Advisor, Investor and Category Creating CMO Varun Kohli
is a highly accomplished market strategist, who has held leadership positions at large companies as well as startups. He has experience in developing, managing, and promoting solutions for various areas including API Security, financial risk and crime management, governance and compliance, fraud prevention, analytics, cybersecurity, file sharing, mobile threat defence, security information and event management, email, log management, instant messaging management, encryption and anti-spam. He led a team of over 50 marketers at Symantec, responsible for Global Demand, Project Management Office, and Strategic Marketing for their USD 2.4 billion Enterprise Business.
He currently serves on the advisory boards of several startups. Read this exclusive interview to learn about his thoughts on the state of cybersecurity.
You can never hire a better sales person than your customer. Similar to B2C, even B2B purchases now are heavily influenced by peer reviews.
Media 7: Hi Varun, thank you for your time. How do you feel about being recognized as a seasoned Silicon Valley Go-To-Market leader who has received multiple industry honours, including the renowned Marketer of the Year award.
Varun Kohli: Thanks for the question and the kind words. I have been fortunate and humbled to have received these recognitions among the much more talented and gifted marketers in the broader industry.
I owe this success to three things:
My team of talented individuals,
the brightest entrepreneurs I have had the pleasure of working alongside, and
the timing of the choices we made.
M7: You recently introduced the RiskOps software category at Feedzai, a FinTech unicorn. Please provide some details regarding this.
VK: Fraud is a 20 billion dollar industry with very confusing messaging and every vendor claiming to do everything. This confuses the buyer and they end up making a wrong choice leading to our hard-earned money ending in wrong hands. This was a second time in my career when I had the opportunity to define a new category. We called it world’s first RiskOps platform. It gives me immense pleasure and a sense of accomplishment (and gratitude), that it stuck and a new category was born. This helped Feedzai differentiate itself from the noise and emerge as the first and only unicorn with parent company headquartered in Portugal.
First time I was at this junction was at Skycure when the Mobile Threat Defense category was still in its infancy and we needed a vendor to define it and raise all the boats riding that wave. Skycure rode this wave beautifully and was one of the first and only mobile security companies to go from pre-revenue startup to being part of a Fortune 500 company all within a short span of 5 years.
M7: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the fintech industry today, and how is your company addressing them?
VK: I think the FinTech industry is going through a massive transformation. Decentralized Finance (or DeFi) is at the core of it. The way I like to explain it to a non-expert is using the simple alphabet combination of A, B, C and D.
A for Accessibility – Access to one’s money from anywhere, any time.
B for Borderless – Like enterprise perimeters, borders are also becoming fluid when it comes to moving money across countries
C for Cashless – Peer-to-peer transfers, UPI, Crypto are all stretching the concept of physical currency to the next level
D for Device agnostic – Gone are the days when users used to walk into a bank to access their cash. Now they do it from any device, sitting on anyone’s couch from anywhere in the world.
Nothing's wrong with making money, but there should be a balance to make this a sustainable society for our kids and next generations. Think more of a zebra with black stripes representing making money and white stripes to do good for the society.
M7: How does Cequence Security leverage data and analytics to inform its marketing strategies and better understand customer needs and behaviours?
I am a firm believer of the fact that we should not have data without a story, and not have a story without data. This is the fundamental principle behind all things we do in marketing here at Cequence. Every single dollar of investment we make goes through a pre and post analysis called Golden Ratio calculation. If the ROI is less than 10, my team will not make that investment. In this tough economy, we have to stretch the value we get out of every single dollar. Gone are the days of crazy investments, bloated valuations, and false sense of achievement with Unicorn coronation.
M7: What steps is your company taking to build trust and credibility with customers in an industry that is still relatively new and unfamiliar to many people?
You can never hire a better sales person than your customer. Similar to B2C, even B2B purchases now are heavily influenced by peer reviews. We are honoured to be the de facto API Protection partner for the largest and the baddest organizations on the planet. 2 out of the Top 3 Telcos, largest credit card company, largest mutual fund company, largest credit union in the nation, they all rely on Cequence to protect their APIs. If Cequence did not exist tomorrow, there will be USD 9 trillion worth of assets at risk, 2 billion accounts for the 8 billion people on the planet will not be protected. These huge numbers, scale and commitment to our customers help us win new business.
M7: How is your company addressing the growing demand for sustainable and socially responsible financial services, and what steps are you taking to align your marketing efforts with these values?
I believe that organizations should not just focus on making money and be in an endless race to become a unicorn. Nothing's wrong with making money, but there should be a balance to make this a sustainable society for our kids and next generations. Think more of a zebra with black stripes representing making money and white stripes to do good for the society. That to me is a better goal to have. I try to keep these efforts in mind while running my team or our company. It might be simple efforts to not waste paper and use digital cards at events to donating for charity.
Read more: 'Enterprises that don't leverage AI and ML will likely be at a disadvantage,' believes Miquido's Jerzy Biernack
We have seen multiple debates on privacy in the recent years and it will only intensify from here. Many companies will be found and destroyed because of privacy.
M7: As the CMO, how are you balancing the need to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements while still driving innovative marketing campaigns and strategies?
VK: We have seen multiple debates on privacy in the recent years and it will only intensify from here. Many companies will be found and destroyed because of privacy. I have two very simple rules for running marketing:
Provide value to the customer and they will be happy to share their information with you
Market unto others, the way you would like marketed unto you
M7: How can organizations stay up-to-date on changing regulations and compliance requirements related to financial risk and crime management?
VK: One can keep themselves updated by reading the trade publication and attending the industry events. Bringing in tools and experts from time to time to do the analysis and assessment can also help with this.
M7: How is Cequence Security planning to expand its customer base or enter new markets in the near future?
VK: Cequence offers a horizontal solution applicable to multiple industries and verticals. We dominate the market when it comes to Telcos, Finance and Retail and protect the world’s largest organizations. Plan is to continue this domination in other verticals as well. Similarly, most valuable brand in Europe in addition to top brands in the U.S. are Cequence customers. Now with the recent investments in India, Australia and APAC, we hope to increase our market share in those geographies as well.
ABOUT CEQUENCE SECURITY
Cequence Security, the pioneer of Unified API Protection, is the only solution that unifies API discovery, inventory tracking, dynamic testing, risk analysis and native mitigation with proven, real-time threat protection against ever-evolving API attacks. Cequence Security secures more than 6 billion API calls a day and protects more than 2 billion user accounts across our Fortune 500 customers. Our customers trust us to protect their APIs and web applications with the most effective and adaptive defense against online fraud, business logic attacks, exploits and unintended data leakage, which enables them to remain resilient in today’s ever-changing business and threat landscape.To learn more, visit www.cequence.ai.