. And you know, it finally took off in 2021. And since that time, we've just been skyrocketing. Because now companies are saying, I get the best of both worlds. I get the benefit of the cost savings of resources. I get the benefit of the expertise, but I control the things I want to control, which are really important.
Marc van Zadelhoff: So Mike, you're now -- and we'll start to wrap up here -- but you're now in your fourth year as am I, of being a CEO. So you and I started around the same time. And you joked in the beginning that when you saw your dad be a CEO, you thought the sales guys had less stress, more fun, and made better money. After four years of this, how's it going? How do you like this chair that you're sitting in, the CEO chair? And what's your view overall?
Mike Brown: Well, you know, my company that I started called Apalu, which was a chat company back in 2000, we had just got our first round of funding, and signed SOC and we were supposed to get our first payment on that fund on September 14, 2001. Needless to say, it never happened. And the company -- that was one of the reasons why that company didn't succeed is that we'd never got those tranches of payments. They just -- that whole disaster. So when I signed this agreement, and I start April 1 in a pandemic, my mind -- I literally, I kind of looked up at the sky and said, really? What did I do to deserve two times in a row? Not once, but twice in a row. And you know, it's -- it's had its real ups and its real downs, and you know, I'm at a point now where I'm really getting comfortable in this seat. I like the seat, but for a while, you know, if you think about all the things I described we had to do, there was no book, no manual for me to make decisions. I just like, okay, I think that might be the right decision. Let's go make that one. And you know, we failed often, and we failed fast, and we recovered, right? You know? And so it's gotten to a point now where I'm actually coming into comfortableness in this seat. But it took me a while to get here. And you know, Ben Horowitz wrote a book, "The Hard Things About Hard Things." And if you've ever read it, and there's one chapter in there where he takes about you're either going to be a wartime general as a CEO, or a peacetime general. I was thrown right in the middle of a massive war that I had to go through it to get there. And you know, now we're starting to move more into a more operational aspect of it. And you know, it's been a -- this has definitely challenged me more than anything has ever challenged me in my life. And I've loved it, really. At the end of the day, I've loved it.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Yes. There -- these are challenging jobs. And like you said, I like that wartime/peacetime and sometimes peacetime people have a struggle in the wartime and vice versa, right? So it's -- but I think it's good that you're in this moment where you can sit back and run it as a peaceful endeavor, but it's still with a lot of extra stress and craziness around you as you're growing the business.
Mike Brown: Sure. Sure. You know, we all -- like yourself, we all -- you know you don't know what this job entails until you sit in this chair.
Marc van Zadelhoff: And Mike, I think that's a great note to close things out on. Thank you so much for spending time on the podcast. I think it was really nice to get to hear your unconventional story. I think it's less unconventional than maybe reported, because I think you started off as a CEO in college, and you're right in that chair today. And I wish you all the best. Thanks for coming on.
Mike Brown: Alright. Thank you. Appreciate it. You have a great day.
Marc van Zadelhoff: Alright guys, and thanks for our audience listening today. Be sure to join us for the next episode of "Cyber CEOs Decoded." Thanks very much.