The competition was fierce at last year’s Innovation Sandbox competition at the RSA Conference 2016 in San Francisco. Companies duked it out, giving three-minute presentations to a panel of judges tasked with choosing the most innovative company at the conference. When all was said and done, the judges had chosen Phantom, a security automation and orchestration platform startup. How has winning the competition impacted Phantom’s business? We caught up with Phantom’s CEO & Founder Oliver Friedrichs to find out.
RSAC: What is Phantom’s business and where were you in its evolution when you applied to the ISB competition?
Friedrichs: Phantom is an open, extensible and community-powered security automation platform. We deliver technology that helps customers change the way they manage their security operations centers by providing a layer of “connective tissue” for their existing security technologies. Phantom automates the many manual steps and processes that security teams take. It helps to make them more effective and efficient—in some cases reducing activities that might take analysts 30 minutes down to a window of just 40 seconds.
We had just launched our automation platform at the beginning of 2016 when we decided to submit for the ISB, so we were very early in our evolution. We actually went GA with our first release only a few weeks before the ISB. The timing was just about perfect. ISB cast a spotlight on our business and the new product. It was really great exposure!
RSAC: Why had you chosen to participate in ISB?
Friedrichs: The main reason is because we really fit the profile of an innovative company. RSA Conference is the biggest event in the security industry, and the ISB puts you in the spotlight on first day of the event. There were a strong group of companies in the final ten. We were hopeful, but we certainly didn’t assume by any means that we would win. We felt pretty good about we were doing, and felt like it was a good bet to make.
On stage I said we’re solving one of the biggest problems in the security industry. Innovation is a big part of how we are doing it. All the companies on stage were strong and so was the judges panel. I think winning really showed two things. The problem is legit and that our mission to solve it is credible.
RSAC: What part of the process allowed Phantom to really be able to shine?
Friedrichs: I think honestly it was the three-minute presentation in front of a large audience. It allowed us to really tell Phantom’s story and how we’re solving this big problem. We spent a lot of time preparing for the presentation, and I think it was worth the investment.
In fact, it has served us even after the event. The sessions were recorded, and we’ve used the recording in our marketing. Several hundred people saw our presentation that day, and several hundred more have watched the video since.
RSAC: What has the impact of winning ISB been on your business?
Friedrichs: It’s been a huge stamp of approval and it resulted in a significant amount of credibility for Phantom to be singled out as the most innovative new company out of the 551 vendors that were at the conference. That really allowed us to send a strong signal to enterprises that they should take a look at what Phantom is doing.
The ISB win has helped us to accelerate the business. In fact, it allowed us to really overachieve this year. It led to more interest in the technology. It resulted in more pilots and proof of concepts of the technology, and it resulted in more customers who have signed up to leverage Phantom in order to optimize their security operations center. Coming full circle, that traction allowed us to improve the technology. We just launched Phantom V2.0 with more than 500 improvements, and most of them were based on feedback from our users. We’ve seen stronger interest in our partner community as well. Phantom now integrates with over 80 third party security technologies through our App layer, and many Apps were built by people in the community vs. Phantom employees. The ISB was really the spark that ignited it.
RSAC: What advice would you have for companies who are considering applying this year?
Friedrichs: I would say think of how you can really differentiate yourself from the others that are going to be on stage with you. That’s really what it comes down to. Why are you different? If you’re iterative of a technology, why are you significantly better than what has been there before? And then spend a lot of time rehearsing. It’s more difficult to do a presentation like that in three minutes than it is in 60 minutes, so you really have to take a lot of time preparing.
RSAC: If you could say something to last year’s judges about the competition, what would you say?
Friedrichs: Thanks for betting on us. I think their decision has been validated by the results that we have shown throughout the year. I think the belief they had in Phantom and the technology—as well as the team— has really helped us. We have certainly appreciated the support of the RSA Conference, and it’s produced great results for everyone involved.
Check out the Innovation Sandbox 2017 competition rules and enter your company here: https://www.rsaconference.com/events/us17/agenda/innovation-sandbox-contest.
And you can see Phantom’s winning presentation here: