Power players, Leadership, Cloud Security

Menlo Security’s Poornima DeBolle: Identifying gaps, developing tech solutions

Poornima Debolle co-founded Menlo Security in 2013, two years after her prior startup, Altor Networks, got bought by Juniper Networks. (Menlo Security)

Poornima DeBolle co-founded Menlo Security in 2013, two years after her prior startup, Altor Networks, got bought by Juniper Networks.

Now, eight years later, she has another idea.  

“If all your SaaS apps are linked in some way, and if I can find the weakest link in that stack, my ability to get to the data is easier and faster,” she said. “Who’s watching over that? There needs to be some clearinghouse, or even an industry standard on what some of these API-level integrations are allowed to do, and who is tracking them, and how to detect a failure.”

“If I had the energy, that’s interesting to me.”

That said, DeBolle does not come off as a serial entrepreneur. She speaks about such gaps in the market and potential opportunities instead with both a passion and a curiosity. That’s what inspired her decision to move on from CheckPoint with Amir Ben-Efraim in 2007 to found “a textbook startup” that focused on “east-west traffic in a hypervisor and virtualized environment.”

But what about Menlo, where DeBolle currently serves as chief product officer? The idea for a “cloud secure web gateway platform" built on what the company today branded an “Isolation Core,” sprung from the observation by DeBolle and Ben-Efraim that most solutions focus on whether something trying to get into the network is good or bad.

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“And in kind of the germ or the genesis of our idea for Menlo, we asked, can we do something that's architecturally secure? What if none of the active content ever came down to your end point?”

At the time that idea first emerged, virtualization technology company Bromium had just received its Series A funding, advocating a similar approach for its platform. But the technology integration was quite complex, DeBolle said. She wanted to narrow the concept.

“We realized that web and email are your two doors in any enterprise," she recalls. "So we said, how about we start there? We began thinking about isolation.”

That was 2013. The product took about a year to get into proper development. And when Menlo was finally ready to ship its offering in 2015, JP Morgan Chase was our first customer.

“Nobody who wasn't there in the moment understands the real magnitude of something like that. It was ten thousand users maybe, but it was also JP Morgan.” The implication of such a high-profile customer within one of the most security oriented markets was profound. Failure could destroy Menlo before it even got off the ground, and success could catapult the company forward.

Clearly, the deployment went well. And the vision — that “isolation is the only way you should connect to the internet” — is resonating. Nine out of the 10 largest banks are Menlo customers, DeBolle said.

She added: “Wells Fargo is the holdout.”

Jill Aitoro

Jill Aitoro leads editorial for SC Media, and content strategy for parent company CyberRisk Alliance. She 20 years of experience editing and reporting on technology, business and policy.

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