I hire really smart people who can see past “can’t”. My team owns our success – not me. I am just another cog in that process.
Paul Kraus has more than 25 years of experience in security, including VP Engineering at Blue Coat Systems and Solera Networks, and Director of Engineering roles at Adobe, VERITAS and Symantec.
In his current role as president and CEO for Eastwind, Paul is helping define and execute the company’s mission of providing enterprise-grade network security to SMBs.
Eastwind Breach Detection is a cloud-based breach detection solution that aims to protect government agencies and enterprise organizations from cyber threats that bypass traditional security measures. Eastwind Breach Detection monitors the entire network, not just the sources, looking at the raw data and providing more context with which to make decisions and flag threats. Founded in 2014 and led by a team of Internet security veterans, Eastwind Breach Detection was recently named a Founders 50 member by Dell.
In his prior roles as VP Engineering at Blue Coat Systems and Solera, Paul built dynamic engineering leadership teams in the area of network forensics. Paul was also Director of Engineering at Adobe, VERITAS and Symantec, and has held various other positions at companies including Fidelity Investments. He holds a BS in Information Management from the University of North Carolina.
Where did the idea for Eastwind Breach Detection come from?
The idea for Eastwind Breach detection actually started with my concern that only the best-funded companies out there could afford to acquire, implement and staff an effective post-breach online security strategy. Yet these were the exact companies we read about and hear about daily in the news when it comes to breaches. The gap was readily apparent. For one, vendors were only selling their best products to the most sophisticated companies and agencies. When these companies tried to sell “down market” to smaller companies, they strip features. Fewer features mean less security, period. This left a huge addressable market open to companies that want to disrupt the way traditional security tools are sold. Second, the effectiveness of available tools is quite concerning. Enter Eastwind Breach Detection – the effective, attainable, and easily deployable alternative.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Most days, I head to the gym early, usually to swim. However, recently I have bought into the idea of “remote” cycling training with a company out of New York City. While a lot of people use their time on the trainer or treadmill to read, I don’t. I use this time to be with myself. You know the saying, “Let me sleep on that.” These first few hours allow for me to reflect on what I slept on! I like to carpool with my team members or meet them for breakfast. I know a lot of people carpool for cost and environmental reasons. I oftentimes see four people in a car; three of them staring at their phones or laptops and leaving the driver to him/herself. I use this time for socializing – could be about work, news, movies, family, cycling, whatever. The point for me is to deepen the connections with the people who have chosen to work with me – and vice versa. Once at the office – our setup is in a big circle – we focus. We also communicate. We don’t put on our noise canceling headphones and block out the noise. I believe the network effect that smart, passionate people have on each other is immeasurable. I am productive on my own, but ten times more so when my team is involved.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I hire really smart people who can see past “can’t”. My team owns our success – not me. I am just another cog in that process. My job is to keep trying to tip the proverbial applecart. My team expects me never to settle – to push them and me to do what was not thought possible. Do you find that fun? I do!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
CIOs and CISOs have finally moved past the awkward boardroom discussion around “we were breached,” at which point the security expert is expected to be shown the door. Now the trend in the boardroom is to ask next-level questions. Board members might ask: Is it contained? Do we know what was taken? Do we know how? Do we have remediation plans? And, finally: Do you understand it? Armed with these answers, the CIOs and CISOs can go execute their jobs. If they don’t understand – well, that is a different story.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
There is a great commercial running on U.S. television now called “The Settlers”. The humor of the commercial is about settling for subpar service – and being happy with that outcome. I don’t settle, but at the same time, I do not demand. I participate. If I feel that if the objective is valuable enough to our success, and we have yet to achieve it – I push on. I roll up my sleeves, ask probing questions and offer disruptive alternatives. I have found that people with both high IQs and high EQs respond to “let’s try” a lot better than “thou shall”.