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Entrepreneur Rahul Sasi on shielding big tech startups, Fortune 500 companies from internet’s underbelly

Rahul Sasi has been a cybersecurity enthusiast ever since he first got access to the internet at engineering school in 2006. Less than a decade later, he founded CloudSEKan artificial intelligence (AI) based digital risk management and cybersecurity platform headquartered in Singapore.

With an Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) of $2.5 million, the startup solves for the biggest threats facing consumer tech businesses, global banks, and consulting firms with over 100 clients. CloudSEK helps monitor cyber threats and infrastructure, and the dark web for companies including Axis Bank, NPCI, Netcore, Ola, Sun Pharma, ICICI Lombard, IndusInd Bank, MakeMyTrip, and Kotak Mahindra Bank, among others.  

In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100x Entrepreneur podcast, Rahul explained that the dark web is an internet inside the internet. It is built on the Tor network, where people can post and write anonymously, and is often used by unethical hackers to sell different kinds of confidential data.

“One of our product capabilities is to tell our customers whether anything related to them, their digital assets, infrastructure data or documents are being sold on the dark web. That is just 15 percent of our capability. We can also look at data from any data source other than dark web like deep web, network clocks, any textual information – and can analyse and then give our customers actionable insights,” he said. 

The startup hopes to secure 250 clients this financial year and 400 clients within two years. Rahul shared that it has identified market potential in over 22 countries, including South Korea where it aims to have a strong presence. 

Challenges and lessons in entrepreneurship

As a techie and an entrepreneur, Rahul’s vision is to build something that stays relevant ten years down the line. So hiring the right set of people to ensure quality products and services remains a constant and key challenge for CloudSEK. Hiring, he said, is one field where one will make mistakes, irrespective of how good you are.

In December 2021, CloudSEK raised $7 million (~Rs 50 crore) in a Series A funding round led by MassMutual Ventures with participation from Omidyar Network India, 100X Entrepreneur, individual investors Firoz Meeran and Navas Meeran (Group Meeran), CRED founder Kunal Shah, and Naresh Shah’s QED Innovation Labs.

Rahul believes investors backing a venture is more important than the fund itself. 

“They are like your team members…because if you get the right set of investors who understand the vision, they can add a lot of value and be very supportive, and things are always going to get difficult in terms of business. No business has taken a smooth ride upwards,” he added.

Rahul particularly seeks to leverage his network of investors for their experience sitting on board of other tech companies and corporate governance. He said getting to know them and then having their reference are also huge benefits. 

To aspiring entrepreneurs, he advised that one must be quick to make decisions to become a fast-growing startup. “If you’re just spending many days making a decision, then you’re not a fast-growing startup,” he said.

According to him, CloudSEK’s constant focus is to build a great company with great products, whether there is an IPO or with the ability to sustain as a private company.

To know more, listen to the entire podcast here:

04:04 – Background before starting CloudSEK

08:55 – Current ARR and scale in terms of customers

09:45 – Milestone since launch

12:04 – Products and problem statements solved by CloudSEK

14:44 – How has been the industry response? 

20:19 – Challenges with hiring the right people

24:40 – Targets for the next two years

26:17 – Learnings from their fundraising journey

28:26 – How to leverage your investors? 

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