The Decibel Podcast: Founders Helping Founders

Nir Polak, Founder of Exabeam: Combating the Pressure of Great Success

Episode Summary

Nir Polak is the co-founder of Exabeam, one of the most successful and valuable private cybersecurity firms currently valued at $2.4 billion. On today’s episode, Jon Sakoda speaks with Nir about how his time in the Israeli Defense Forces prepared him for the constant battles in the early days of a startup and the importance of taking care of your mental health as a founder.

Episode Notes

Nir Polak is the co-founder of Exabeam, one of the most successful and valuable private cybersecurity firms currently valued at $2.4 billion. On today’s episode, Jon Sakoda speaks with Nir about how his time in the Israeli Defense Forces prepared him for the constant battles in the early days of a startup and the importance of taking care of your mental health as a founder. 

  1. From The Front Lines Of Combat To CEO [5:57 - 8:02] - After high school, Nir spent three years in combat with the Israeli Defense Forces where he was forced to keep his cool in the most chaotic of situations. The leadership lessons he learned on the front lines carried over to Exabeam where he was tasked with leading his team in a constant high pressure environment. Listen to hear more about how Nir’s time in the IDF prepared him to become a founder and CEO.
  2. Take Care Of Your Mental Health [8:02 - 11:26] - The journey of building a startup can come with constant chaos. As a founder, you need the stamina to lead your team through all of the ups and downs. Nir knows firsthand the toll this amount of pressure can take on founders and encourages all founders to seek guidance on taking care of themselves throughout their career. Listen to hear why more founders need to prioritize their mental health in order to successfully lead a company.
  3. Tapping Into Conversations With Your Customers [15:55 - 18:37] - In early customer discovery conversations, there are often mixed signals on the journey to finding product market fit. Nir found it necessary to dig deeper into the details around why the early adopters were sharing and what was behind their pain points in order to better relate to them. Listen to learn how this detailed customer feedback can enable product market fit pre-launch.
  4. Don’t Let Tech Debt Creep Up On You [21:16 - 24:40] - All founders hope to exceed their sales goals when they go to market, but the idea of tech debt can creep up on you just as quickly. Rapid success often leads to a greater number of requests from customers with high expectations which can really stress the company. Listen to hear how Nir suggests slowing down sales investments, temporarily, can prevent a lot of pain.
  5. Weighing Your Risk And Reward [24:40 - 26:35] - Despite several acquisition offers, Exabeam has remained a highly successful private company. When reviewing each offer, Nir weighs qualitative elements just as equally as the quantitative. Listen to learn how to analyze risk vs. reward, and consider team stamina, when thinking about exit opportunities.

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Episode Transcription

NIR POLAK: I think the difference between combat and a startup is the length of the chaos. I think the startup, the chaos is constant.

JON SAKODA: Welcome to the Decibel podcast. I’m excited to welcome Nir Polak, founder of Exabeam. Exabeam has recently become one of the most successful and valuable private companies in the cybersecurity space. He is also an angel investor and advisor to many founders and is a friend to many of us here at Decibel.

Nir, please say hello to everyone, and welcome to the show.

NIR POLAK: Great. Thank you so much, Jon, for having me. I’m excited and looking forward to the interview.

JON SAKODA: Nir, as you know, I always like to start at the beginning of your journey as a founder. Would you mind telling everyone where you were born, where exactly you grew up, and what eventually brought you here to Silicon Valley?

NIR POLAK: Sure. I’m originally from Israel. And throughout my life, I’ve been moving back and forth between Israel and the Bay Area. So, I was born in Israel. At the age of one year old, I moved to the Bay. My mom did her post-doc in Berkeley. My dad was working in tech, so we moved here. And I spent four years here until the age of five. Went to preschool, went to a Montessori preschool. Kind of like growing up the American way, in a sense. And then really, the rest of my childhood was in Israel.

