[quote style=”boxed”]You need to connect with your customers and prospective customers. Don’t be shy! It’s practically free advice, and customers will appreciate your efforts.[/quote]
Tim Maliyil is CEO and Data Security Architect for AlertBoot. AlertBoot protects customers from data breaches that damage their credibility, reputation, and overall business. The company’s managed full-disk encryption, email encryption services, and mobile security services deploy within minutes to customers’ PCs, smartphones, and tablets, providing tremendous insight, visibility, and control.
Where did the idea for AlertBoot come from?
I owned another SaaS firm that developed and hosted retail point-of-sale accounting software for a niche retail industry, and I saw that growth within that market was limited. I began to search for our next opportunity. I had a lot of experience in creating and managing a cloud software business; I also had a great network of employees and vendors who would help support any endeavor.
While doing some federal government contracting during my search for the next opportunity, I saw the government was buying full-disk encryption licenses to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. However, they lacked the manpower and additional budget to deploy and manage that encryption software.
I saw the opportunity to create the AlertBoot service. Our philosophy is that software should be easy to use so it can properly support users’ primary objectives. We embarked on creating the AlertBoot service to make full-disk encryption software easy to use and manage for companies of all sizes.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend a good amount of my day reading and responding to emails. I keep a pulse on what’s happening with customers and sales activities. I also consistently read tech, domestic, and international news; sketch out thoughts for the future of our product; and participate in various forms of social media to further build my network.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The first step is identifying a pain point that I think we can uniquely solve. Having a competitor doesn’t bother me because that often serves as validation for the idea, and we can learn from their mistakes. The next step is usually getting some validation from our network to determine whether there truly is a need. This also helps to build an early-stage sales pipeline.
If the above research yields a favorable response, we get our engineering and marketing teams to work on developing the product and its subsequent launch.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love that cloud computing is becoming more prevalent in all forms of computing. We were a fairly early adopter of cloud infrastructure services, and I’m amazed at how much easier it is to launch SaaS businesses now. If cloud infrastructure services had been this robust when I’d launched my first SaaS business in 2001, we would’ve easily saved over $7 million and countless labor hours invested in our data centers.
We were a bit ahead of the curve when we first launched the AlertBoot solution, but our persistence and perseverance are proving fruitful now that cloud services are seeing a greater adoption rate.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think my willingness to explore new ideas and give them a try makes me more productive. I think it’s important to stay aware of new technology and new trends because it makes me aware of what the market needs. Making time to talk to new potential partners keeps my creative juices flowing as well.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I consider myself lucky; I don’t consider any of my past jobs as bad experiences. If I were to pinpoint a learning experience, it would be a job I had while in college. I was a telephone sales associate for an electronic components brokerage firm. My job was to source and quote components such as computer chips, specialized resistors, and similar electronic components.
I realized I found no fulfillment in this kind of work; I had no interest in simply finding components to resell at a markup. I wanted to build products that solved problems. As a result, I took my work in software development more seriously.
An interesting twist to this story is that my first major independent commercial project was to build a new ERP system for this company that helped it scale to new levels when its business grew by 500 percent during the dot-com era. I was able to be efficient in building the system as a contractor because I understood the business. I knew what I could automate because I had to perform some of those tedious tasks when I worked there.
The experience taught me that you have to be more than a good engineer to build success. You also need to have a good understanding of the non-technical problems you’re trying to solve.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would seek more external help with hiring. I made some bad hiring decisions over the years, and some people turned out to be counterproductive fits for the company.
Fortunately, we had enough great people to help offset these decisions. We have a great team now.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
You need to connect with your customers and prospective customers. Don’t be shy! It’s practically free advice, and customers will appreciate your efforts.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Spending time with customers and prospective customers has helped me greatly. I try to personally perform at least four to five sales demos per week; I keep a close eye on customer support activity. It allows me to quickly line up the right people to deal with issues, and most of our product roadmap ideas come from this.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve definitely had more than one failure. If I were to pinpoint a specific failure, it’s that I didn’t fire a bad employee quickly enough. A former employee in a leadership position within the organization went rogue, and he was killing the motivation of good employees. His termination came as a shock to the employees who reported to him, but those employees ultimately felt relieved. Their productivity greatly increased, and morale at the company is much better now.
Hire slowly and fire quickly: There’s a lot of truth to that. I was fortunate that I had good people working here who were interested in seeing the company succeed.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There’s a need for something like AlertBoot for cloud servers. There are products to help secure cloud servers, but nobody has a simple service for doing this the way we can secure laptops and mobile devices. I would tackle this myself, but our market is rapidly growing.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
My life isn’t all rainbows and flowers. I did have to overcome a lot of setbacks to get to this point, and it’s always a struggle. While certain aspects of an entrepreneurial career get easier over time, there are always problems that need to be tackled.
I choose not to immerse my friends and family in the true nature of the struggle. I find the overall entrepreneurial journey very rewarding, and the positive aspects far outweigh the negative aspects.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use a number of services and software products to keep our business humming along. We use Trend Micro’s security technology as an OEM partner to help power our security services.
Dimension Data and Amazon Web Services are our public cloud providers that help us serve up our globally redundant service.
iProteger is a Silicon Valley startup that will help us bring an innovative new email encryption service to our customers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think entrepreneurs who want to build product-based businesses should read “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson to learn about his struggles. Money wasn’t his motivation for building his businesses. Even with his respectable business stature and fame, he still had to overcome great obstacles to accomplish his goals. He nearly bankrupted himself while chasing those dreams.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Steve Jobs and Elon Musk both greatly influence my thinking. When things get tough, I reflect upon their struggles. I learn from their struggles to make their companies better. I can only imagine the world we would live in if entrepreneurs gave up when things got tough.
Tim Maliyil on Twitter: @tim_maliyil
AlertBoot on Twitter: @AlertBoot
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.