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CyberKnight achieved more than $10 Million in revenue bookings in its 1st year of operations despite the impact of Covid-19 and is on track for exponential growth in 2021. Avinash Advani, Founder & CEO at CyberKnight discusses the company’s approach to cybersecurity distribution

Discuss CyberKnight ‘s approach and strategy towards cybersecurity distribution- elaborate about the Zero Trust framework and what you refer to as the Art of cybersecurity distribution?

CyberKnight’s The Art of Cybersecurity Distribution is a go-to- market strategy that entails adding the maximum value to partners, customers and vendors simultaneously. To the vendor, CyberKnight becomes an extension of the vendor on-the-ground in each covered country in the region, from sales through support. To the customer, CyberKnight is a Trusted Advisor, helping regional enterprise and government customers simplify incident response while achieving compliance. To the partner, CyberKnight focuses on empowerment to help them differentiate themselves and drive increased profitability.

CyberKnight has built its portfolio offering around Zero Trust Security to assist customers with digital transformation including enabling a remote workforce, cloud adoption and protecting data accessed by users, devices and applications no matter where they are located. The framework is critical for organizations to consider implementing as there are inherent flaws in current security strategies and architectures since networks have evolved to hybrid environments with on-premise, cloud and mobile spaces. Data is constantly flowing outside the corporate perimeter due to the rapid adoption of cloud and the explosion of remote working, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the traditional defense perimeter is vanishing, implicit trust can no longer be assumed in the LAN because attackers are leveraging historically flat environments to compromise credentials giving them access to sensitive data. These issues also play a major role in attacker dwell time as there is a lack of lateral movement detection.

How challenging has it been building a value distribution business from scratch in the past 1 year, especially when the market has been impacted by Covid-19? What have been the key highlights of the success so far?

It was definitely challenging to build a new distribution business as we had entered 2020 with ambitious targets and goals for the year, but then in March we entered the lockdown and everything suddenly took a U-turn. Even after emerging from the lockdown, it took a good quarter for the market to return to some semblance of normalcy. Therefore Q2 and Q3 had a disastrous impact on our ability to meet our initial 2020 plan. But thankfully, Q4 was rock solid and we managed to persevere through 2020. We are grateful and proud to have been able to achieve over $10 Million in our first year! Other than surviving the year, which is an achievement in itself, we focused extensively on two main campaigns: Zero Trust for the Remote Workforce and Unified Threat Intelligence, both of which were well received and garnered significant partner and customer interest. In addition, the other key achievements of 2020 included building the portfolio with 20+ market-leading cybersecurity vendors, onboarding more than 50 Strategic Partners across the region, building more than $60 Million in pipeline with over 900 opportunities, and deploying our on-the-ground teams across the region.

While there is a lot of work getting done through remote collaboration, there is a need for physical presence as well for Businesses to reach out to different markets. How is CyberKnight looking to achieve that balance across the region and markets of focus?

CyberKnight has the philosophy of centralized strategy, but de- centralized execution. We absolutely understand that our partners and customers in each country require us to have local presence to support them. So, although headquartered in Dubai, we have deployed local sales and technical teams in all key Middle East markets. This expansion will continue step-by-step until we have effectively covered the entire region, following which our ambition is to extend the strategy into neighboring regions.

SASE is the new approach to cybersecurity in the cloud – discuss how Cyberknight has been building that approach in terms of vendors aligned with and solutions in your portfolio?

SASE is definitely on our radar, but as cloud adoption has historically been slower in the Middle East as compared to other parts of the world, we decided to focus on Zero Trust Security first to build our initial offering, and have mapped our portfolio to each of the micro-perimeters in the ZTX Framework. Now, as organizations are accelerating on their cloud journey, our immediate goal is to assist them with a Zero Trust approach to the cloud, which removes trust assumptions when users, devices and applications connect. The future evolution of our offering will definitely encompass SASE, at which point we will be able to provide complete session protection, regardless of whether a user is on or off the corporate network.

How do you see organizational investments in cybersecurity going up in the region? What are the kinds of solutions that are seeing larger spends?

Other than collaboration, cybersecurity was one of the only other IT segments that grew in Q2 and Q3 last year. This is because of the rapid need that arose to move employees to a remote working environment, but then also to support this transition from the SOC. Furthermore, I do believe that cybersecurity investment will continue to increase in the Middle East as regional organizations are constantly playing catchup to cyber attackers. In 2021, I expect to see an increase in spend across various cybersecurity domains including cloud security, zero trust network access, phishing defense, password-less authentication, automated and continuous compliance, code security, and next-generation breach detection that leverages AI, deep learning and UEBA.

As a distributor, what are the value add support services you provide your partners?

We assist our partners with value-added services that span sales through support. So this includes assisting them with marketing, lead generation, sales presentations, as well as, Pre-Sales activities like technical presentations, demos, RFP responses and POCs. Then, we also assist partners with post-sales services like implementation and support, but only when they require such services, so as to not complete with their professional services offerings. We also assist partners with solution-selling around key advisory topics such as threat intelligence, threat hunting, security operations, ransomware protection, endpoint security etc.

Do you help solution provider partners opt for the right solutions from your portfolio since there may be overlaps in offerings from vendors in your portfolio? What would be the typical selection criteria in such instances?

Yes, by understanding the profile of each of our strategic partners, we align portfolio vendors to them based on their existing areas of focus, their target customer base, their cybersecurity vision, the type of partner they are: VAR, SI, MSSP etc., and of course, based on what is complementary to their current vendors. Also there is minimal competitive overlap in our portfolio as we consciously try to avoid this commonly made mistake, so that we can give maximum focus to each of our vendors. Of course there may be vendors that target the same customer budget, but technologically there is minimal duplication, unless vendors go through mergers and acquisitions themselves that are outside our control.

Have you held any virtual partner events in 2020? Are there plans to hold such engagements in 2021?

Yes, several, to map to our Zero Trust for the Remote Workforce and Unified Threat Intelligence campaigns, as well as, separate events for our respective portfolio vendors. We will absolutely continue to host such engagements in 2021 for each of our vendors aligning with their individual channel strategies and business objectives. Watch this space, as we will also be launching new innovative campaigns in 2021!

Would you be participating at this year’s GISEC?

Yes, in a big way, with many of our strategic vendors participating with us as we truly believe in the potential of the show. The only caveat is that travel restrictions in the Middle East must be reduced enabling customers and partners to travel to Dubai for the event, otherwise we may have to reconsider our participation.

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