And in Israel, you go through childhood. You go, you finish high school, and then you go to the army. Something rare about me, I’m not part of the 8200 unit. I never was. I’m more of a fighting unit, so I was in a unit with an artillery, and you spend time in combat. I was a commander and leader. So you get to lead troops. And after the army, you go on a long trip. It’s very common for Israelis. You go on this long trip somewhere to go find yourself, decompress. And then I went to college right after that.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t a computer geek or anything like that, but decided to go for computer science and business. I did that in one of the private universities in Israel. That’s where I met my wife. And through college, I met a guy named Shlomo Kramer. At the time, he was one of the founders of Check Point. He started a company called—at the time, it was called WEBCohort. And he wanted me to join. And I said, “I can’t. I want to finish school, finish that.” And the moment—I was doing my final exams last year. I sent him a note. I said, “Hey, Shlomo, I’m ready to start full-time.”

And then I started at that company—the company then became Imperva—the day after my last exam. The company was super young. There was nothing. Still beta phases. And I was doing QA and engineering, sort of that house, and spent there two years. And then just three days before my wedding, Shlomo met with me and said, “Nir, I want you to move to the States. We’re going to open a corporate office there. I want you there to go and build that post sales.” First I had to convince my wife. So I first got married, honeymoon, came back. And then on the last—kind of the day we came back, I told her about this.

JON SAKODA: Now, had she ever spent any time in the US like you had, or?

NIR POLAK: No. She spent time in Kenya as a kid. Her dad was working in Kenya, so she spent there time, about four years. When I was in the US, she was in Kenya. My wife, by the way, we’re the same

age. She is four days older than me. We went to the same high school. Did not meet her at high school. I met her in college. But we have common friends. But she said, “It’s crazy. We just got married. We just got a place. You want to move?” I was able to convince her. So we moved to the States. We went to live in the city. And really, I took responsibility over post sales, so running post sales for Imperva at the time. And initially, like any relocation, it’s super hard, especially on the spouses. You almost get divorced. Like why are you there? And her mother would call me in the middle of the day crying because she’s crying to her mom, and... But then you get settled in.

And I ended up kind of running that worldwide operation. Again, super young. I think at the age 26, 27. And one of the other co-founders of Imperva left, a guy named Mickey Boodaei. He ran product. And I took responsibility of running products. 28 at the time, I think. And I did it for about four years or so. And then Imperva was just about to go public, so we were filing our S1. And then I was asked to move to run corp dev, crop strategy side of the house. So I moved to do that. And my deal really at the time was, with Shlomo, who was my boss, I told him, “I’ll do it for two years, but then I want to leave and start something of my own.”

JON SAKODA: I want to interrupt just for a second before we start talking about the founding story of Exabeam. Given that you grew up both in the US and in Israel, I wonder if you can give us your perspective on both cultures. Are there big differences between the US and Israel? And how do those cultures end up shaping you in your early years?

NIR POLAK: I do feel here, even though Israel is multicultural, it’s much more multicultural here. You get exposed to a lot. All kinds of races, colors, this, and everything seems normal. My dad was in tech, so I got exposed to a lot of people from different cultures and spent a lot of time just getting to know my people. I thought that was special here. And Israel, it’s—I don’t know where it comes from, but you’re just driven and scrappy. The amount of drive in Israelis is insane. Like, the drive to succeed, the drive to prove something. And I grew up with it. I grew up with just not accepting no, and maniacal focus and drive. And I got exposed, which I think in Israel is special, to leadership at a young age in the army that gives you a faucet, learning. You’re really mature when you exit the army and you learn a lot about yourself. Those would be the big differences, I would say, between the different countries.

JON SAKODA: We have had some guests on the show that served in the Israeli army, and you’re right—many of them tend to come from the 8200 unit, the famous intelligence unit. But I’m excited to have someone on the show who has actually served on the front lines. Tell us a little bit more about what that’s like. In some ways, does this better prepare you for the battles that we all have to fight in startups, and what did you ultimately take away from your time in the army?

