Ashley Daniels (Cervin): Hi Nihkil. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. If you could please introduce yourself and ArmorCode.
Nikhil Gupta (ArmorCode): Thanks for having me. I’m Nikhil Gupta, co-founder and CEO of ArmorCode. Prior to ArmorCode, I was founder and CEO of Avid Security, which was acquired by Sophos. I have 25+ years of experience building businesses. ArmorCode is the industry’s defining AppSecOps platform. ArmorCode delivers continuous visibility and actionable insights to AppSec teams that can successfully identify, prioritize and attribute the highest risk application security issues, vulnerabilities, and coverage and compliance gaps, all in a single integrated AppSecOps platform.
AD: So you’ve been, as you mentioned, a serial Entrepreneur and founded more than one company. What inspires you to start companies?
NG: I’m a problem solver at heart. Every time I see anything that’s not efficient and can be done better, that motivates me to solve the problem in a better way. And when I sometimes see a really big problem that has not been solved and can have a lot of impact, like, for example, simplifying software security, which has not been done very well in the last 10 to 15 years, it inspires me to take a plunge and solve the problem myself by starting a new company.
AD: So what do you think is the most difficult part of building a successful startup?
NG: So as a founder, you have to wear multiple hats. One of the biggest problems or challenges that I see here is having cautious optimism; by that, what I mean here is that you have to be very optimistic as a founder to figure out whether the problem is real and is a real problem that can be solved and things like that. However, at the same time, when you talk to the customers since the problem has not been solved before, you will hear a lot of noise. “This is not the right problem” or “this is not the right solution.” So having that kind of conviction in yourself that the way you are kind of looking at the problem is the right way and also being flexible and pivoting the ideas, pivoting the solutions, and going through the journey is a very difficult part for an entrepreneur and that’s very important to build a successful startup.
AD: As a founder, what question do you get asked more than any other?
NG: The question that I get asked most is, “How do you get your initial few customers?” And I have a 3, 30, 300, 3,000 rule. By that, what I mean here is that you always have to think with the end goal in mind. If you want to build a large enterprise company, then how are you going to get your 3,000th customer? And if you are interested in building a small and selling it to somebody else, then how am I going to get my 30th customer? What I’ve found out is the biggest problem is a lot of people like me, who have some experience, can always find the first three customers, through friends and other things. But at the end of the day, I call it a kiss of death because, with three customers, there is a good chance you will get some funding, build a product, but then with just three customers, you can’t build a company. So that is where, you know, the question that people ask me with the first three customers, I always encourage them to see, depending upon your end goal, how big of a company you will make it, how are you going to find your 3,000th customer or 30th customer.
AD: What do you think is the most important trait for entrepreneurs?
NG: This varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. The way I like to see it is that everybody should look into their own strengths. From my perspective, there are 3 P’s: people, passion, and perseverance. As an entrepreneur, you need to have a very good reading of the people and also need to identify the right people who will help you build the company, identify the right people who will be your end customers, and in order to do that, you need to have a passion because passion is what you have as an entrepreneur in the initial stage which attracts those people. And then the third P is perseverance, which you know without that, everything fails because, in order to identify and convince the right people, you need a lot of perseverance.
AD: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
NG: So I’ll pass on the advice that I got from my mother and my grandfather, “Dream big and dream often. Dreams do come true if you never give up.” Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey, so believe in yourself as no one else does.