Mike Fey of Island

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Mike Fey (founder and CEO) of Island, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Island – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

When you think of the application most commonly used by businesses today, you think of Microsoft Office, Salesforce, Workday, etc., but the real answer is actually the browser. Ever since the move to the cloud, we have used a consumer browser for nearly everything we do at work – the browser has become our de facto desktop. But it was not built with the security and productivity needs of enterprise users in mind. It is optimized for searching, streaming, and socializing. It was designed for advertisers and consumers, not organizations and employees, which means the consumer browser lacks even the most basic security and IT needs required to protect and optimize work.

As a result, organizations are forced to compensate for this untenable gap by surrounding the browser with cumbersome, complicated, expensive tools just to get it to behave like an enterprise app, and in the process, security gets extremely complex, costs spiral out of control, work gets interrupted, and workers are left with a frustrating experience. With Island, organizations finally gain complete control and visibility over the one place all work happens – the browser. And with this so-called last-mile control, they can fine-tune every aspect of how their data is accessed and used, with granular control over things like cut, copy, paste, download, upload, print, and screenshot. Companies can actually see all browser activity and feed that data into their analytics platform, giving them the complete picture of what’s actually happening at work.

With the Island Enterprise Browser, SaaS and internal web apps can be safely accessed anywhere without leaking data everywhere. Third-party contractors, remote workers, and anyone on any device can just log in and start working in seconds, without putting any data at risk. Quite simply, data only goes where it was meant to go, no matter which user, device, network, or application is using it.

No more security teams worrying about data leaking all over the world. No more workers struggling with constant delays, interruptions, and frustrations just to get through a normal day’s work.

With Island, work is as it should be – free flowing and secure by design, regardless of what type of device your employees chose to use at work.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

When Island set out to tell businesses about a whole new approach to securing the workspace via the browser, there were concerns that the idea would seem too foreign: “A browser as an enterprise solution?”. Island assumed most would be reluctant to start paying for a browser that they already get for free and that they’d be afraid to swap out their current browser for a brand new one.

But once CISOs of the world’s largest enterprises were introduced to what the “Enterprise Browser” can do for their business, their response was completely unexpected. They immediately understood its value: “Wait, if I’m doing all this inside the browser, I don’t need all these other tools I’m paying millions for!”.

Despite them never seeing a product like this in the market, they instantly envisioned Island being implemented inside their organization:

  • “I can roll this out to my call center and finally see what’s going on there!”
  • “This is perfect for onboarding contractors without shipping them a managed device every time.”
  • “I can see all our employees on the showroom floor using this right away.”

Island initially encouraged customers to use the Enterprise Browser for more critical applications they needed extra protection for, but customers saw it differently: “Why not roll this out as our default browser across the organization?”.

These reactions revealed that despite it being a brand new solution living at the heart of the enterprise’s infrastructure, CISOs were willing, even eager, to implement Island at scale.

What does the future hold for Island?

Island recently extended its Series B with a $60M investment led by Georgian. This builds on its previously announced Series B financing round, led by existing investor Insight Partners, with participation from Stripes and Sequoia, as well as strategic investor Cisco Investments. The new investment reaffirms Island’s valuation of $1.3B and adds to Island’s already considerable cash reserves, which give us the opportunity to reshape the future of work by redefining the role of the browser for the enterprise. With many leading enterprises across all industries already securing and enabling work using Island, we see our role moving forward as leading a new movement of a simpler, yet more secure work environment for the enterprise.

Island sees a future where the Enterprise Browser eventually becomes the primary work environment, where work flows naturally and securely, where you can control how the browser behaves, see everything happening inside the browser, and deliver the ideal work experience to users while keeping work itself fundamentally secure.

Businesses will no longer need to build a complicated, expensive, and resource-draining security stack just to protect their data. They will use a browser that protects their data and users intrinsically. The friction between security and productivity that we’ve accepted as inevitable at work will fade away, replaced by a browser that naturally integrates security into the workspace by putting it everywhere except in the way.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Dallas?

Dallas has a vibrant and growing tech scene, and we fully expect that to continue. The pandemic unchained people from the office, and as a result, also freed them to consider moving from really expensive geographies. So many tech folks from New York to Silicon Valley have taken advantage of Dallas’ reasonable housing costs, quality schools, friendly business climate, big-city culture, sports scene, and space to raise families. All of Texas has benefitted from that talent influx and geographical shift, but no area more than Dallas. Dallas is a very business-friendly town and not only is talent moving here, but businesses are relocating their headquarters here in some cases. I think we are at or near the tipping point for this to become a major tech hub.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t be blinded by early success. A hundred right decisions doesn’t make you immune from your next decision being a bad one. Better to recognize a mistake and course-correct quickly than dig in your heels for the sake of being right.

I find it’s best to follow a simple two-step cycle that repeats continuously: validate, then build. This is true for any aspect of a startup: your team, your product, your pricing, your marketing strategy, etc. Develop your idea, then validate it using your peer advisors, design partners, investors, or sales prospects. Then go and build what you know is right. Then do it all over again.

By going back and forth between validating and building, you will inherently improve, innovate, and refine continuously. But you’ll also make mistakes. Entrepreneurs must be flexible enough to evolve and pivot when needed. Staying flexible will enable you to move past missteps quickly and easily.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series