Editor’s note: Manmeet Singh is the co-founder and CEO of Dataguise, a provider of data-centric security intelligence and protection solutions in the Big Data space. The solution set is the first of its kind in the Hadoop environment and is certified with Cloudera, MapR and Hortonworks distributions as well as other data sources like RDBMSs, files and SharePoint. In this interview he discusses differentiation in Big Data security solutions and points out the rising need for chief data officers. He also shares his company’s experience as advice for other startups.
What was your vision when you founded Dataguise in 2007?
Manmeet Singh: Two of my colleagues and I founded it in Fremont, Calif. because we realized there was a need in the marketplace for a data-centric security solution focused on identifying sensitive data and protecting the enterprise from insider and data-centric threats for Big Data.
When we came to the market in 2007, Big Data was becoming a top strategic initiative for many companies worldwide. But the data-centric security products available then only looked at the perimeter and at the end points; that was only fixing the current symptoms versus truly providing ongoing protection of the “crown jewels” (data). Companies had no idea where their sensitive data really was. Today data can be infiltrated in a number of ways, especially during Big Data analysis, if the data is not properly protected.
We see Dataguise as the “middle man” providing data protection across the data silos in an enterprise. Today businesses want and need to use both structured and unstructured data in combination so they can truly ascertain new ways to attract and sell to their customers. However, they are often prohibited from using data when security and compliance issues get in the way. Our role is to protect the data for analytic use in Big Data environments.
How does your solution differ from other security solutions that prevent unauthorized people from having access to sensitive data?
Manmeet Singh: Our solution performs discovery of sensitive data, and then we hide it using masking or encryption. Dataguise is the only solution that does this for unstructured as well as structured data, down to the element-level (vs. row-, block- or file-level) and across data siloes (Hadoop, Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR; RDBMSs like Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server; file systems and SharePoint). Our customers can then view the lineage and maintain a log of this information displayed in an intuitive dashboard so they can ascertain who did what.
Our solution delivers data privacy protection as well as risk-assessment analytics that allow organizations to safely leverage and share enterprise data. It simplifies data governance and provides actionable compliance intelligence to decision makers.
All enterprise-level companies – from small to large – have compliance regulations they need to meet as well. So our target verticals are highly regulated industries where there is very sensitive data to protect such as financial, health, retail and government.
Did your company change direction at some point during product development?
Manmeet Singh: We did not change direction – from the outset our vision was to protect the enterprise from data security risks using a data-centric approach at the most granular level, and help key decision makers adhere to important industry compliance demands. That said, we leveraged our experience in RDBMS security plus discovery and protection for files and SharePoint into what we offer today: Big Data protection and intelligence across the enterprise.
What challenges have you encountered that you didn’t anticipate?
Manmeet Singh: Raising money in the Valley at first was a challenge, as I did not think it would be very difficult explaining the marriage of Big Data and security; but it was very tough. I thought: They all are smart and will get it right away. However, they were even smarter than I thought, as they wanted us to succeed on a shoestring budget at first.
Describe a pitfall you were able to avoid because of an advisor’s advice.
Manmeet Singh: I had a good mentor who was able to guide us in the beginning to stay on course and make some adjustments, as appropriate, pertaining to both product and marketing. We continue to learn from our mentor, as his guidance has been both strategic and wise as we tread through this nascent industry. He understands the great potential of Big Data as well as the risks and has helped our company to find a niche where we can provide not only protection for the enterprise but also lead in our market. His counsel has been invaluable from the very beginning and will continue to be as we move forward.
How did you determine the right pricing for your product?
Manmeet Singh: Pricing is something you have to work at and keep redoing until you find the right balance between what customers are willing to pay and what you are willing to accept.
What was the most difficult aspect of finding your first few customers?
Manmeet Singh: Convincing an enterprise that your company will still be around in a year is always an uphill battle against a larger vendor with deeper pockets.
Is there a story behind your company name?
Manmeet Singh: A friend’s wife came up with that name. All of us were brainstorming and throwing words around, and my colleague’s wife said, “If it is data you want to disguise, why not call it Dataguise?”
If you could spend an afternoon this month with a top exec in a well-established software firm to learn some insights from the exec, who would you choose?
Manmeet Singh: CEO of Cloudera, Tom Reilly. What’s his secret sauce? He just raised $900 million in funding without going public. Amazing. We share common customers, as Cloudera customers depend on Dataguise for data security and protection. Bottom line is I really respect Tom and take every opportunity to gain insight on how he operates such a successful company and brand. And I’d be happy to borrow a page from his playbook when it comes time for Dataguise’s next round of funding.
Please describe the most interesting meeting you recently attended.
Manmeet Singh: I attended a summit where the role of the CDO (Chief Data Officer) title was discussed. Today many in our industry and in the enterprise are torn between the CIOs and CISOs and, as such, are still defining their roles. However as Big Data sees its boats rising with the tide, the industry is starting to realize that the CDO is an important role and much needed if there is going to be a cohesive data-centric approach in the enterprise.
The concept of a CDO is new, but the idea is starting to take shape and grow. Big Data is still seen by many as in the early-adopter stage, but the growing need for the CDO proves that Big Data is coming into its own as an important line item on the CIO’s agenda and budget.
The fact is, for companies to be able to control and use Big Data to their advantage, they need a dedicated officer and team. The question is how do the CDO and CISO work together effectively while also carving out responsibility and accountability? I believe this will be something our industry will be discussing with more urgency over the next few years.
What have you found to be the most overrated or frustrating aspect of being a software executive?
Manmeet Singh: People expect you to know answers to the next big “thing” or trend. The problem is we know what interests or perplexes us but, in terms of having the “answers,” we are like everyone else — taking chances, trying to make the right decisions, learning from mistakes, watching and gaining knowledge from the “market” and, of course, celebrating our successes. When we do celebrate, we finally can admit that maybe we don’t have all the answers, but today we have some darn good ones!
If you could go back and live another business day (good or bad) over again, when would it be? What happened that day?
Manmeet Singh: The one day I would gladly live over was the day our company closed our first large enterprise customer. This was a deal I was intimately involved in, and I had much to do with the closing. That day we proved to ourselves and the world that our product has value and, best of all, our solution can solve customers’ pain points. I also thought: Yes, enterprises will buy the best products, not just the ones from the largest of the vendors (as we beat out two very large competitors).
What is something you’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t done yet?
Manmeet Singh: Visit Europe at leisure.
What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Manmeet Singh: I see great things for this market, as the Big Data security wave has just started and is moving in the right direction. I think we will start to see in the coming 12 months that security in the Hadoop environment is moving from the classic “sandbox” to production and that our customers in the enterprise (CDOs, CSOs, CIOs and CISOs) are really taking a sharp look at how to secure this deluge of data. We will continue to grow and invest in building out our team and business over the next 12 months.
What is your top advice for first-time entrepreneurs or startup CEOs?
Manmeet Singh: Just keep doing what you’re doing. Perseverance always pays off.
Manmeet Singh is the co-founder and CEO of Dataguise, the leading provider of essential Big Data security intelligence and protection solutions. He brings 20 years of in-depth entrepreneurial and leadership experience, which includes strategic-level positions where he has been responsible for engineering, operations and marketing. Before founding Dataguise, Singh had a distinguished career with Oracle Corporation, Zeneb Inc., Miri Technologies and HCL, where he held senior executive positions in software and business development.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.