Kaus Phaltankar, CEO and Co-Founder of Caveonix. He is a pioneer in developing and implementing innovative solutions to meet challenges related to Cyber Security, Compliance, and Risk management. He is passionate about protecting application workloads regardless of their deployments in on-prem data centers or in public clouds. He has always focused on making orders of magnitude improvements in compliance and security posture management by automation while reducing costs as customers transform their businesses. He has founded multiple companies to further this vision.
What are the challenges Kaus faced during his journey?
As a child growing up in India, Kaus’ dream was to start his own business and become a successful entrepreneur. It wasn’t simple to turn this dream into a reality— he needed first to have a clear stepwise strategy. The first step was to select the appropriate higher education path; he decided to earn an engineering degree. Following this, he worked for tech pioneer, Hewlett-Packard, for 5 years to deepen his understanding of technology and business. He then moved to the U.S. to earn a graduate degree in Telecommunications and computer science.
Most importantly, he constantly read books and articles from other successful business leaders for ideas and tips on starting and succeeding in business. This included advice for first-time entrepreneurs to ideally have savings of one year, to support the family, before plunging headlong in starting the first business.After graduating with Masters from The George Washington University, Washington DC, he worked for Citibank (2 yrs) and then MCI Telecommunications (5 yrs), laying the foundation of the global Internet backbone. He continued to innovate at MCI, garnering patents and publishing a technical book on Internet and Intranet security. Due to the sale of MCI, he was able to save years’ worth of salary from the stock sale to fund his entrepreneurship dreams. He was now prepared to dive in and take the risk and reward that comes with entrepreneurship. His first idea was to focus on providing Managed Security Services (MSS) to telcos and their customers as the Internet was rolling out commercially in 1998. He started his first company, NetPlexus, and brought on board a partner after the first year for his financial and technical expertise.
By the end of their second year, they added more staff, and the business grew rapidly until the dot-com bubble burst and the market crashed in 2001. It was devastating for a small company as they lost half of their existing customer base. The challenge called for a compelling plan to navigate the issue rather than feeding into a panic. In order to survive and thrive, they pivoted to leveraging the cash at hand to buy other struggling Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to acquire their customers. They purchased 2 California-based companies for $750,000 and, in just two years, earned $15 million on that investment when the business was acquired in 2003, enabling a successful exit to work on another exciting start-up idea. At the time of exit, NetPlexus had 440 enterprise customers from the US, South America, and Japan.
His second business called ViewTrust, was founded 30 days after the sale of NetPlexus and was started by entirely bootstrapping it from the exit proceeds in 2003. This time around, the vision was to start a product-focused rather than a services-focused business. ViewTrust offered a line of software products to address enterprise Threat detection and response, Compliance, and overall enterprise risk management (ERM) challenges. This product-focused vision required more investment to keep up with advancements in technology and marketing efforts to compete effectively in the growing marketplace. Kaus and his team started small with shared office space to provide tech security products to the finance and pharmacy sectors. He was a one-man band for sales and grew steadily with employees in the U.S. and India. Everything was going well until the 2008 recession hit. Once again, they lost half their customers. This curveball pushed Kaus to rethink the customer base, which made him pursue federal civilian and defense customers as these government organizations are funded even during a recession. ViewTrust was able to secure contracts with the US State Department, Treasury as well as Airforce, Navy, and U.S.Cyber Command ($50 Million) to replace the customer base and revenues. The company merged with a cloud-based services business called VirtuStream in 2013, and the combined business was acquired by EMC for $1.2B in 2014. EMC was later acquired by Dell Technologies. Kaus served as a Senior VP at Dell for 3 years and also as President of Virtustream Security Solutions. During this time, he worked closely with another Dell portfolio company, VMWare. VMware has been a pioneer in inventing virtualization in data centers, which later became the foundation for the public cloud offerings from Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. During this time, he started to see the need for a hybrid multi-cloud security, compliance, and governance solution that can support the enterprise digital transformation underway.
Driven by this new learning, Kaus co-founded Caveonix with Tim Sullivan in 2017 to address the security, compliance, and governance needs of today’s hybrid multi-cloud environments. 67% of the employees who currently work with Kaus have been following him in his endeavors for 17+ years. In each of his ventures, he has overcome obstacles by keeping the focus on investing in the right technology, and the right people, and staying attuned to the market need. With every version Caveonix Cloud platform has become more intuitive, user friendly, and addresses customer needs globally. Today, Caveonix has the largest single enterprise deployment globally, with over 1 million cloud assets in a hybrid cloud environment. Within five years, the Caveonix vision has been validated and is now powering offerings available from large cloud providers such as VMware, IBM Cloud, Kyndryl, and AWS.
