I had the pleasure of having coffee with Adam Ely in Atlanta on Wednesday, syringe and wanted to share some of our conversation with you. Before I get started, let me tell you a bit more about Adam. His incredible background includes being CISO of Heroku, leading security teams at organizations like Disney, and being a contributing writer for Information Week. His current company, Bluebox, is based in San Francisco, was founded in 2012, and raised approximately $27.5M prior to their public launch in March of 2014 from Andreessen Horowitz, Tenaya Capital, SV Angel, and more.
Q. What brought you to Atlanta this week?
A. Two events:
IANS Atlanta Forum: I wanted to listen to folks in enterprise, hear them talk about what’s changing, what’s happening, etc. in the enterprise security landscape.
MIT Enterprise Forum Mobile Security Event: I’m speaking with a panel of fellow experts on trends, threats and opportunities in the Mobile Security arena.
Q. Having spent time in Atlanta, then starting and growing Bluebox in San Francisco, what are some of the differences you’ve experienced in the two ecosystems?
A. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that is Atlanta is changing. When I was here, it was more risk averse – from an investment standpoint and to adopt new technologies. A lot of that is starting to change, and it’s good see tech infrastructure in Atlanta picking up.
Also, the focus of the ecosystem is different than the Valley. Companies here are tackling more complex problems, in general. The Valley is more focused on whatever the new hype or big thing is. Many companies there are building things to catch the wave and ride it up fast. For example, lots of companies in the Valley are building Social and Gaming tech, while we at Bluebox and many companies in Atlanta are building Enterprise Solutions…Enterprise tech will never go completely upside down and is better equipped to survive cycles.
Q. What do you think are some of Atlanta’s strengths?
A. Atlanta has a hybrid mindset – brings together the Southeast / East Coast business mindset as well as the West Coast innovative approach. Many West Coast companies use the “build it and they will come” strategy, which means a high burn rate and low percentage of companies that make it. Atlanta companies take a more measured approach – they take risks, but are smart about it.
Q. What are some areas we could improve in?
A. Atlanta companies should focus on things the ecosystem is good at and build on its strengths (e.g. enterprise and security tech) – build what makes sense for Atlanta. Don’t try to copy the Valley.
The Southeastern culture and education system has not traditionally been great at educating and encouraging measured risk. Cities that do this well have been doing it longer and have leaders with more battle scars to share their knowledge. Building up education of entrepreneurs and encouraging a more risk tolerant culture would help.
Q. One of the things I’m very passionate about is building more of a bridge between Atlanta and the Valley. Would you like to get more engaged in Atlanta’s tech scene? If so, in what ways?
A. Absolutely. I have a soft spot for Atlanta and would love to help through collaborative events like the MIT Enterprise Forum one tonight, mentorship, and advisory roles with startups. I would particularly like to get involved with first and second time entrepreneurs. There are some big difference between the two ecosystems and the pace of change in each – I would enjoy getting involved and guiding people as much as possible.
Q. What suggestions do you have for Atlanta based tech companies who want to build and grow their company in Atlanta but also connect with the ecosystem in the Valley?
A. Get connected with advisers who are in the Valley – not only is their perspective different but they have incredible networks that they can plug you into. Don’t be afraid to pursue early adopter clients/beta testers and early-stage investors in the Valley.
Q. Your company secures mobile data wherever it goes. In the BYOD/BYOA space as well as broader mobile security, what trends and/or threats are most pressing in your mind?
A. The biggest thing on my mind is mobile app security. As the mobile operating environment continues to evolve and we realize that we can’t fully trust it, we will need to apply security measures more tightly and build security at the application level. Researchers are starting to focus on it, which is a sign that the criminal element is going to present itself more frequently and that criminals will start performing their own research. In fact, the frequency of attacks will likely increase at an exponential rate over the next 12-24 months.
Q. What should companies and consumers be thinking about and, more importantly, doing to protect themselves from security threats?
A. Since we’re early in this space, it’s very difficult for consumers to protect against it currently. Big companies have more resources and can buy mobile security. For now, consumers should download apps that measure how trustable their device is, and look for areas they can improve. Downloading more reputable and trustable apps is also a good practice. The silver lining is that consumers will receive the benefits of security measures their companies put in place on their devices.
Q. Where do you see the enterprise mobility security and personal mobility security space headed in the next 2-3 years?
A. BYOD is the big trend. The divide between security and privacy of the consumer and the enterprise on personal devices will widen. There will be a shift in the consumer demanding more privacy and control on their device. This will be better for both groups – consumers will get more privacy and control over their devices while IT will control the apps they care about.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed listening to Adam share his insights. As you can tell, Adam has an incredible background and is as passionate as I am about building more of a bridge between Atlanta and the Valley. If you are building a company and think Adam would be a good mentor/advisor for you, please feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to introduce you.