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Q&A with Startup ArrayShield’s CEO

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Editor’s note: Two brothers co-founded ArrayShield Technologies in Chennai, India, in 2010 to provide a two-factor authentication product for secure access to corporate data. We interviewed co-founder and CEO Pavan Thatha about lessons learned thus far as a startup in the security space. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

SandHill.com: Please describe your product and how it provides business value for your customers. 

Pavan Thatha: ArrayShield’s flagship offering is an innovative pattern-based, two-factor authentication (2FA) product for enterprises to protect against Identity theft and other hacking attacks. ArrayShield’s patent-pending technology is backed by extensive research done by my brother Rakesh, who is the co-founder and CTO of ArrayShield. 

Password is one of the most outdated forms of basic security. Relying on mere password strength to grant access to an organization’s customer, business, prospect and financial data in an environment of high competition is very risky for businesses.

Our 2FA solution leverages visual patterns that users can remember and a card that can be carried in a user’s pocket. Our innovative solution ensures only authorized users are allowed to access key applications and IT resources, thus offering productivity and flexibility along with security to our customers. Our product easily integrates with most of the applications and technologies such as VPN to ensure connectivity and access along with security. And it’s affordable, easy to deploy, use and manage. 

SandHill.com: How did your company originate? 

Pavan Thatha: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I spent a few years early in my career getting an understanding of how the software industry operates. Once I got a good understanding of various aspects of the technology business, I decided to start. My brother Rakesh meanwhile had been spending a lot of time researching the information security space, which is his passion. He hit upon a very simple but effective idea of replacing obsolete password-based authentication with an alternative pattern-based authentication that provides a very high level of security against modern hacking attacks. We decided to take the plunge of starting up ArrayShield to commercialize his innovative 2FA idea. 

SandHill.com: Please describe an aspect of your company’s business that has been frustrating and how you worked through the challenge. 

Pavan Thatha: Our major challenge in the initial days was to convert the interest from prospects to get an order and get them to use our product. Being in a sensitive area of authentication and security, very few were ready to experiment with a new product.

To address this challenge, instead of building a full-feature product, we developed the product with minimal features that are highly stable and secure. We worked very closely with our initial prospects and took a consultative approach in building their confidence that our product is highly stable and secure. Once they got the confidence on our product, they implemented to a limited number of users followed by rollout to a larger user base. 

SandHill.com: What challenges have you encountered that you didn’t anticipate? And how did you work through those challenges? 

Pavan Thatha: In a startup, we encounter new challenges every hour and most of them are not anticipated. Though everyone thinks getting brilliant people to work in the startup is a challenge, keeping the diverse team together focused in the right direction is a bigger challenge. Spending quality time with the team at all times and making tough decisions quickly without too much analysis has helped us to build high-performing teams. 

SandHill.com: What is the best advice you received about startups that helped you avoid a pitfall? 

Pavan Thatha: As our team was very much focused on security and technology aspects, the customer and end-user perspective was missing in the initial prototype of our product. Our advisor and mentor, Chandu Nair (a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Scope eKnowledge) had been a driving force in making us focus on end customers and the end-user perspective as we iterated our product to make it enterprise ready.

In the early days he also advised us to focus on low-hanging fruit to get our initial break-through of pilot customers and early adopters. This helped us a lot in streamlining our efforts instead of spreading ourselves too thin. 

SandHill.com: What challenges did you encounter when trying to scale your sales and marketing operations?

Pavan Thatha: We firmly believe in a partnership approach for sales and marketing as our core strength is technology. We have identified and aligned with the right go-to-market partners in each of the geographies and support them in all fronts to win together. This approach helps us reduce time to market and also build a scalable business model while focusing on our core strength. 

SandHill.com: What is the most recent success that your company / employees achieved that caused you to celebrate it together? 

Pavan Thatha: Our culture at ArrayShield is to celebrate small wins together with the team. The most recent celebration was when we won the Nasscom Emerge 50 product company award early this month. We had over a dozen such celebrations on multiple fronts during the last couple of months. 

SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company? 

Pavan Thatha: We are in an exciting phase. Our technology is proven with multiple enterprises across the globe, which have been using it for close to a year. We have already signed up go-to-market partnerships in many countries such as India, Taiwan, Korea, Netherlands, Middle East, Africa, etc. We are keen to partner with each one of the GTM partners to ramp up customer acquisitions during the next 12 months. We also have a strong product pipeline that is complimentary to our core offering of 2FA planned for launch during the next 12 months. 

SandHill.com: What non-software business or social leader has most influenced your approach to your personal life or your career? 

Pavan Thatha: I am an avid reader of books related to success and motivation. Fortunately I had a chance to read a lot of autobiographies, inspiring stories of great leaders that had a positive impact on both my personal life and career. During my college days, I read the following quote from Swami Vivekananda, which has had a lasting influence on me even today: “Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourself weak, weak you will be; if you think yourself strong, you will be.” 

SandHill.com: What advice do you have for first-time entrepreneurs? 

Pavan Thatha: Always think from the customer perspective. The customer comes first and then the technology, innovation, etc.

Pavan Thatha is the co-founder and CEO of ArrayShield. Pavan has been instrumental in building the ArrayShield team and driving the strategic partnerships, business development and marketing functions in the organization. Pavan started his career in Philips Innovation Campus and has prior experience in the area of product management, consulting and software development. He held multiple leadership positions at various capacities throughout the years in education and professional life.

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com

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