Spotlight on the CyRise teams: The Detexian Story
To drive towards success and pick yourself up when you fall takes unwavering inner moxie. For Tan, that inner drive saw him become fluent in English as a young boy in Vietnam, pushed him through investment banking, an MBA, and into entrepreneurship. It’s the same drive that navigated him through a recent pivot for his startup. It’s the same drive that’ll see his success.
Persistence pays off
Tan Huynh is the Cofounder and CEO of Detexian. Growing up in post-war Vietnam, his tenacity and talent drove him to excel academically and in corporate life. After being selected for a university scholarship in the UK, Tan was determined to stay abroad. It was the heyday of management consultancy and investment banking, and London was ripe with opportunity. He went with the popular choice and took up a job in investment banking. ‘Investment banking ended up being the most productive seven years of my life. I was taught how to contribute from day one. I was working and living with young and hungry bankers, who wanted to work really hard and play really hard. After years of doing that it just wasn’t fun anymore. I met my partner and it was clear there was a lot more than just work to life’.
So, like any good investment banker would, Tan made the switch to private equity. ‘The work was great, with great hours. It was a life changing environment and talented team. In a way, it was like a private equity startup at the time, going from zero to over a billion in funds under management by the time I left.’
Building something to own
Inspired by the CEO of the private equity group, Tan left to create something of his own. ‘I left at the age of 36 because I wanted to answer to myself and to create a business for myself. Can I also create something from scratch? Can I do something more interesting than traditional finance?’
It was clear this was the time to experiment. ‘I put my career on hold, to find myself, while I still had the opportunity. So, where would be the place that I could immerse myself in the startup world at the centre of innovation? Silicon Valley. And what school would enable me to get to the next level? Stanford. I did my best to secure a spot. And by some kind of miracle, I did.’
Stanford was the busiest time of Tan’s life. Apart from lectures and the work, there was a myriad of extra curricular and social activities. ‘You do so many things . Expectations are high. I was under so much stress in the first two semesters, I made a point to rediscover what I wanted to do. So, in the third semester I got involved in startups.’ After a couple of ventures with friends, Tan got a taste for startups though generating ideas, go to market strategies and prototyping.
‘I started talking more in depth with a friend of mine who is also a cyber security engineer. Together with my classmates, we decided to tackle the plight of SMBs in cyber attacks and data breaches. The genesis of Detexian was about helping SMBs uplift security posture in the easiest, most cost effective way.’
Making it happen
The initial Detexian product was a host intrusion detection solution that takes five minutes to install. ‘We were able to recruit freemium customers pretty fast from all over the world and were thrilled to have got that much traction so early. For that we were able to attract venture backing. And also able to get into CyRise.’ They were on a mission to nail that product market fit. As it turns out, it’s not that easy. It was the battle of willingness to try vs willingness to buy. The pain point was not enough to convert into paying customers.
Quality conversations through the CyRise program enabled the fine-tuning of a pivot idea. From industry advisors, CISOs, to CEOs, there was clear feedback to shift the focus. And thus, Detexian’s message moved to providing security posture uplift, narrowing in on compliance needs.
It’s a product that resonates. ‘Many SMBs can’t tell one cyber security solution from another. They don’t have the knowledge. We changed our go-to-market strategy from providing a solution to providing visibility, helping them understand what a good baseline is for security, and helping them upkeep the baseline.’
Detexian’s new product is a multi-SaaS security management platform. It helps organisations with multiple SaaS solutions, like Office 365, GSuite, Salesforce, to unify various SaasS security dashboards into one. From that dashboard you can manage configurations, rectify users risky actions, standardise security policies, and as a result deliver compliance at scale across SaaS solutions. ‘Many third party vendors use SaaS solutions to handle the data. Detexian can help set a good base lines for these SaaS solutions, always having security features turned on and tested. It allows IT to manage applications without having to log into multiple dashboards.’
Compliance and posture
The ultimate goal is to become the one place where SaaS providers come for security compliance best practice.
‘Compliance is not a sexy word, but compliance is important in supply chain context. Non-compliance of a third party vendor infects the whole supply chain.’
Tan credits his experience in investment banking for instilling a care for security compliance. ‘Confidential information is everything. It was great training; ‘lock down’ is the word we used. I was used to operating in that world, but once I ventured outside I saw that security is really lax. In the banking world if people accidentally send files to the wrong recipient the consequence was dismissal. The same can’t be said for the outside world.’
If you follow good practice, then compliance is a side effect. ‘We can help companies understand what that means, and how easy it is to implement. At the end of the day our philosophy is about enabling security solutions to meet business needs. It’s business needs that come first. Security has to work to accommodate that.’
Leading the drive
As CEO, Tan is authentic with his team. ‘I’ve learned how to communicate better every day and learnt how to motivate and involve people along the way. At our stage each and every one of us has to focus on our strengths.
And what’s Tan’s strength? ‘My strength is I’m a very objective person, but at the same time I empathise well with people. I’m able to use facts and emotions appropriately at times when either or both are required to motivate or move things forward.’
‘I never shy away from conflict. I think it’s occasionally required to move the team to the next stage. Investment taught me to be short and sharp and punchy. Taught to cite facts but at the same time taught to sell.’
But it didn’t teach Tan to empathise. ‘I learnt that the hard way. I learned it when I met my partner. Yes, facts are powerful but there was so much more. To get people on the same side as you, you need to speak to their needs — it’s very powerful. My fact-driven objective approach served me sometimes and at other times it didn’t. I like the empathetic side of me now, but it’s a skill I need to hone.’
Tenacity at the helm
Tan is driven by the vision of how much impact Detexian can make. The team energy is high, excited for the future. ‘We’re all willing to fight for what we think is the right approach. We always come out with a decision and a laugh. We hire for complementary skill set and culture, and as a result everyone is able to speak their minds, to challenge and be challenged.’
‘I love to be right. But, I also love to be told I’m wrong and why. The worst thing for a young CEO is to do things that are wrong, and have no one to point them out. I get challenged every week. It makes me do better.’
Maybe that inner drive, that persistence, was born in Tan. Maybe it’s something he generated in order to create opportunity for himself. In any case, it’s not only enabled him to navigate such an interesting career, but helped him flourish as a sharp-minded professional, an adventurous global citizen, and a gutsy leader.