In conversation with Priscilla Elora Sharuk of Myki

Image courtesy of Myki

Myki is a Beirut-based cyber security company that offers users an offline password manager through a mobile application. The app allows users to store and manage passwords and sensitive information like credit cards and government identification documents to lift the burden of remembering the plethora of passwords required for the many applications that people deal with every day.

It was founded by Priscilla Elora Sharuk and Antoine Vincent Jebara who started thinking of the idea in 2013. The company has so far raised a $4 million Series A round and $1.2 million in seed investment. We spoke to Sharuk about her entrepreneurial journey.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I became an entrepreneur by mistake, I had no intention of building a business, I just had an intention to solve a problem that most people suffered from – which is forgetting passwords and one thing led to another and here we are. I didn’t have it all planned out, I didn’t know where it was going, it was a day to day sort of thing. It’s interesting to look back now and think “damn”. The domino effect put everything into place.

When did you realise it was the right time to quit your job?

I was working as a landscape architect which is what I studied. It is completely different, but building software is very much like architecture, everything is about creating a specific function. I completed an acceleration programme in Helsinki and when I came back, I felt I was equipped with what I was supposed to do next. I had like-minded people that I could pool and work with and for me, that was the trigger. It was coming back and saying “I got this’.

Why Helsinki?

We had heard a lot about this particular accelerator and its strength in this type of technology. We went for the strategic connections in this space and to gain credibility abroad. Because of the nature of the product, it was important to go out there and speak to industry professionals and get their approval. It was a faster way of finding the product market fit and get that credibility.

What were your main challenges when setting up?

It is step number one – the existential question of “do I have it in me to quit my job, which I invested eight years of my life?”. The second challenge, if I am quitting my job, is that I need to raise money. We had to identify the strategic partners, find smart money, their ticket size for everything to fall into place. We were bootstrapping for 10-11 months before we closed funding. It takes time to close investments and these were processes we didn’t understand, everything we thought we would accomplish sooner, took a long time.

What are you challenges today?

Our challenges now are the operational things, hiring a person and that’s not something you learn anywhere but on the job. Also, maintaining a culture across continents. We set up offices in New York City, we have teams working remotely out of Spain, UK, Dublin. We speak the same language in terms of the DNA of the company, but it’s a challenge to maintain that with the teams that are working remotely. So when we have calls, we use Face Time, it helps to feel the environment around you.

Is being based in Beirut a hindrance?

People who say you can’t build a global product out of Beirut is just making excuses. It is all about the talent. We have amazing talent here, but every single talented person is leaving Beirut and going to Dubai to work in this kind of vertical. But we are getting to retain talent and getting a share of it. Yes, we can build a cyber security company from here. Today, hiring 20 people in Lebanon is equivalent to hiring five in the US. If I can get the same amount of talent, I can be savvy in how I spend money, that’s what every investor and founder wants.

What will your industry look like in the next decade?

Cyber security spending is increasing massively, one of our biggest opportunities as a company is to target the managed service provider market. We have a product for the consumer and we have a product for a small team – this is the next big thing when it comes to our industry and our future of becoming massive.

 

 

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