Roy Halevi has extensive expertise when it comes to defending against sophisticated malware attacks. Prior to joining Intezer he served as a software architect and development team leader for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Roy continues to explore the possibilities for new and innovative technologies in cybersecurity from his company’s private office in Mindspace, Tel Aviv. Meet Roy and Intezer, the future of malware analysis.
Tell us about Intezer.
We are a cybersecurity company based in Tel Aviv and New York City. We have introduced the biological immune system concepts to cybersecurity, detecting code reuse in both trusted and malicious software to identify new forms of malware. We call our technology Genetic Malware Analysis, which allows security teams to automate their malware analysis and response. We started at Mindspace with three people, and today we have approximately 22 employees (and growing!) in our Tel Aviv office. Our customer base includes both enterprises and government organizations, with more than half of our private sector customers coming from the Fortune 500.
How did Intezer get started?
Intezer began when we realized, from experience, that there is a need for accurate, effective and automated malware analysis. Our CEO, Itai Tevet, and I both served in the Israeli military and dealt with the defensive side of security; meaning that we had to work to help the military defend itself against attacks from all over the world. When we finished our service we worked as consultants for a short period of time and we felt that there was a very big problem in dealing with malware, specifically dealing with sophisticated malware. The process of detecting and analyzing malware can be very expensive and if done wrong, unsuccessful. It requires a lot of technical expertise and resources in the form of time and effort. This problem is only becoming larger. As time passed we realized we wanted to do something innovative and find a way for companies to accurately and efficiently address malware at scale. This is why we started Intezer.
Where do you see the industry going?
In general, the cybersecurity industry is a very challenging field because you always have people with malicious intent on the other side and attacks are constantly evolving. When the industry introduces a solution, they try to find a way around it. It’s something you don’t see in other industries. But I also see enterprises adopting new technologies and practices and recruiting more people in order to defend themselves properly. We see a lot of great new cybersecurity companies, even right here in Mindspace. The industry is very crowded, but if you divide the field you find that each cybersecurity company tries to deal with one specific aspect. I see a lot of room for growth in this field and a lot of space for new and very innovative technologies. There’s also a large and active InfoSec community and people share information about threats and practices with each other all the time.
How developed is the product?
Our product, Intezer Analyze™, was released about one year ago, and as I mentioned earlier we already have many paying customers, we also have a very active community of users that use our free edition. From my point of view as the CTO, there are a lot of new developments that are still going to happen to enhance the product. The roadmap is exciting, as there are many elements that we see the need for based on feedback from our customers and new features and capabilities that we want to add. So it’s already at a point where it delivers value to our customers and solves a problem, but it’s also very far from our end goal and vision.
Where do you see yourself 12 months from now?
That is a tough question. I will tell you how I would want to see myself if everything goes well and if everything goes as planned. The main goals I want to achieve are more paying customers, making continued and significant product improvements, and more business partnerships. I would also like to see us recruit more people and see the company grow both in Tel Aviv and New York. I want to recruit new people with fresh minds and a fresh perspective on the product and on our mission.
What has been Intezer’s biggest win and biggest risk?
Deciding that you want to start a business is the biggest risk. At first, we didn’t receive a salary for a few months so you immediately feel that you are taking a very big risk.
For us, the turning point was when we closed our first customer. It was a very large bank here in Israel. We were able to sit down with the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in the organization and he was excited about the technology and decided to give us a chance. The product was still in its beginning stages, but we were able to demonstrate tremendous value in leveraging our technology’s capabilities. Today the bank is one of our best customers. It’s also very nice that enterprises here in Israel support and embrace startups and new technologies.
Give us one tip for success.
As I see it, the most important thing for every founder is to find the right people to build your team. In the beginning, you are a perfectionist. You want to control every little aspect of the company because you have the vision. But when you start growing you understand that it is not possible, so you need to have the right people and build a team that you trust. A team you can trust even when they make mistakes because everyone makes mistakes and this is part of being a startup. Understand that you will run into some challenges, but build a team that you know understands and shares your vision and is committed to making it come to life.
What are some activities you do together as a company?
There are many activities we do together as a company. For example, we have a staff meeting that takes place once a month where we gather and discuss updates on all company aspects, from sales and business development to marketing, technology, product, and so on.
Each time that we close a deal we come together in our common space and raise a toast and say a big thank you to all of the people that worked hard to make the deal happen. Sometimes when you do some coding or you are handling some event or you do some research, it’s very hard to see how your work is contributing to closing a specific deal. When we take the opportunity to say thank you to all of the people who did an awesome job, it brings everyone closer together and serves as a motivator. I feel really good about this tradition and it’s always nice to have something to celebrate.
We try to do company events, for example, just a few days ago we held an evening company event at a coworker’s home. We had a barbecue with some drinks and it was a lot of fun. We played soccer and ping pong and organized a company trivia game. And of course, the Mindspace events available to us really allow us to spend time together as a team and meet smart, innovative people from other companies as well.