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Evan Davidson’s Humble Beginnings in The Cybersecurity Industry
Sean: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the show. It’s me again, Sean Si, aka Mr. at 22. And for today, we have Mr. Evan Davidson. Evan is the vice president of Asia Pacific Japan at Sentinel One. Now, if you haven’t heard of Sentinel One, it is a cybersecurity company and they serve a lot of companies all around the globe. If you are not familiar with cybersecurity, tune in and listen up.
Now. Who’s Evan Davidson? He is an advocate to try and make people more passionate about cybersecurity, especially with the world we’re living in. Everything’s digital. Your money is digital. Rarely do you hold cash, especially during the pandemic. And because of that, you’re going to want to feel more secure about who you are in the digital, digital or cyber space. Evan is also a big believer in culture and leadership and has a very strong sporting background, and that’s what he uses right now in leading his people and his company to better heights. Evan, thank you so much for being here on the show today.
Evan: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invitation.
Sean: I hope the listeners are curious about this as well. What got you into this business? And it’s such a non sexy business, right? I mean, who wants to be in cyber security? Not a lot of people. And I’m sorry, but you don’t look like the geeky type who would want to be in cybersecurity, right? You’ve got a strong sporting background. Why cybersecurity?
Evan: Yeah, I tell you what’s interesting is that I don’t have a technical bone in my body. So it may be an interesting question, and I do get it posed regularly and there’s a little bit of a story just to kind of explain, I guess, how I ended up where I am today. But it goes back to really my humble beginnings 25 years ago where I kind of fell into IT and worked for a very large service provider back in Australia.
And I think I kind of view that as my apprenticeship when I was able to fall into the IT domain, if you want to call, call that. And that was fantastic. I feel like within my apprenticeship I was able to understand how you could operate and make a living within IT where you weren’t technical and that was selling. I was pretty good at being able to build relationships. I was pretty good at being able to establish trust, and I was reasonably good at being able to kind of really bring together different individuals to get solutions that were beneficial to customers. So that kind of predisposed me to moving into the sales environment. And, like I said, within that period of time, it was roughly around about 11 years.
What I recognized was exactly your question. How do you get interested in topics where I must admit networking? If you think cybersecurity is not sexy, to go and talk about networking, go and talk about networking and routers and switches. And it must admit that I was at a point where I was thinking, there’s got to be a little bit more to it. So fast forward. I moved overseas, I moved to London and decided to go and change, I guess, countries and and in the world that I was operating in. And I had many opportunities to move back in to talk about networking. And I fought it and I fought it and I thought about it. And I just happened to meet a really interesting individual through my recruitment efforts. He said, Look, we’ve got a great job in this company called CISCO. And it’s just through an acquisition. We’ve just made a company called IronPort. They do these kinds of secure email gateways. They have. They run antivirus. And it’s in this kind of, you know, it was called IT Security back then. It’s in this IT Security Space.
And I thought that’s interesting. And it was a little bit different to the world that I played in and I went down that path and really what that exposed me was really the, I guess the lead to where I am today, which was early stage organizations start ups, which at that point in time it was an acquisition. So I was coming in at the latter stage, but I got to meet all my future bosses because these people I desperately admired on how they’d gone through and built a business and the type of camaraderie and this is the team part that I really believe in is that growing up with sport, I loved being in the team. I loved being part of that kind of group environment where you had one, you know, one mission, one focus, and you went out there and did what you did and you enjoyed yourself.
I certainly felt that more in the early stage. So that was the early stage part. And within the security component that led me 15 years later to be running a cybersecurity business on my own and here back within Asia Pacific. So I did 11 years in London. I work for a company called Iron Port that was acquired by Cisco early stage company Vorick Code, which then was ultimately acquired by multiple companies. I then went to a company called FireEye, which went on to IPO, and that’s when I was in the UK, and then I went on to do my first complete regional. Build out for a company called Silence, which was an artificial intelligence kind of endpoint security solution. And that company was ultimately bought by BlackBerry.
And then at the end of that, I decided to go again. I moved to Singapore and have been with Sentinel One now for roughly two and a half years. So what I like about cyber is the story is actually more interesting, the networking, because it’s actually a story because you can talk, I believe, to our customers and prospects about what’s happening in the world that actually impacts their day to day. I can talk to my mum and dad about some of the stuff that I do. What I couldn’t do is talk to them about networking. What I can do is talk about the world of cyber criminals. You can talk about what’s happening with the nation state actors and it actually is a really interesting space when you get into that side versus the technical side. Right. And I like the story. I’m more of a storyteller and that’s really what led me to where I am today in running The Sentinel one business and building out our operations here in Singapore.
Sean: That’s amazing. That is. And you’ve gone through so many acquisitions as well. I mean, my goodness, it must have made you a little bit busy going through all of those flips.
Evan: Well, look. If you’re going to work for an early stage company, let’s call it for what it is, you know, the private equity or the VCs, the people who put money in are looking to monetize that in some way. And typically it’s a sale or it’s some form of IPO. And so it is kind of there is always a natural, whether you want to call it an exit or a call it, it’s always a next chapter. And so this is my second company that’s gone public. I’ve been to a couple of acquisitions and really there’s just the next phase with an acquisition.
