As arrests of members from hacker group Anonymous make the news around the world, following high-profile breaches of Sony and Bank of America, it’s clear that information security remains an unsolvable issue facing corporations and governments today. At the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas this weekend, companies making the rounds to review the latest software vulnerabilities might notice one Moroccan startup making its debut as a sponsor- IT security firm NETpeas. While one might not immediately associate Morocco with internet security, NETpeas is working to change that.
The startup, built at the Casablanca Technopark, has embraced a global approach to business after receiving their first round of funding nine months ago. Their primary package, the corporate-sounding COREvidence, is designed to eliminate hassle as a one-stop-shop for security auditing and management services. Its software-as-a-service model also allows users easy internet access to centrally-hosted software, rather than forcing users to tediously install packages on individual computers.
NETpeas is further building a global community with the recent launch of an IT Vulnerability Database & ToolsWatch Service, which boasts up-to-date security alerts. Since internet penetration in Morocco is estimated at only 33%, it makes sense that the startup is, as co-founder Rachid Harrando notes, initially focusing on U.S. and European markets. Yet the company hasn’t forgotten its local roots- it also just launched CERT-NETPEAS, the first Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) in Morocco.
With tech security spending expected to rise from $55 billion to $71 billion in the next three years, NETpeas is well positioned to ride the wave, while ushering in a new generation of startups that connect North Africa to Silicon Valley.
We asked founder Rachid Harrando the Wamda Ten Questions:
1) How did you decide to create NETpeas?
Nabil Ouchn and I created our company once we realized that both of us as co-founders had complementary expertise. We decided to quit our jobs at the same time to build it.
2) Do you see your market as local, regional, or global?
Our company is global as it is web based. COREvidence, our software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, is available to all customers over the world who are looking to assess their information technology vulnerabilities.
3) What are your ambitions? How do you plan to grow?
We hope to become a primary marketplace for software-based security tools globally. We plan to first focus on the U.S. market, then expand to Europe, and then go global.
4) What were the most important decisions that you made in your company, or what was a key turning point in your approach?
Our biggest turning point was meeting our two beloved investors, Maroc Numeric Fund and DAYAM Fund.
5) What is the biggest problem that you faced (or are facing) at NETpeas, or what were the biggest mistakes you made as an entrepreneur?
Resources are the biggest challenge here. We also made large mistakes trying to develop a big product. I recommend launching your first product early and keeping it small!
6) What is your role in your company? If you have partners, how do you manage your partnership?
We manage our partnership with written commitments. I’m a manager trying to be a leader, essentially. We try to keep a balance between our skills as partners.
7) Has owning a company made you financially more secure, or not?
Not at all. Or at least, not for now.
8) How does technology enable your business? What is a technical tool that you cannot live without?
We can’t do without the internet, of course.
9) What does your family and/or spouse think of your company? Would you advise other people and/or your kids to become entrepreneurs?
My wife does not care what I am doing as long as I get home early for dinner every day. But actually she has always been supportive and ready to help. My friends and family think I am crazy to have started a business in Morocco instead of the U.S. or France where I spend most of my life.
Yet recently, since living here for the past two years, I’ve seen change occurring. And frankly, I prefer when they think I am crazy.
Also, it’s simply so much fun to be independent and create your own company. We’ve learned so much that I would recommend it to anyone, my kids included.
10) Have the recent revolutions in the region influenced your approach?
Yes. The revolutions have helped by confirming what I keep saying: Even if we haven’t done it before, anything is possible.