NIR POLAK: You learn a lot around leadership. You go through leadership school. You learn about it, right, in the army, and you find yourself in situations where you’re not in normal situations, and you’re just mission-focused. The true, true combat I saw was during my reserves, where you get called in and you do about a month every year until you’re 45. And I went to Nablus. And that’s where we had combat. And you just get to learn about yourself and you interact and hold your cool when the shit hits the fan.

JON SAKODA: I think very few of our listeners have been through active combat. And I’m sure you learn a lot going through something that is that intense. Tell us, what exactly is that like?

NIR POLAK: It’s chaos, right? These things are chaotic. It’s very instinctive. It’s how to focus. It’s how to lead through it. It’s how to communicate through it. So, it was just forming to say, “Wow, I can cope in a crazy environment.” I also think I was a bit lucky. I never lost anyone. Like not a friend nor a soldier. And I think you evade a bit about the PTSD when that happens. That never happened to me.

JON SAKODA: We all know that as a part of growing up in Israel, everyone has to serve in the military. And if you look back and try to see the best in fighting and combat, do you feel that this unique experience helps you as a founder?

NIR POLAK: I learned to cope and keep cool in a crazy environment. I knew I could do it. And it’s a comfort to know.

JON SAKODA: It’s not a fair comparison, but I’m sure you can always say that nothing is as chaotic in your startup as fighting a real battle. But let’s be honest—even though no matter how well you are doing, every startup has its own forms of battle and can feel incredibly chaotic.

NIR POLAK: It is super chaotic in startup. I think the difference between combat and a startup is the length of the chaos. I think the startup, the chaos is constant. And the stamina one needs to run startups, to be in that, is super strong. I’ve also openly talked about my struggles with mental health I had in the startup. I think especially as a CEO, as a founder, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on you. And as the company grows, there’s more and more pressure that develops. And you need somebody to talk to. So, I’ve been for years going to a therapist that specializes in CEOs and also taking medication to help kind of combat the stress. And I think a CEO must take care of their mental health first and foremost. So, I love talking about this topic, talk about it openly when I mentor people in different facets. I think it’s important for founders to know that they need to take care of their mental health and they need to seek guidance.

JON SAKODA: You mentioned how in the army, a lot of people get PTSD. Now there is widespread awareness that all soldiers who have served in active duty should pay attention to mental health. We all know that a lot of founders deal with their own form of PTSD. But I still think it’s taboo to talk about this. Many founders, I think, just try to tough it out and don’t want to show weakness by asking for help. I know you coach a lot of founders. How do you try to get people to open up and to pay more attention to this?

NIR POLAK: I think being vulnerable is super important. I am kind of a vulnerable leader. I think you can’t be macho macho in this. And you need to seek help. And I think founders need to take care of the other founders in the team to work well. The stakes are huge. And the mental health of the leaders isn’t just their mental health. It’s also the financial outcome of the company and making sure that they make the right decisions at the right time. And if they are super stressed and they’re depressed, they can’t operate at the level they need to. I’m part of ICON, which is the Israeli entrepreneurship, and I’m a mentor there, and I have a session, and I just talk to all of these newbies that are in Series A about this need. And it’s not failure that’s going to get them there. It’s also the success. The more successful they are, then the more pressure they’re going to feel.

JON SAKODA: It’s one of the counterintuitive things about a startup, right, is if you’re lucky enough to progress to the next level, challenges become even greater, right? The opportunities become greater too, but we’ll sometimes underestimate that though they grow yesterday’s problems, they inherit a new set of problems.

NIR POLAK: Then that’s kind of where the pressure’s constant.

JON SAKODA: That’s right. There is this constant pressure. But if there is a silver lining, I think with the fullness of time, we can say that we all go through this and we all get through it. And look, if we all knew how hard it was to start a company the first time, we probably never would have tried it in the first place. I don’t know if you remember, since it was so long ago, but do you remember whether you thought starting a company was going to be this hard? Would you mind taking us back to the early Exabeam story, and when did you first start thinking about the company, and how did you get it started?

