Paul Hadjy is the CEO and Co-founder of Horangi, a Singapore-based cybersecurity company that offers an integrated SaaS security platform and CREST-accredited services, including penetration testing. Before Horangi, Paul worked at Palantir Technologies across the US, Korea, New Zealand, and Afghanistan. He was part of the US Department of Defense Counter-IED unit. Paul was also the Head of Information Security at Grab.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Paul says:
Stay lean and save money wherever you can. Be disciplined about it! Obvious as it may be for business owners now, it is a lot more difficult to stick to this mindset when business is flourishing.
A lot of my mistakes and experiences have got me to where I am today so that I wouldn’t do things much differently. If there were one major thing I could change, it would be me being more prudent about hiring and in general spending, especially when business was booming.
Read on to know more about Paul Hadjy and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and what motivated you to get started with your company?
Paul Hadjy: I have been starting companies ever since I was in college, most of which only had moderate success. With Horangi, I decided to start a business in line with my professional career and education while utilizing the experience of running smaller businesses. The idea for Horangi came when I was transitioning from Palantir to Grab. At Grab, I was running the security and IT teams, and when looking for cloud security vendors, I had a hard time finding any based outside of the U.S. or Israel. Seeing that clear gap in Asia, we decided to start Horangi.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Paul Hadjy: Our current main product is Horangi Warden, a Cloud Security Posture Management solution that helps companies using the public cloud to automate their security and compliance management. Warden currently supports Amazon Web Services (AWS) and will soon also support customers on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Before Warden, we had a web and code scanner. We took the lessons from building that software into developing Warden, and now are focused on Warden ever since we launched it last year. We also provide cybersecurity services from certified experts who have always been a big driver for the business and a reputation builder for Horangi.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Paul Hadjy: We have raised a bit over USD23M, with the most recent Series B round completed in March 2020. We have been lucky enough to have some great investors to help us along the way.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Paul Hadjy: We have done a lot of work through our partnership with AWS and a direct sales model. We started with us as founders being the first and only salespeople, but this has evolved as we now have a full-fledged sales team for both our products and services across Asia.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Paul Hadjy: HubSpot has been integral in our growth, being both our marketing automation and our CRM tool. HubSpot doesn’t benefit only our marketing team, but also all the customer-facing teams. The platform enables us to track the performance of our campaigns and also make project handovers more seamless.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Paul Hadjy: I think it depends on the founder’s background. Coming from an engineering background, I did not put enough emphasis on marketing. Initially, and I think we would have gotten a bit further faster if we had. The reverse is true for founders with more of a sales and marketing background — they usually don’t invest enough in engineering.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Paul Hadjy: Always be fundraising! I always take meetings and run the process similar to a sales pipeline. We have probably met more than 100 investors through events, networking, and cold outreach. Generally, I think networking works the best, but events are always good too.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Paul Hadjy: Our business model is a bit different because we are a product and services company. Many VCs shy away from services, but cybersecurity services are a very important part of the business because that’s how you demonstrate expertise and build your brand. If I had to start over, I think the main thing that would have made a difference is being more conscious of costs, being profitable, or ensuring positive cash flow earlier.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Paul Hadjy: We think that we are still quite early in what will be a multi-decade long growth story for cybersecurity in Asia. So we want to continue to grow the business and serve more customers,
and find more ways to help our customers manage their cyber risk. Fundraising is just a way of making progress towards that goal we are aiming to be profitable over the next couple of years.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Paul Hadjy: For now, we are heavily focused on Southeast Asia. That doesn’t change the fact that cloud security and compliance are challenges in every country. As our product continues to mature, we constantly stay on the lookout to determine where that next market will be.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Paul Hadjy: Not putting in enough research and testing into the process is one that comes to mind. We made this mistake once and will not make it again. I think companies need to be very clinical in the process of global expansion. One of the best ways to find success in a new market is by having the right partner.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Paul Hadjy: We were very fortunate to have raised money before the crisis. Nonetheless, we still had to make some tough decisions. One of the best decisions we made last year was to focus on serving bigger companies, and we are now seeing that pay off in many ways.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Paul Hadjy: One mistake is not doing the research and product-market fit discovery early enough. There is a lot that can be done to get market sentiment without any formal engineering work. I highly recommend surveys, getting soft commits, and talking to potential customers and investors.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And what advice do you have for someone interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Paul Hadjy: Stay lean and save money wherever you can. Be disciplined about it! Obvious as it may be for business owners now, it is a lot more difficult to stick to this mindset when business is flourishing.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Paul Hadjy: A lot of my mistakes and experiences have got me to where I am today so that I wouldn’t do things much differently. If there were one major thing I could change, it would be me being more prudent about hiring and in general spending, especially when business was booming.
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