You know, the company gets integrated, it moves normally into a bigger environment and that’s a different challenge with a public company when you’re pre, I guess pre IPO, flexible, agile, there’s a lot more stimulus and once you go public, there’s a lot more governance because you’re now required to report to the public markets. So there’s a lot more I guess management and compliance and other things that are required to kind of provide the connection back out into that type of operating environment. So it’s just different. But you don’t. I don’t think you go and join early stage companies unless you like change, and that’s your reference to Disney.
If you don’t like change and you don’t like fast pace, early stage companies are certainly not the place you want to be at because, I mean, our business is growing over 100% year on year. I mean, it’s growing incredibly fast. We’re hiring constantly. We’re always moving and changing. And if that is not your thing, then then certainly my business or many businesses like ours are not yours. But if you like to be doing something different all the time and always thinking about what can change can be improved and this is a great place to be and really show your value. Because if you can do good work, then it certainly floats to the top because you can really create value for a company.
Sean: It’s amazing. So I have two questions that stem from that. Number one, you seem to have chosen really good companies that were able to exit. Were you able to get flipped or were able to get into the IPO stage successfully? How do you choose which companies to join? And number two question is how does that work? You know, 100% growth every year? I mean, what do you guys do correctly to be able to achieve that, especially in the cybersecurity space where no kidding, it’s so competitive out there, like everyone’s trying to get into it.
Evan: Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. And I think let’s start with the first one. Which ones do you look to choose? And that’s a bit of a depends. Right. I’ll give you this is my lens that I see the world through, which is taking the sporting kind of analogy. I want to work with great people. I want to work with people that are philosophically aligned to me. I think that’s important because if I can’t get that alignment, even if I pick a great product, I’m never going to. I’m never going to last at that company because I just culturally just don’t fit.
So I think for me, it starts with the people. Do I look at the leadership, the executive leadership? Do I look at the investors? What type of investors are in the company? But look at the people that are trying to build, bring me into the company and then the people around them. And then I’ve got to assess, do I think I can fit here? Do I think the way that I operate, the openness, the energy, I’m a little bit quirky sometimes, you know? Do I think I can fit in this environment, add value to this environment?
And if I can, then that’s a great starting point, because again, if I don’t get that right, I won’t last. Then what I hope is that the products that they’re promoting or that we’re going to be taking out to market are ones that I think can fulfill a need in the market today. And there’s a load of companies that come in that look like they’ve got promise. But in this really ultra competitive environment where there’s many, many, many different companies, it’s got to have something unique. So for me, it’s really looking at the market opportunity. I then look at where the company is already with its products and customers.
Have they been able to get their product into customers already in this part of the world or international markets? What size of those customers, How many customers are you really try and get a sense of where the economy is Because typically when I join companies, the company is already going through maybe they’re Series A or series B, so that means they’re raising money, they’re looking at product fit, they’re looking at acceptance in the market. And then my job is to come and help them accelerate in international markets, which was normally Europe, Middle East and Africa.
So I have been living in London for 11 years and now in Singapore, it’s through Asia Pacific in Japan. So you’re really trying to get a sense of where they are in that uptake. And then the most important aspect is their commitment to invest, because if the company is saying to me, all right, I’ve got this amazing product, we love you, come on in. But we’ve only to let you hire one person and go off and see what you can do with that over the next 12 or 18 months. I mean, Asia Pacific in Japan has, I think, 4.3 billion or something. It covers close to like 40% of the world’s population.
It has China, India, Japan, some of the biggest economies, like where do you go when it’s just one or two of you? And frankly, I find that for me, that’s a very difficult place to be living because it really takes a group of people to help you be successful. So back to the sporting analogy, you need a team around you. And if the company is not prepared to make some forward investment, then I question their commitment to the international market. And so that’s what I’m trying to look for in the companies that I will ultimately move to. And I think it’s paid pretty good dividends so far.
And I’ve walked by some great companies, I’ve looked at some great companies at the time. Didn’t feel right. More on the personal side. I didn’t really know individuals, but ended up being great companies. And I’ve walked by a lot of companies that ended up folding pretty quickly or being sold. So I think I’ve made pretty smart decisions so far that seemed to have worked out and using that kind of philosophy in my company selection. And then on the last part, which was again, how do you survive and how do you go through that kind of thing 100%? I think it goes back to the statement around. It’s looking at the solution that you’ve got and the problem it’s trying to solve and then looking at how applicable that is in the entire business. Stack.
Like I’m a B2B guy, I’m not a B2C guy. I don’t really understand that space, but can you sell it to SMB? Can you sell it to the mid-market? Can you sell it to Enterprise? Can you sell it to governments? And I really have a look at the suitability. And the bigger the market, the bigger opportunity Right now that tends to mean is normally more competitors. And then the question is, well, how differentiated is the product? And then the question behind that would. Okay. What’s the environment today where those competitors are renin? Is there some transition happening? Is there some transformation to try and look at whether you can get a foot in and then ultimately make some success short term to then build upon over time?
And really that’s where Sentinel one has got to it’s, you know, the company’s been around since 2013, so we’re coming up to ten years in, in the market and the first number of years they worked incredibly hard building the right product and solution and and what that what that showed is some other competitors had got ahead of them, had absolutely got ahead of them. But ultimately they couldn’t sustain their business models and got sold. And there were various other acquisitions and they’ve been able to keep that innovation going that ultimately led them to the public markets. They raised a whole ton of money, and that’s now fueling our 100% because we raised a lot, a lot of money in the public markets just before things went a little bit sour. And we’re now using that to make acquisitions and other international investments as well.
Sean: That’s amazing.
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