An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Raffaele Mautone (founder and CEO) of AaDya Security, which was honored in our:
- 2023 Best Tech Startups in Detroit
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Detroit
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Detroit
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Detroit
Tell us the origin story of AaDya Security – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Throughout my career, I noted that cybersecurity options for SMBs were either watered-down enterprise solutions, or expensive options that were more than they needed or could handle, leaving many unprotected and putting their companies at risk. Instead of slowing down after my exit from Duo Security/CISCO, I threw myself into bringing to life what started as an idea (then a back-of-a-napkin sketch) to deliver an all-in-one solution designed for the needs of SMBs. After initial hesitancy from investors, we launched AaDya in March of 2019 through a combination of self-funding, angel investors, and VCs. To build our platform, we provided managed security services to 13 companies to understand their unique challenges.
These design partners helped to build what is now Judy, an AI and machine-learning engine that works behind the scenes to deliver the platform’s key features: single sign on, password management, anti-phishing, endpoint protection, and automated threat detection/remediation. She also works up front as a virtual cybersecurity assistant that can support users with cybersecurity and IT related issues. This unique platform allows SMBs who lack the time, budget, and human resources to manage multiple point products to operate from a single platform that is easy to use and manage, making true enterprise-level security accessible.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
One of the biggest challenges AaDya faced was navigating running a company when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. Like many lean start-up companies, this was definitely a difficult time with so many unknowns. The proof of concept of our platform was due in May, Beta in June, and a plan to go to market in September. We were also in the middle of raising a second seed round of funding. After moving to fully-remote work, the team came together to both meet and exceed expectations for these milestones.
It’s also interesting to look back as a first time founder and see where we are today. I didn’t realize the number of things I wasn’t aware of, from payroll, to taxes, HR and trademarks/patents. I’d try to figure it out on my own, which caused delays or errors. After meeting with local startup founders, I really learned so much by asking them for help. The key takeaway I share now with all founders is regardless of what you are building, you are not the first with that problem you are trying to solve. Ask for help and meet regularly with other founders to hear their stories. I love the community I am a part of – we always learn something new from one another and celebrate our wins.
What does the future hold for AaDya Security?
The entire idea and mission behind AaDya Security is innovative in that it’s a territory many major players in the cybersecurity industry have avoided due to its cumbersome nature and revenue potential. We see this differently. With the combination of a vast universe of SMBs who have been underserved and the rise in cybercrime against them, we saw an opportunity to not only create something innovative, but something that could truly help a segment that comprises the majority of economic activity, not just in the US and North America, but around the world. The major differentiator for AaDya’s platform is that it combines everything an SMB needs for security into one platform that is not only effective at protection, but also provides tools that can help end users work more safely and efficiently. Because the SMB universe is so large, and because of the enthusiasm we saw from potential channel partners, we created a program for channel partners that is showing incredible growth and potential.
The beauty of being a SaaS cybersecurity company is that we can deploy our product, Judy, anywhere. We have continued to sign channel partners to resell our software and now are conducting business in five countries. In the United States alone, there are 32M small to medium sized businesses, so the opportunity for growth is extensive. There are no other companies that offer the same product we offer, so we are confident in our expansive growth opportunities over the next three years.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Detroit?
I grew up going to Detroit on the weekends with my family – it’s always had a very special place in my heart. When I moved back in 2013, it only took a few months for me to realize how the city was transforming. The startup community is an amazing group of people who are all willing to help each other. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, but no matter whom you talk to, everyone knows the city has grown in ways that no one could have imagined. To look at the 100+ companies listed as startups in Detroit, you would see every vertical, sector, and idea is now underway in our tech community. That continues to shine the light on Detroit we’ve all been hoping for, enabling other startups to get the same attention as more traditional tech regions in the US. I now personally get less of the question: “Why Detroit?” and more of: “Oh we why, look at all the good things happening here!”
For Michigan to succeed and compete, Detroit must be viable and vibrant. We have an opportunity and obligation to impact change and help stop talent from leaving our state. There is an incredible startup scene in Detroit. It is being fueled by a legacy of innovation, amazing talent base, world-class universities nearby, and expanding venture capital availability. Startup leaders benefit from low costs, access to talent, central geographic location, and a grit and determination that is unmatched. There are dozens of hyper-growth startups in Detroit. Our city has been recognized as a launch point for these companies and continues to attract new companies daily. Companies don’t need a Silicon Valley zip code to launch a great tech company, and history will show that Detroit is a fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s really hard. I know we all see the companies that make it with billions of dollars and make it look easy, but it’s really not. You will get 100’s of “No”s a week directed towards you as a founder, your product, your customers, and even your investors. Your days will start one way and end completely differently, with many ups and downs. Celebrate the wins no matter how big or small. Rest, exercise, and find things to do when you can that don’t involve the company. Find other founders as your support group, as it can’t be your family.
Trust your gut but listen to other opinions. As a founder, you will have to do this daily because people will doubt you, the idea, or the team. You have to remain focused on the end result. This will build confidence day by day. When things go wrong, (this will happen), make sure you dissect it, learn from it, and move forward.