Amit Yoran | Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Amit Yoran, CEO, NetWitness

Amit Yoran, the Homeland Security Department's director of national cybersecurity in 2003 and 2004, is jumping back into the startup world as the CEO of NetWitness Corp.

File photo

Amit Yoran has a good track record with startup companies. He helped found IT security company RipTech Inc. in 1998, building it up and selling it in 2002 to Symantec Corp. for $145 million.

Yoran, the Homeland Security Department's director of national cybersecurity in 2003 and 2004, is jumping back into the startup world; he was named CEO of NetWitness Corp. of Herndon, Va., Nov. 14. NetWitness is a spinoff of ManTech International Corp., which developed the underlying network forensics analysis technology in 1998. The company's technology is used for incident response and policy and regulatory compliance.

Fairfax, Va.-based ManTech completed the spinoff Oct. 31 and retains a small ownership stake in the company, which has about 20 employees and less than $10 million in revenue.

For Yoran, who in 2006 was CEO of In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital group, NetWitness is a chance to use what he learned at DHS to market a new product and to develop a risk-taking business culture.
Yoran spoke recently with staff writer Ethan Butterfield about the challenges and opportunities of leading a startup.


WT: What is it about a startup that you find attractive?

Yoran: You have the ability to have a dramatic impact. Ultimately, while many factors are beyond your control, your success or failure, and the startup's success or failure, translates into your ability to execute or not. Oftentimes in large organizations, they're en route, they're in motion, and their ability to implement dramatic change is limited. And they're also more conservative and have a more difficult time seizing an opportunity.

WT: What are the biggest challenges for a startup?

Yoran: You're dealing with a certain amount of technology risk, either unproven technologies or technologies that have not scaled yet. There's an execution risk: Is the management team strong enough? Do they have the experience, the drive and the competency to execute, to seize the opportunity?

With startups, you get different levels of experience and different levels of competency.

And then there is a business risk, everything from financing to other business dynamics. Are customers and the market suited toward working with start-ups on the type of solution that you're offering?

WT: Why is this a good time to launch NetWitness?

Yoran: NetWitness is operating in a very interesting intersection, and that is in looking at the security of organizations and the security of information, not only from a hacking perspective but also from an insider threat perspective. What are folks doing? And how does that violate corporate policy or regulatory compliance requirements?

WT: How will the company approach the market?

Yoran: We're very much inclined to work through value-added partners, whether they are other security companies or systems integrators. We feel our [company] is a piece of an overall infrastructure.

WT: What do you see as the benefit to ManTech of spinning off NetWitness?

Yoran: While [ManTech] is great at delivering high quality services, and in some instances at developing technology, it doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience in bringing new technologies to market, packaging them and understanding where the market is going. Nor does it have experience on how to bring this new technology to address the market need, the market demand. That's where opportunity exists for NetWitness.

WT: A year from now, what will be the signs that the company is a success?

Yoran: That we've significantly expanded the customer base, that we've dramatically increased revenue, and that we have elevated to a position of prominence in the field from a brand perspective.

WT: What insights into the government market did you learn at DHS?

Yoran: Homeland Security has a specific function: helping coordinate cyberincident response among different federal departments and agencies. They have a very regular ? and in some cases, a very deep ? interaction with many of those agencies. It was a great vantage point for understanding where people are headed, where they saw challenges and what types of problems we might be able to help them solve.

WT: What do you see as the department's biggest challenges?

Yoran: Bureaucracy. The size of the organization, the way it was created, the bureaucratic challenge is not trivial. The second is in mission specificity and targeting. By some definitions, Homeland Security's mission is so broad, so all-encompassing, even with however many tens of thousands of employees it has, they would be grossly under-resourced to accomplish the mission.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close
SEARCH
contracts DB

Trending

  • Dive into our Contract Award database

    In an exclusive for WT Insider members, we are collecting all of the contract awards we cover into a database that you can sort by contractor, agency, value and other parameters. You can also download it into a spreadsheet. Read More

  • Is SBA MIA on contractor fraud? Nick Wakeman

    Editor Nick Wakeman explores the puzzle of why SBA has been so silent on the latest contractor fraud scandal when it has been so quick to act in other cases. Read More

Webcasts

  • How Do You Support the Project Lifecycle?

    How do best-in-class project-based companies create and actively mature successful organizations? They find the right mix of people, processes and tools that enable them to effectively manage the project lifecycle. REGISTER for this webinar to hear how properly managing the cycle of capture, bid, accounting, execution, IPM and analysis will allow you to better manage your programs to stay on scope, schedule and budget. Learn More!

  • Sequestration, LPTA and the Top 100

    Join Washington Technology’s Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman as he analyzes the annual Top 100 list and reveals critical insights into how market trends have impacted its composition. You'll learn what movements of individual companies means and how the market overall is being impacted by the current budget environment, how the Top 100 rankings reflect the major trends in the market today and how the biggest companies in the market are adapting to today’s competitive environment. Learn More!