An Interview with Entrepreneur Ambuj Kumar

Ambuj Kumar is a CEO & Co-founder of Fortanix - A Leader in Runtime Encryption. Prior to founding Fortanix, Ambuj was a lead architect at Cryptography Research Inc. where he led and developed many of the company's security technologies that go into millions of devices every year. Previously, he worked for NVIDIA where he designed world's most advanced computer chips including world's fastest memory controller. He has Bachelor of Technology from IIT Kanpur and Masters of Science from Stanford University, both in EE.

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In the following interview, Ambuj talks about his entrepreneurial journey

When did you first discover your entrepreneurial spirit and How is your entrepreneurial career developing so far?

I got my entrepreneurship bug while working at NVIDIA during its explosive growth. NVIDIA was one of the world’s best chip companies then, but there was more to come. Passion flew in everyone from senior leadership to entry-level engineers. Group meetings were held at 10 PM. The company’s vision and strategic execution were steps ahead of the competition. While the market viewed NVIDIA as a graphics company, the CEO, Jensen Huang, was silently building a new computing platform. That is why NVIDIA is $100B+ company today and one of the most successful stories ever in tech. I realized how much goodness one small group of people can deliver to the world.

We are trying to create the same magic with Fortanix. Fortanix has been experiencing rocketship-like growth. In just two years, we have won numerous awards and recognitions. We came in as runner-up in the RSA Innovation Sandbox among hundreds of security companies. Gartner has recognized us as Cool Vendor. And we were judged the best security startup of the year by InfoSecurity.

What has been the biggest success and challenging stories you went through?

In just our second year of existence, we have OEM partnerships with companies such as IBM and Equinix. We have already secured trillions of dollars’ worth of valuable digital assets at some of the world’s biggest financial institutions and at multiple Fortune-100 customers. Such market traction is both extremely delighting and comes with plenty of responsibility.

Fortanix is creating a new market category, Runtime Encryption. Creating a new category is like inventing a new language and evangelizing it one person at a time, one phrase at a time. We literally had to create new words, phrases, descriptions, and stories to communicate our ideas. It’s lot of work but extremely satisfying. And, I feel part of our success can be attributed to hard work we had to do to establish this new market.

Tell us something about Fortanix

Let’s say you had some important application that you didn’t ever want to be hacked. You could spend all the money in the world but still, there are some attacks that cannot be prevented. For example, a user with root password and physical access can always break through all the infrastructure security tools. Fortanix changes that. We provide deterministic security – meaning, no matter what, we protect information from infrastructure attack vectors.

We provide deterministic security using Runtime Encryption which keeps the application and all its data encrypted when the application runs. This means even if the operating system is totally compromised and attackers have zero day vulnerabilities on the system, the information remains completely protected. Keeping data encrypted when applications run has previously created very slow processes. But, we use new hardware capabilities, Intel SGX, to remove any performance bottlenecks.

What are your growth plans for the near future?

Our vision is to “solve cloud security and privacy.” And, we are building our Runtime Encryption Platform to do exactly that. As the first step in that journey, we have solved the challenges around security of encryption keys. Our partnership with Equinix resulted in the world’s first HSM-as-a-service.

Just like NVIDIA, our complete story will unfold over the next decade. We are actively expanding our capabilities into securing containers, databases, microservices, etc., and integrating with use cases such as edge cloud, remote cloud, secure manufacturing, tokenizing PII data, etc. To help with our growth, we are actively hiring engineers and business people in both the United States (where we are headquartered) and India (our satellite office).

Looking back, what did you learn and what would you have done differently?

We have always had a very high bar for our employees. So, we would interview many candidates before making an offer. Sometimes, we would get frustrated with our slow rate of hiring. Now, I realize world-class talent is not readily available, by definition. So, if your goal is to build a team capable of redefining security, it’ll take time and you need to plan accordingly.

What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs?

Don’t always listen to experts and pundits. You need to have a strong first-hand view of what the future looks like and why you will matter. Others may or may not like your story, but if you have carefully analyzed all the market data and connected the dots, you have the best information available. But, you need to be extremely intellectually honest and be your best critic.

In your opinion, what are the hurdles that keep people away from starting an entrepreneurial career?

Entrepreneurship is a lot of hard work. If you are motivated purely by money, there are other jobs that would provide a better return. If you are motivated purely by glamor and social recognition, entrepreneurship is the worst job because you get turned down by so many skeptics. If you want to change the world, there is no guarantee of success. Often times what drives entrepreneurs is an irresistible desire to change the status-quo. You find something so loathsome, that it does not matter what it takes, you go to try your best to fix it.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for your MVP built? Get in touch with us at hello@devathon.com

Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world's leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.