How he overcame them?
Big vision comes with big challenges, Kaus and his teams in his different start-ups have overcome obstacles like the dot-com bubble, the 2008 recession, and the global pandemic with persistence and innovation. Venture Capitalists often ask- what makes a company successful? In large part, they require a bold vision. In Kaus’ view, the vision is essential, but the details to execute are just as critical. Every successful company has a strong strategic plan to promote its product or service—this is time-consuming as one needs to pay careful attention to business details, innovative new technology development, the logistics of product delivery, and assembling a strong team to execute everything that is necessary for sustainable growth and success.
In order to inspire important stakeholders like employees, partners, or customers, an effective leader believes in his vision and stays ahead of the market. It is imperative to be able to predict how the market will evolve and equally essential to ensure that you are there at the right time. This requires constant assessment of market forces, technical requirements, etc. that can impact a company’s ability to execute goals. Once these forces are identified, one must align resources and strategically plan to deliver the products and services at the right time; otherwise, a competitor is likely to fill the gap. Today, Caveonix has the largest single enterprise deployment globally, with over 1 million cloud assets in a hybrid cloud environment.
The lessons learned along the way
As an entrepreneur for 23+ years, Kaus’ approach is to bootstrap the companies from his own financial resources to fund the company, so that no constraints are placed on the core vision. Thus, allowing complete control of the product roadmap and business strategy. It is always daunting to face financial risks with personal assets, but it is necessary to execute on the vision without interference. It is remarkable that despite the pandemic and a looming recession, Caveonix is close to profitability and rapidly expanding. Kaus strongly believes in giving back. He has mentored other budding entrepreneurs, local organizations supporting start-ups, and educational institutions like his alma mater, The George Washington University’s Center for Entrepreneurship. He advises audiences that launching a startup is not for everyone. The life of an entrepreneur is a series of roller coasters on a daily basis. One has to be an optimist and willing to take calculated risks. You must have a calm demeanor to handle things like the boom-and-bust of markets. It is a highly stressful job that requires creativity and the ability to execute a plan. His counsel is to keep the focus on the long-term, it is all about delivering customer value and understanding their needs so that you can deliver on them. Caveonix is focused on delivering the Caveonix Cloud platform to commercial enterprises and Federal entities. It has improved the time to manage compliance and governance by 50% and helped create a better and more sustainable governance model with automation. It serves important communities locally, nationally, and globally and ultimately increases shareholder value.
Advice from Kaus that other entrepreneurs starting out can learn from
Kaus advice is to start a company that solves a real problem or addresses an unmet need. He added, “Do your research to fully understand the competitive landscape, and total market need, and ensure that you have the right people on your team for each step of the journey. Success will follow if you are focused on continuously delivering value and always viewing everything through the lens of a customer. It is crucial to pick your business partner and companies you partner wisely. Select partners with brand credibility and a solid reputation. This validates your company by association and amplifies the company brand. Caveonix is associated with global partners like VMWare, IBM, Kyndryl, and AWS, amongst others.”
About Kaus Phaltankar
Kaus Phaltankar most recently served as a Senior Vice President for Dell Technologies. Before that, Kaus was Global President of Virtustream Security Solutions, a Dell Technologies company, where he was an evangelist and a technology leader developing compliance and risk management solutions for private, public and hybrid clouds, globally.
Kaus was the founder and CEO at ViewTrust Technology where he developed and implemented solutions for cloud and enterprise Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) and Continuous Compliance Automation and Risk Monitoring. Virtustream acquired ViewTrust in 2014.
Kaus has US patents for designing advanced data center architecture for the highest level of resiliency and reliability and authored the book “Implementing Secure Intranets and Extranets,” with a foreword by Internet pioneer Dr. Vint Cerf. He has presented at the World Bank, AFCEA, and the National Defense University, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, teaching a course in Cyber Security.
Founded in 2017, Caveonix is the provider of Caveonix Cloud, the industry’s leading platform for unified security, compliance, and governance across hybrid multi-cloud environments. The platform’s interconnected modules enable enterprises to adopt a holistic approach to risk management across the full stack of applications, platforms, and infrastructure. The platform also employs AI and Robotic Process Automation to continuously assess and automatically remediate security and compliance issues at the scale and speed required to outpace today’s threats. Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, Caveonix’s customers range from SMBs to Fortune 500s across a wide range of industries, and our partners are among the world’s leading integrators, managed service providers, technology providers, and resellers.