Category: Top Management
Name: Rohyt Belani
Why nominated: Now with over 500 employees, including some based in a new European Phishing Defense Center, Cofense – created as PhishMe by Rohyt Belani and his business partner Aaron Higbee and acquired in 2018 by a private equity consortium where it was rebranded – under Belani's tutelage plans to keep expanding its collaborative offerings, introduced through both internal development and acquisitions.
Profile: Understanding that technology alone cannot stop phishing campaigns without a well-trained, empowered workforce, Rohyt Belani and his business partner Aaron Higbee, filled an untapped need in the security space when in 2011 they co-founded PhishMe, later renamed Cofense, to train workers to recognize and avoid malicious email attacks.
Rohyt and Higbee were inspired to create PhishMe/Cofense after clients of their one-time security consulting company, Intrepidus Group, asked them repeatedly to create phishing simulations they could test on their employees in order to assess the risk of falling victim to malicious email campaigns.
But soon the duo realized that these simulations could also reduce risk by engaging employees through behavioral conditioning, raising their awareness of phishing schemes, and turning them into human detectors of suspicious activity. And for those attacks that nevertheless manage sneak by, the company could also train incident response teams to quickly analyze and respond to such incidents.
The approach was controversial at first, as humans were commonly looked upon as living, breathing vulnerabilities, and not assets like technology. Yet the model has proven highly successful, as Cofense today services more than 2,000 enterprise customers worldwide, while expanding its offerings to a suite of solutions that include phishing simulation training, one-click phishing reporting, incident response capabilities and intelligence services.
Named a 2017 Entrepreneur of The Year by EY, Rohyt has also helped introduce several free products to the industry, including PhishMe Free, a training tool for small businesses; PhishMe CBFree, a library of computer-based learning and also a new cloud security service.
What colleagues say: “Two key qualities that make Rohyt different from many other technology business leaders in this space is the combination of his unique ability to identify and successfully build untapped technology markets, and his natural-born leadership, which allows him to not only bring his vision to life, but also create sustainable and thriving companies. You often don't find someone that can do both. Beyond his passion for the technology, Rohyt prioritizes our team members at Cofense by encouraging a collaborative, innovative and positive work culture, inspiring us all to be the best we can be. He knows our team members are Cofense's greatest asset and runs the company with a ‘one-team' approach. He holds monthly town halls, for example, to discuss significant company news, financials, product updates and answer any questions employees might have; nothing is off the table. It is this unparalleled passion and transparency that makes Rohyt a great leader, business partner and close friend.”
- Aaron Higbee, co-founder and CTO, Cofense