Value Creation Founder’s Series: Founding a Company for the Second Time, Here’s What it Takes
By Leah Zuckerman, Analyst, Value Creation, Glilot Capital Partners
Blog Series | Part 1 | Value Creation Founder’s Series
See what Michael Mumcuoglu, CEO & Co-Founder of CardinalOps has to say about founding his second company and the relationship he fostered with Glilot Capital Advisor, Joey Johnson, CISO at Premise Health.
Behind every successful company is a founder who comes to his or her venture with a unique backstory and journey filled with ups, downs or u-turns. For some, it is a first time endeavor, leaving a stable corporate job. For others, it is a second, maybe third venture after a successful exit, earning the title of serial entrepreneur (something becoming more and more common among Israeli founders today). At Glilot, our Value Creation team works hand-in-hand with every founder in our portfolio, from day 1, supporting them to accelerate their journey from seed to scale. We are proud to showcase our entrepreneurs, their technologies and visions. To that end, we are launching the Value Creation Founder’s Series to shed light on the people that make up our portfolio and the incredible Advisors on our board who support them. Let’s jump in.
“Changing mindsets, changing how the industry works, bringing new concepts to life and not just evangelizing things but actually creating real value to customers is what drives me to continue my work.” – Michael Mumcuoglu, CEO & Co-Founder, CardinalOps
I sat down with Michael Mumcuoglu, the CEO and Co-Founder of CardinalOps and a face very familiar to the Glilot Capital family, having successfully exited his first company LightCyber, Glilot’s very first investment, which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks in 2017. Now, he is the face of CardinalOps, a Threat Coverage Optimization (TCO) platform that automates security engineering processes to identify gaps and optimize the SOC threat coverage by better leveraging existing security tools.
I talked with Michael about how he built CardinalOps and how his perspective changed as a second-time founder. We also dug into his relationship with advisor Joey Johnson, CISO at Premise Health and how they work together to iterate CardinalOps’ offering and position themselves competitively in the market.
Everyone is always curious about the ride to the top. Michael and I discussed what worked in round one and what didn’t, what his mistakes looked like and what led to big wins. People always say that everything makes more sense in hindsight, but in scaling a second venture, it is integral to implement and scratch some practices to save time and resources.
Here’s what Michael has to say.
Coveted advice to first-time founders:
“One thing I learned with LightCyber, and that I would definitely implement here, is building the product on actual production customer environments, that way you are not guessing, or trying to solve a theoretical problem but rather solving a real need.”
- Tech focus → Customer focus. In building his first company, LightCyber, Michael notes that there was much more of a technology play where the tech itself trumped the early interactions and feedbacking with the market. Michael shared that his CardinalOps team puts a strong emphasis on getting early feedback. By receiving feedback rooted in data by the customer, his team can ensure that there is a strong product-market fit, allowing them to focus more on their strategic messaging and accurately identifying the customers’ pain points.
“The key is fostering relationships and building trust because ultimately, at this very early stage you don’t have much to give other than a vision.”
- Design partners are crucial. Leverage design partners to fully understand pain points and needs within the market. Michael believes that you should look for design partners who have a willingness to “hang on” and give you that grace period to develop your product. In other words, use real life use cases rather than trying to invent them in the lab. Third party validation is extremely important – as a founder, Michael shared that gaining different people’s perspectives, those who are industry thought leaders and could represent future customers, helps shape the trajectory of the product and its offerings.
“Build on your existing expertise and leverage that to come with unique perspectives that are new to the market and actually solving real life problems.”
- Leverage your expertise. “Cyber is our edge”. When you look at an area that you lack an expertise in, false opportunities might tempt you. Rather than walking down the wrong path, leverage what you know and bring this new opportunity into the market but with a new twist.
“I welcome the conversation with anyone who is passionate, wants to learn and build something new and I am definitely not the only one.”
Nurture your network. Israel is a small network, among entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and the like. Look to those who have been in your shoes before – gain insight, make connections and field ideas. The doors are there, they are open, it’s up to you to walk through them.
Building a relationship with an advisor, dual perspective:
Glilot believes, similar to the importance of design partners, advisors are the guiding voice and advocates for your future customer. Michael started working with Joey Johnson, CISO at Premise Health, after they were introduced by the Value Creation team at Glilot, led by Dorin Baniel, Head of Value Creation. This partnership takes shape in strategic, operational and tactical feedback that, on the one hand, guides the CardinalOps team in strategic directions around product roadmap, and, on the other hand, allows Joey to stay ahead of the curve in his role as a CISO and think broadly on how to solve specific challenges beyond what is currently being offered.
Michael shared with me the value he sees in working with Joey: “Joey believes in us and wants us to succeed in a genuine way; he can actually help us evangelize our product and think through new use cases that we wouldn’t have thought through otherwise and expand our vision.” – Michael
One thing that is clear is that the advisor-founder relationship fostered by Glilot’s Value Creation Team is a win-win for the entrepreneur and for the advisor. When speaking with Joey and the impact that CardinalOps has on his organization, this became immediately apparent. Together they identified pain points within Premise Health and along with Joey’s team, integrated CardinalOps’s SOC engineering platform:
“These were in fact pain points that my own team had been facing and couldn’t solve for as desired without hiring lots of new people, getting them trained up, getting them aware of our specific business context, then building a plan to mature the platform. We realized, [with this product], we could dramatically and permanently collapse [our] timeline and solve a truly difficult BUSINESS problem, while increasing our security posture, and allowing us to scale data source onboarding to a degree we couldn’t have contemplated prior…”
“Being an advisor at Glilot Capital allows me to really test out new technologies. This process alone develops skill sets for my team members to learn how to really look at and evaluate products. To understand how to really focus on what problem they’re trying to solve, and how a new product fits into that equation versus further optimizations/integrations of existing products. With this, [we’ve] matured [our] understanding of the value of new products in an environment and how to leverage them to solve BUSINESS level problems.”
The gist? For Joey, “this saves [him] a lot of time and allows [him] to ‘hit the ground running’ in evaluations.”
In short, and as Michael mentioned in his advice to first-time founders, there is tremendous value in ideating with key industry players early on in the process. Whether they are design partners, customers or advisors to the company, real-time market feedback can be pivotal to accelerating the scale of a company.
Thank you to Michael and Joey, and to our audience for reading! Stay tuned for our next installment in the Value Creation Founder’s Series to learn more about building and scaling a company from entrepreneurs and Advisors of the Glilot Capital family.
“Changing mindsets, changing how the industry works, bringing new concepts to life and not just evangelizing things but actually creating real value to customers is what drives me to continue my work.” -Michael, CEO & Co-Founder, CardinalOps