NIR POLAK: I think the opportunity I got at Imperva is rare. If you think, what I did is, I learned product and development. I learned post sales. I learned product management strategy ops, like hardware ops and sales ops. And IT reported to me. Just so many things. I was inquisitive. I love, love learning how things work, again, and how I apply that. And it just—I felt confident that I can do this. But I also felt the hunger to create. And as the company grows, creating is difficult. It’s a big ship. Turning it around is super difficult. And I just wanted something more nimble. I didn’t know what the idea was, but I knew that I wanted to start something.

JON SAKODA: Nir, this was going to be my next question. How did you have the confidence to leave your great situation at Imperva? Things were going well. You had been promoted several times. You knew you wanted to start a company, but you didn’t have a fully baked idea. What gave you the confidence to walk into Shlomo’s office and say, “Look, things are going great here, but it’s time for me to move on. And even though I don’t have an idea, I still am going to go start a company.”

NIR POLAK: Yeah. It didn’t go like that. So, the way it worked was, I was still in Israel, and he wanted me in the States. And I said, “No, I want to leave.” And he said, “Nir, you have to give me two years, and then you can go.” By the way, I started Exabeam exactly two years after that. So these things take time. So at the time, I had no idea what I’m going to do, like what would be the company. I just knew that I’m going to start sniffing and feeling and looking, and I had the opportunity. And looking at the founding story of Exabeam, I was starting sniffing around the market. And Imperva—

JON SAKODA: And remind everybody what Imperva did. Not everybody will remember.

NIR POLAK: Yeah. Imperva’s in the data security space. It has two main offerings. One’s on protecting access to applications through a web application firewall, we’re in that space. And the other one is on data and the database and unstructured side, data monitoring, data compliance. So controlling all facets of accessing to production business data. And I asked kind of the simple question is, everybody’s focused on the point of compromise, which is the malware. But what is it exactly we’re trying to do? I mean, it was clear to me that the attacker was trying to steal the credentials of whoever they’ve compromised. They want to compromise your identity.

And really, the threats of today have moved from being application vulnerabilities of WAF or IPS and all this to identity-driven threats. You have an impostor roaming within your own IT environment. How do you find impostors? They’re not who they are. And a lot of technologies have been built in order to vet identities through device fingerprinting, behavior, different things to say, today they would fall into zero trust. Are you who you are on the other side of this conversation? And it became super clear to me that what really the market was needing is how do you bring the anti-fraud technology into information security? And that was kind of the premise.

And I was looking at the security market, the security management market, looking at the SIMs. I said, “No one’s applying this to SIM yet.” Then another person at Imperva, a good friend of mine, also gave notice, a guy named Sylvain Gil, a guy that I hired into Imperva. And he was thinking, “What I’m gonna do?” I said, “Hey, you want to join me in a startup? Here’s the idea. What do you think?” And we start spending, both of us, more and more time. And then we started formulating the idea, talking to—I had a network of a lot of different CISOs and customers and vendors, and just spending time asking questions. And that’s where I started formalizing the idea of what would be the first step in the story of Exabeam. And the idea was to build a brain that you can slap on top of any other existing data repositories to help them detect and respond to these modern threats of today, leverage the data you already had.

JON SAKODA: If we go back to those early customer discovery conversations, did you sometimes feel that you got mixed signals? I feel there can be an art to getting great customer input. Some people may say, “Hey, this is great,” but sometimes they’re just saying what you want to hear. And if you’re lucky, you may have some people that you trust telling you that this is either a great idea or a terrible idea. Don’t you sometimes get strong conflicting opinions?

NIR POLAK: You do. And it’s not all rosy. It’s not what you want to hear. A lot of it was, “I can build everything in ArcSite today. I have all this master, so I can—I have these Splunk ninjas. So you need a bit to decipher companies, what can they do? The people we found the best feedback from were the younger Splunk guys that weren’t jaded by job security, that kind of told us as it is, versus a lot of old school people that were much more job security, don’t play with my cheese.

