Ohad Jehassi of Airiam

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

Airiam is emerging at a critical time for small to midsize enterprises (SMEs). Two macro-trends happening now in our market have created the perfect storm for the solutions we provide to our customers.

It’s an increasingly risky world for SMEs. Ransomware is exploding, and cybercrime is becoming quite sophisticated. Fifty percent of companies now report being targeted by a cyberattack at least once a week. Cyberattacks have increased 400% since the start of the pandemic as hackers have tried to exploit the sudden dramatic rise in remote workers.

The pandemic added fuel to the digital fire as the midmarket businesses we serve quickly moved more of their infrastructure to the cloud to reach their customers digitally. The need for cybersecurity is vital as these organizations become even more attractive targets, as they’re less equipped to deal with cybercriminals.

Large enterprises have the resources for sophisticated in-house cybersecurity teams and the ability to contract the right mix of vendors to ensure they’re protected. Small and medium enterprises, employing around 100 – 500 people, tend to have lean, overstretched IT teams of about 1 – 5 people. Most of these teams don’t have the capacity or expertise required to fully mitigate risks and protect sensitive data, so they rely on MSPs, which brings a second challenge.

The MSPs currently serving these businesses are often run by brilliant founders, but what they offer is fragmented, regional, and not the complete security package to meet customers’ increasing needs. There’s a strong preference from SMEs to work with one provider, and that’s where Airiam comes in. We’re building a national cybersecurity-focused MSP catering to mid-sized businesses. We’ve simplified the buying processes, and we deliver the full suite of enterprise-level services these organizations now require for the digital age.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

I got the idea for Airiam in early 2020, when COVID-19 shut down the world. It was difficult to connect with anyone, let alone meet them face-to-face. When choosing a company to support, it was essential for us to meet the team in person and make sure everyone gels, especially since we wanted the founders to stay on and continue working with us. My founding partner, Elliot Luchansky, and I hopped on nearly empty jets and worked to find sellers and investors willing to meet with us in the thick of the pre-vaccine pandemic. We searched for funds before we had companies and companies before we had funds. It was a huge challenge, and we did a lot of dancing, but the timing also had an upside of less competition, both as a business buyer and as a founder requesting funding. We’re thrilled about how it all came together.

What does the future hold for Airiam?

The combination of companies we’ve brought together completes Airiam’s technology platform. We may bring in 1 or 2 more organizations that enhance our cybersecurity, but for the most part, any future growth will come from acquiring companies that have similar MSPs/MSSPs. We’ll be looking at geography and customer bases when choosing to move forward.

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

I attended a business conference in Miami Beach 30 years ago. I walked two blocks in the moonlight, took off my shoes, hit the soft sand, and dipped my toes in the ocean waves. I immediately knew this beautiful place was where I wanted to live and work, and I vowed to make it happen. After earning my MBA at Harvard in 1999, I became a Miami Beach resident, even choosing to commute for short stints when my career took me outside of Florida. I’ve brought companies here and opened satellite offices not just because I was here, but also because this is a great place to find talent.

I’ve seen many changes, from the budding “Silicon Beach” of 20 years ago to the Latin American currency crisis crash of 2008. People often associate the tech scene in Miami with Latin America, but it’s more than that. Miami Beach has a thriving, bustling, and diverse tech community that extends beyond the Latin American market. This is a place where tech happens. People creating companies and developing tech want to live here and connect with each other. There’s less social hierarchy than in big cities like New York. It’s a small city, so people try harder. They get to know each other and work together. Tech gatherings include people from all walks of life, all income levels. Miami Beach is a magnet for tech and talent.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, share your ideas. Ideas are prevalent, but implementation is what’s important. Don’t worry about someone stealing what you want to create. Find people to help you think your idea through. Get feedback. Try it on. You never know how the next piece of input might be the insight you need. Keeping an idea “under wraps” may not be the best way to move it forward.

Next, take a risk. We formed Airiam during COVID. I knew I’d have greater regrets about not trying than failing. Anything is possible, especially if you create a situation where you can fail and face the worst-case scenario with a bit of a safety net. I knew I could always get a job and get by with some savings if things didn’t work out. Don’t be afraid to fall or fail if you believe in your idea.

Third, take advantage of your advantages. I hear people say, “I used to be a (fill-in-the-blank), but I don’t want to do that. I want to do something different.” Consider doubling down on what you already have to offer and the value you can add to whatever you do. Find people with other skills to complement and supplement yours. Double down on what you’re good at and do that.

Finally, be ruthless with your time. I say “no” a lot. I know I have a limited number of hours to be laser-sharp and focused each day, and I need to get the most important things done when my battery is full. Know how to schedule your day to make the most of your best hours when you’re ready to work and then get the work done.

 

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