Founder Stories from CyRise: Rony and Sergei, Prevasio
Deeply technical and turning heads with their world-first solution, Rony Moshkovich and Sergei Shevchenko of Prevasio are an impressive force. With their joint pedigree in malware research, together they’re creating the finest analysis solution for Docker containers. Prevasio was built at its core with a ground breaking capability to detect zero-day threats. The patent-pending technology that Prevasio is so proud of sets it above the competition.
The importance of having a good co-founder
Individually brilliant, the close-knit bond between these co-founders comes from a deep understanding that they can achieve far better things by working together than they ever could alone. “If you build a startup, you need to have a co-founder. It would be extremely tough for someone to build a business on their own, simply because we are humans and we have these periods of ups and downs. It’s a roller coaster.” explains Sergei. “When two people who think alike, and have full understanding and trust between each other, it helps to smooth the bumps in the road. When I feel down, Rony can cheer me up and vice versa. Any skill set can be bought or replaced, but a bond based on mutual respect is irreplaceable.”
For Sergei, this understanding stems from personal experience. “I had a couple of startups before Prevasio. On both occasions I built the product myself and I noticed I was missing the second half who would back me up and cheer me up and boost my morale. I gave up. So back then, I realised I needed a person I can trust, who I can rely on.” Rony came up with his own vision of the product. “Rony encouraged me to look up from what I was buried in, and to look to the cloud. He was the person who took my hand and showed me the horizon. Because of him, I said “Let’s do it!” We understand each other. We have a common culture, we were born in the same country, and laugh at the same things.”
The pair share a long history. They met in 2009. “I knew from the start that Sergei was a phenomenon,” says Rony. “It’s rare that you meet a talent that goes far beyond everyone else. There are lots of good people in security; lots of knowledge. I learnt that as soon as Sergei puts his mind to something, it’s going to be amazing. Solid quality, and attention to detail. I’ve worked with a lot, and I’ve worked with the best, but could count on one hand, minus two fingers, people like Sergei”.
How future-focus and frustration work as motivators
Once you’re on a trajectory like this, building up a solution for cloud security, you have to continue to keep up. “The cloud is the evolution of technology.” says Sergei. “It’s the area that’s changing so fast, you need to be on top of the game all the time. It’s very tempting to find a cosy place and stay where you are, but I realised that if I choose to stay in that convenient and known environment, I will quickly die as a professional. So I trusted Rony even though I was completely uncomfortable moving into the containerisation space. I feel sorry for the brilliant people who choose not to pursue the evolving tech, and rather stay where they’re comfortable.”
Rony‘s motivation stems from a healthy frustration. “I was developing a platform for one for the biggest companies in the world, and I could not find a security solution to do what we needed. We had a huge budget, and no one came back with anything viable. It was either: we found something but it’s awkward to maintain, or we found something easy but there are no features. I couldn’t believe it. I would have had to choose seven vendors to pull together a solution to fix my problem. So, that frustration led me to build. Sergei called me with an exciting idea when I was returning jet-lagged from a meeting in South Africa. With opportunities like this, I’m like a small child in a candy store.I can see the shortfalls in the solutions available in today’s market, and I know we can create and deliver a great product.”
Making it personal
Motivation to build and succeed goes even deeper again. For Rony and Sergei it’s personal. “Attackers have invested a lot of effort to obfuscate their malicious intentions,” explains Sergei. “Uncovering their malicious attack, understanding how it works is very personal to me. They don’t want me to find out what they’ve done! If I fail, it means they’ve outsmarted me, and I simply can’t let that happen..” This competitive nature also drives Sergei in his approach to business. “We found a way to solve a problem that no one else has solved. We’re just two guys in Australia! We proved that two smart guys can do what these cashed up companies can’t do. It’s exciting to me. To prove and to show the value, to do something that no other corporation has done before us. It’s a thrill that drives me personally in this business.”
“For me,” Rony says, “It’s about autonomy. We both trust each other and trust that we will do our best from dawn until dusk. That trust makes us a good pair. We both focus on what we need to do. We both will do our best to be number one.”
Sergei chimes in on that theme, too. “As security researchers we want to be able to tell the world about what insights we’ve uncovered. When I worked for companies before — brilliant companies — they have their own procedures and checks in place, and it means there’s not as much freedom to share research. At Prevasio, I see it’s our role. We found that Docker Hub has 1000s of malicious containers. We’re like guards. Once you see danger, you raise an alert. Prevasio gives us more freedom to disclose issues so we can help the wider security community become more aware of threats.”
The fight you need and the freedom you get
Even with a supporting co-founder relationship, growing a startup isn’t always easy. For Rony, it is a “lonely place to be, but it’s an energising mindset”. He continues. “Other roles could give you that, too, but what matters is the entrepreneurial mindset. That’s where I get my excitement — it’s building the tech, the business, serving a need, and filling a gap. Founder or not, it’s filling the gap.”
“We’re both in that stage of maturity in life when you weigh all the risks” explains Sergei. “During Covid times, it’s fear and uncertainty that rules everyone. But in spite of that feeling, you may still have a clear idea of why you’re doing this, you can understand odds are not on your side and still believe you’re making the right choice. If you decide to wait it out, you may end up waiting all your life, and then, in the end, look back and realise how many opportunities you have missed”
Rony is also energised by this opportunity. “It’s about the ability to be number one. The chance you have! The adrenaline you have meeting with customers and big companies that suddenly have an interest in what you’re doing. Having previously worked for big companies, I understand it’s not easy to get their attention. But we’re turning heads. We’re getting their attention. That for me is a really big motivator. It’s a big sign that we’re in the right direction. We can have an impact. It’s the game changer, brought by people who live and breathe the security domain”.
“The highest aspiration for me is freedom.” Sergei reflects. “Being a founder of Prevasio gives me freedom of expression, freedom of writing code, freedom of business direction, freedom of publishing, of expressing ourselves. People think you can become a slave to your business. I don’t feel that. I love it. Being in a startup like ours we have the freedom to do what we think is relevant and solve the pain, moving very fast because we make the decision. We still have all the responsibilities that come from that. But still we’re free.” Adding a little more colour and drawing a parallel with Who Moved My Cheese?, a famous fable by Dr Spencer Johnson, Sergei likens the startup experience to a call to roam free. “You can be comfortable and stay in the maze, happy with your daily supply of cheese, or you can roam in the wild and explore. The thing about staying comfortable, is that one day the cheese may disappear. A different choice is to get fit, get your bow and arrows and hunt your own animals,” said Sergei. “Or, build your own cheese farm,” added Rony.