JON SAKODA: I think you’re hitting on an important point. So if you wouldn’t mind, could you expand a bit on this point? So, there’s this persona of an early adopter, right, somebody who is sort of mature enough to really understand the problem, right? They’re not a newbie. But they’re also early enough in their career or young enough to know that it can be better or different. And so, how do you go about finding these people?

NIR POLAK: I mean, you talk to so many. So, were I out to seek them, I didn’t know where they are. So you just start bucketing them, and you try to rationalize, why are they saying what they’re saying? And then, you know, through the personas, you figure out that the youngsters are not biased with the old ways. You’re able to kind of fingerprint, why is someone telling me what they’re telling me? What’s their underlying pain? There’s a lot of like, Dr. Phil. You talk to these people, you try to disarm them, you try to understand where do they spend their time, what do they do? Relate to them, and then you’ll start learning more and more.

JON SAKODA: Yeah. I think we can all appreciate that these early adopters are so important to finding product-market fit. Sometimes the guidance is very specific from them. Sometimes it’s very opaque. And you’re really just trying to mold the clay from all these discussions.

NIR POLAK: Yeah. You’re trying to formalize what is it that you’re building. Throughout the last year or so at Imperva, Sylvain and I spent a lot of time formalizing what we’re building. What do we want to build? Talking to more customers and doing that, and coming up with a pitch deck, which was very specific. Both of us were product people, so I think we had a good understanding of product-market fit before we even launched the company, that there’s something there, there.

JON SAKODA: That’s interesting. So you guys knew out of the gates that you would probably have product-market fit because of your prior experience. How quickly could you then get the product in people’s hands and ultimately create successful deployments?

NIR POLAK: This is something unique about Exabeam, and I think it’s something that really made a difference in the success of the company, was our head of the go-to-market was Ralph Pisani, who at the time led go-to-market for Imperva. He was on his way out. And Shlomo connected us. He joined us to kick off the go-to-market arm. And Ralph is a very rare beast in the world of go-to-market cyber. He is also a really strong individual, but also an amazing leader to build a team. And he joined us maybe a year after the inception, so right as we were getting close to beta. And we ramped up a team of three enterprise sales folks. And we would comp them just on betas. Our goal was to get about 10 or 15 beta customers. We ended up getting about 30. And we just got a tremendous amount of traction out of the gate. We really saw the market fit there.

JON SAKODA: Nir, I’m wondering if you might be able to pause here for a second and try to answer a question that a lot of founders have. Someone like Ralph Pisani is what’s known as a stretch hire. He was the head of sales for a company with several hundred million in revenues, and many would call him an aspiration hire for a Series A startup. Some founders believe that maybe it’s better to hire execs that are stage appropriate for where you are versus trying to stretch for somebody who has been there and done that at a size and scale above and beyond where you are in that moment. How do you try and advise founders who are privileged enough to make this choice between stage-appropriate hires and stretch hires?

NIR POLAK: Yeah. I think that when you’re clear about product-market fit, and you’re displacing something, and you feel that the founders can create a lot of traction by themselves, you can get and hire high caliber, you should try to do that. I think it’s much more common that you’re not sure about product-market fit, even though the investors think you do and the lot, but there’s still a lot more to learn, you should get kind of like a player coach. Look for someone that was successful in early stage, super scrappy yet super smart, super transparent, and has crazy hunger. Those are the types. Maybe they had a team of three max. Those are the types of folks you need to hire initially to create that traction to learn as you go. What we went through is not common. It’s far from common.

JON SAKODA: I was going to ask. Most of the time, I ask founders for their lessons learned in scaling up their go-to-market. I wonder if you even had any because you had Ralph. Was it a Cinderella story, or were there some observations or lessons learned along the way?

NIR POLAK: I think that success of go-to-market out of the gate then created a lot of tech debt quickly on the product.

JON SAKODA: Oh, that’s a great point.

NIR POLAK: Because you’re running so, so fast. And the flip side of that is then the pressure you have on your product and eng.