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My worst job was working for the IRS. Granted, this was an internship and I was very thankful for the opportunity to learn from some really smart people and pay my way through college. However, this is the job where I learned that I was better working with people than reading step-by-step instructions from a four-inch-wide three ring binder. My job was very operational and located in a small datacenter. The rest of the staff would leave about 30 minutes after I got there. So, I had 30 minutes of mentoring and then spent 3 hours and 30 minutes following procedures.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would start building a network of trusted advisors earlier and strongly cultivate those relationships. Early in my career, I often did not realize how impactful many people and interactions have been on me. My circle of advisors is invaluable to me – they help make me who I am.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I continuously evaluate my investment thesis. I am sure you have heard the acronym “OPM – other people’s money”. When I take investment, it’s the opposite approach. I spend investment money like it is my own hard-earned cash. That means I have to stay aware of changing conditions in the business. As a startup matures, certain aspects of the initial pitch deck must change. If an entrepreneur is too stuck to his or her initial idea, then s/he is either incredibly lucky, lacking awareness, bullish or arrogant. Lacking awareness is a fatal flaw; the other flaws are inherent in every entrepreneur. So back to the investment evaluation – my investors will keep investing in me if they know I am invested in them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I find the best people, put them in a role that they have not done before and help them become successful again. Great people adapt, and more quickly than most. At the same time, they need the challenge, or they become bored easily — easier than most.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I do not view the world as success and/or failure. Real failure happens if you get paralyzed by your successes or failures. I avoid this trap. There is something to learn from every encounter. You either do more of the same, you avoid or you evolve – and try again, harder.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An EQ and IQ calculator derived from a person’s social footprint. This would give a hiring manager a huge advantage in qualifying and disqualifying candidates. It would also allow hiring managers to stop asking the stupid interview question — “What is your greatest weakness?” — by allowing them to target specific persona traits that an organization finds valuable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent $100 on an upgrade from a coach airline ticket to economy comfort (you can guess the airline). Initially, I wanted more legroom, more peanuts, and a few free drinks. What I got, however, was an amazing conversation with a young soldier coming back from Iraq. His passion for protecting our country was overwhelming. He loved his mission. He loved his fellow soldiers. It does not matter if you agree with what he is doing – how he is doing it really moved me.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use Office365, AWS, Atlassian, Twitter, Facebook and Infusionsoft. MS Office (whether hosted, desktop or tablet) is an old friend. The “cool kids” have started using Google Docs – but the quality and professionalism didn’t cut it for us. AWS allows us to experiment with little upfront costs and effort. My guys say: “Check this out – what do you think?” for a new service and feature. If we don’t like it, we tear it down. If we do, we move forward. Easy and fast. AWS is also investing heavily in startups, hoping they will all be like Uber someday and stay on the AWS infrastructure. That makes AWS a good long-term bet. Atlassian allows flexibility in where our assets reside, via hosted bug tracking with local source code control. Social media speaks for itself. Done right, the rewards are huge. Infusionsoft is a good alternative to Salesforce for startups, and at the same time, they are easier and more pleasant to deal with. Doing business with people/companies that you like doing business with makes the process of starting up easier.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. Large numbers of entrepreneurs seem to come from either sales or engineering disciplines. For a hungry salesperson, it is critical to understand how to put discipline into the sales cycle to ensure quality forecasting. It also helps cut the fluff and distraction. As an engineer turned CEO, the book is a great primer for what lies ahead. It helped me evolve quickly into the world of sales.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
The specific foreign language teacher I’m thinking of is long retired but helped me realize that foreign language is more than just speech. It is the ability to cross bridges. I cannot tell you the number of times when I have been in France, Germany or Mexico and basic language skills broke the ice.
Ned Johnson, owner of Fidelity Investments. He is one of the most empathetic people I have ever met. He proves that regardless of how busy or successful someone is, finding the time and interest to understand people can change lives.
Bill Gates. If you want his time, he will give it to you. Just make it valuable to both of you. Time is a resource, use it wisely.
Mother Teresa. Kind in spirit. Relentless in her pursuit.