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Thought Leaders in Cyber Security: Elisity CEO James Winebrenner (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th 2022

James Winebrenner: The second principle was the ability to do segmentation across the network instead of sharing one network. There was a significant amount of interest in segmenting traffic by use case. In retail, we saw a lot of need for POS traffic to be segmented from real-time communications type traffic.

We saw the advent of a lot of third-party connectivity whether that was marketing organizations doing digital signage or contractors doing video surveillance. We didn’t start out focusing on those security use cases, but we saw them become a significant byproduct of the VSTN technology.

Sramana Mitra: Was that a consulting services company?

James Winebrenner: No, that was a product company.

Sramana Mitra: The question that I want to ask you is what was that journey going from a technical person at Check Point to becoming an entrepreneur. How did you bridge that? There’s a large number of things we have to learn. I came up to being a startup CEO without any business background.

James Winebrenner: There are two things that are really important. I remember when I started, I didn’t really respect sales. Jerry Ungerman who was the President of Check Point at that time had a very successful career at Hitachi and a number of other organizations. He came into Check Point, which was founded by three gentlemen who had come out of IDF.

Jerry helped to develop the go-to-market at Check Point. He said to me, “If you’re serious about running a company, you need to spend some time in sales. Everything changes when you ask customers for money.” I made the transition out of the technical side. I have done technical marketing. I then went back to doing consulting in the security space, but I had an opportunity to move into a sales role with Cisco.

Cisco is a very large organization. I was privileged to work in a group that was focused on a number of our largest customers in the financial services space. We had a tremendous amount of autonomy in the way we sold to those customers. While Cisco was focused on hardware, we were looking at a combination of hardware, software, and services.

We were able to sell as a service. This was back in 2009. This was still early on for these types of models. I was very lucky to have the portfolio that Cisco brought to the table and to have the flexibility to experiment with different business and consumption models. That gave me a lot of experience in how to take technology to market.

I left in 2012 and went to Viptel where we were developing innovative technology from a software-defined networking standpoint. There was no VC that wanted to fund a network hardware company. Everything was software and recurring revenue, which is not how you would traditionally think about network infrastructure.

We brought Viptela to market as Software-as-a-Service subscription. For the first time, the value of what we were delivering was being sold as an annual or multi-year subscription service. The hardware was a giveaway. I built on the experience that I had with some of those non-traditional consumption models at Cisco.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cyber Security: Elisity CEO James Winebrenner
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