JON SAKODA: Yeah. So navigate us through this, because this is actually a real problem, and it is part of the laws of physics in a startup, right? If you have a rapidly scaling go-to-market, that means you’re getting the product into the hands of more customers quicker than most startups do, which means the feature requests and the complexity of the environments and the complexity of the integrations is going

up potentially exponentially. And in companies that are growing more slowly, the product teams have a chance to catch up to all this. And in a company that’s growing super fast, you don’t always have the luxury of catching up to it. So coach us through what this is like and how you navigate through that.

NIR POLAK: So, mistakes that we’ve done, we should have slowed a little bit and put more pressure and emphasis on product and eng. And we didn’t stop putting the pressure on go-to-market. So that dug a hole for Exabeam for a while.

JON SAKODA: Nir, can I ask, let’s just be honest, is it possible to slow down go-to-market?

NIR POLAK: It’s hard. Yes, it is. It’s super not intuitive. I didn’t have the instinct to tell me to do so, and part of the failure, I should have. I don’t know. I’m looking, it’s hindsight, right?

JON SAKODA: Yeah, no. I’ve not heard of a founder say that they’ve successfully slowed down.

NIR POLAK: Yeah. It’s super hard to do and make that call. But on the other side of that chasm is tremendous pain and product debt. Tremendous pain of digging out through that hole. And just, you stretch the company for a long time.

JON SAKODA: Are there some leading indicators or warning signs maybe in retrospect that other founders can learn from?

NIR POLAK: Yeah. The customers are getting angry, issues that you have, just product SAT issues. They’re a great sentiment of that. And one time, you have to bite the bullet. You just need to alleviate the pressure.

JON SAKODA: And then practically speaking, looking back, what are some of the things you can do to actually slow down go-to-market? Is it maybe don’t expand internationally? Is it not supporting channels?

NIR POLAK: Yeah. Look, go-to-market doesn’t happen without a plan. So for all the founders that are starting companies, you’re going to go through an annual operation plan. In that annual operation plan, which is planning for your next fiscal year, you’re going to have a number in your mind. That number doesn’t come out of thin air. It is a capacity model of what do you think each one of your reps can sell? If it’s a non-vet, a new rep. And if it’s a vet rep, you’re assuming things. And you’re putting quota on the street. So this is how enterprise sales works. And they’re bringing a net new. And you’re just setting goals. When you put gasoline on the fire is, hey, it’s working really well. Our productivity’s going very high. We should put more coolant on the street, more people on the street, more people on the street, more people on the street. And the way to stop it is just, don’t put as many people on the street. Stop. And just set lower goals.

JON SAKODA: Very, very, very practical advice. I love it. So the company obviously has gone on to become a wildly successful private company. Can I ask you to give some advice on how founders should think about exiting? You have been approached many times by suitors who have wanted to acquire the company. You’ve said no. You’ve capitalized the company for the long run and have chosen to build a great standalone company. Walk us through your thought process along the way. What are some of the reasons to go through with those transactions and what are some of the reasons to go it alone?

NIR POLAK: It’s all a matter of risk-reward and stamina that the team has. You have to think about what’s the risk of the upside and do we feel confident in the upside, versus do we look at the whites of each other’s eyes and do we feel that we’re ready for the next phase? If a team doesn’t feel that they have the stamina to continue, is when they need to start looking at opportunities elsewhere.

JON SAKODA: Yeah. And Nir, some founders have told me that it is about this calculation of, I guess, upside versus downside, and that sometimes there’s a math equation in people’s mind. How much of it is math versus, I guess, the more human elements like you’re describing, right, which is the ambition, the vision, the perseverance, the grit? I think both are clearly a part of the decision. But people tend to approach it from different angles.

NIR POLAK: Yeah. Everybody approaches it a bit differently, so I can’t generalize. I can just talk about myself. It’s less about the money. It’s more about the outcome and the pride. And I’ll probably have another startup after Exabeam as well. There’s no rationale in this thing because there’s no— you’re not doing it for the money. You’re just doing it because that’s what you love to do. And so for me, it was about that, than it is about just a financial outcome.

JON SAKODA: Yeah. What is it about starting companies that is so personally and professionally fulfilling? We’ve talked about how hard it is, and we’ve talked about how much endurance it takes. But what is it about being a founder that is so joyful and I guess brings out the best in you?

NIR POLAK: A lot around art and creating. I view a company, it’s like a canvas. And you have an idea, and you start painting, and you start building, and you start creating, and you start seeing it. You’re able to build people around helping you do the paint, and you’re growing, and you’re looking at this painting just getting more and more clear and crisp. And I love that. I love that building, that creating, from an idea to reality.

JON SAKODA: When you are staring at the canvas, can you actually see the company? Do you visualize it?

NIR POLAK: Yes. And imagine it. That’s exactly it. You imagine it. JON SAKODA: Yeah.

NIR POLAK: And people tell you you’re crazy, and people will say, “That’s wrong. That’s not a good painting,” or whatever. You feel it in your bones. And it creates a lot of pride. You meet friends for life. And that’s just what makes me kind of tick. It’s that creation.

JON SAKODA: Growing up, do you remember being a creator?

NIR POLAK: No. I wasn’t artistic, nothing like that. I felt like at Imperva, running products and creating and having it and feeling, it just gives me a tremendous amount of energy. Which is also why, when the company’s bigger and it’s hard to start painting slower and slower, you just—you need kind of a new canvas to start from scratch.

JON SAKODA: No, that is an important point though, right? If you are a creator and an artist, as the company gets bigger, there is a lot less room for creativity because there’s so much more focus on execution and scaling one thing.

NIR POLAK: It’s more perfecting the painting, in a sense.

JON SAKODA: Well, I have a feeling there is another masterpiece like Exabeam in your future. Can’t wait to hear more about you and have you back on the show. But before we wrap up, what advice do you have for founders today, and are there any lessons for your younger self, any words of wisdom you would share with the younger version of Nir?

NIR POLAK: Look, I’ll start with the wisdom for the younger Nir. Nir made a lot of mistakes along the way. And I’ve learned a lot through them. It was hires that I kind of felt that were too early, a lot of personnel elements. As I talked about, that tech debt and what to do. These are things that in hindsight, I can now tell my younger self, “Feel this better. You should have known better.” To younger founders, one is, I want to emphasize the need of stamina, and they need to understand it. They need to take care of themselves. They’re going to go through hell and back, and issues with their significant others and family stuff, and they have to run through it. And all of it has its cost. So take care of yourself. And focus—I hope now with the new macroeconomics, focus about building a good company. Don’t focus on how much capital you’re raising and how much you have. A company isn’t built by capital alone. A company is built by focus on the creation, what to do, that product-market fit, how to create traction.

And last is surround yourself with really good mentors, people that have seen it before, have seen around the corners, and not necessarily people that even have a stake in your company. Just friends and people that you can go into, like meet with different CEOs just for coffee once a month, helping them out with no stake. I think just getting that wisdom will help you a lot.

JON SAKODA: I wanted to wrap up with maybe one last question. Exabeam has chosen to stay private. I know it has had a lot of acquisition interest through the years and is entering the next phase of its journey. How has your vision for the company evolved over time?

NIR POLAK: It hasn’t changed. I think Exabeam’s opportunity is amazing. There is a place for a security operation platform. That market is humongous. And all the different pillars of SecOps are there. And we’re lucky that some of our competitors are stumbling. And that means the opportunity and the grab now is even bigger. So I’m super, super bullish about the opportunity ahead for Exabeam.

JON SAKODA: I know none of us can truly predict the future, but I do have a feeling that your vision will become a reality. I can’t wait to have you back on the show when it comes time for you to start your next company. And Nir, I really appreciate you joining us today. You’ve been an amazing guest, and thank you so much for joining us on the show.

NIR POLAK: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a great conversation.