Rapid7’s Mike Tuchen on Cyber Espionage and Startup Lessons

How are companies spying on each other these days? One of the surprising ways I’ve heard about recently is through the webcam in boardrooms.

That’s right, apparently it’s easy to hack into some companies’ video conference systems, because they lie outside typical security measures. Companies sometimes set up video conferences so they can be accessed directly on the Internet—leaving the door open for eavesdroppers to listen in on meetings, or even remotely monitor a conference room via the camera.

One local software company is helping organizations guard against this threat—and many others. Boston-based Rapid7 is one of the leaders in the growing cluster of IT security companies around town. Rapid7’s approach is complementary to firms like NitroSecurity (recently acquired by Intel/McAfee) and Q1 Labs (bought by IBM), which help organizations guard against security threats in their computer networks and systems.

What Rapid7 does is help organizations find security flaws throughout their IT infrastructure, and then test whether they’ve been corrected. To fuel its growth, the company raised a $50 million Series C round from Technology Crossover Ventures in November—one of the largest tech venture rounds in the Boston area lately. (Rapid7 has raised $59 million to date.)

“There’s a lot of cyber-espionage going on in business,” says Mike Tuchen, Rapid7’s CEO (see photo, left). The activity ranges from stealing sales plans, financial information, and intellectual property, to the aforementioned boardroom eavesdropping, he says. And, of course, it’s not just companies spying on each other; it’s governments and nation states as well, all trying to get their hands on everything from Citibank credit card numbers to the special sauce in Apple’s iPad design.

What’s a CEO to do? If you’re Mike Tuchen, you take a promising company and try to make it better. Tuchen joined Rapid7 as chief executive in 2008. (The company has been around since 2000.) Previously he worked at Microsoft as a group program manager and general manager of SQL server marketing. An engineer by training, he also worked at Sun Microsystems and co-founded Paramark, a dot-com-era online advertising startup.

When he arrived at Rapid7, brought in by Bain Capital Ventures (the firm’s original VC investor), Tuchen saw a company that had “a great engineering and sales team” but not much else. He says he didn’t have to tear up the company, just bring in some key additions: marketing, channel partners, new processes, and a broader product roadmap, including a more international market focus.

So far the effort seems to be paying off. The company has grown to about 240 employees (about half in Boston), and Tuchen says revenues … Next Page »

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