Why We’re Scaling Our Venture Advisory Board With 24 Additional Leading Cybersecurity Executives
By Yoav Leitersdorf, Managing Partner at YL Ventures
YL Ventures’ deep U.S. network has always been a unique component of our strategic DNA. As we’ve grown, this network has evolved and expanded along with us. Following the close of our third fund, we announced the soft launch of our Venture Advisory Board. Formalizing and amplifying our existing industry connections marked a substantial but natural evolution of our core competitive advantage.
Over the past year, this pilot program has yielded phenomenal results. Our four initial advisors (Tom Baltis, CISO of Delta Dental Insurance; Andy Ellis, CSO of Akamai; Amichai Schulman, co-founder and former CTO of Imperva Inc.; and Justin Somaini, CSO of SAP) have already helped YL Ventures and our portfolio companies immensely. In light of this stunning success, I’m incredibly proud to announce the first major expansion of our Venture Advisory Board with 24 exciting new additions, including:
- Colin Anderson, CISO of Levi, Strauss & Co.
- Tomasz Chowanski, CISO, Community Banking, Consumer Lending and Operations of Wells Fargo
- George Do, CISO of Equinix
- Adam Ely, VP and Deputy CISO of Walmart
- Brooks Evans, Director of Security of Netflix
- Satish Gannu, CSO of ABB
- Rob Geurtsen, Deputy Information Security Officer of Nike
- Jay Gonzales, CISO of Samsung Semiconductor
- Ken Gonzalez, Managing Director of NightDragon Security
- Ryan Gurney, CSO of Looker
- Roger Hale, CISO of Informatica
- Stacey Halota, VP, Information Security & Privacy of Graham Holdings
- Dave Hannigan, Head of Security of Spotify
- Kurt Lieber, VP, and CISO of Aetna
- Brian Lozada, CISO of Zocdoc
- Tim Mather, Chief Security Strategist of PatternEx
- Pritesh Parekh, VP, and CSO of Zuora
- Billy Rios, Founder of WhiteScope LLC
- Richard Rushing, CISO of Motorola Mobility
- Sherry Ryan, VP, and CISO of Juniper Networks
- Bradley Schaufenbuel, VP, and CISO of Paylocity
- John L. Sullivan, CSO of Boston Scientific
- David Tsao, CISO of Veeva Systems
Why the Venture Advisors Program Works
We strongly believe in the power of connecting Israeli entrepreneurs with U.S. cybersecurity experts. Cultivating and tapping a network of knowledgeable customers produces a productive, virtuous cycle.
Venture Advisors bolster our investment team’s due diligence process and provide our portfolio companies continuous support across a multitude of functions throughout their entire lifecycle. In return, advisors benefit from exposure to pre-vetted Israeli cybersecurity innovations and get direct exposure to a market second only to the U.S. in cybersecurity innovation.
The best way to illustrate our Venture Advisory Board’s unique advantages — and explain our decision to aggressively expand — is to walk through the Venture Advisory process one step at a time.
Pre-Investment Due-Diligence and Guidance
Venture Advisors are a crucial part of YL Ventures’ investment process from the earliest stages. Once our initial due diligence identifies and engages a promising prospect, we then schedule a series of evaluation calls with specifically selected advisors. For example, within the first week of due diligence for our portfolio company Axonius, the team spoke with our Venture Advisors, Justin Somaini of SAP, Andy Ellis of Akamai, and Tim Mather of PatternX .
Before each evaluation call, both the entrepreneurs and advisors are briefed and walked through the format. First, the founders pitch their idea, then the advisors respond with questions and feedback. Discussion is open to start, but we moderate and help guide the conversation if necessary.
This streamlined and thorough process benefits all parties involved. Advisors enjoy exposure to a rotating sample of Israeli cybersecurity’s cutting edge. Meanwhile, Israeli entrepreneurs gain privileged access to some of the most influential customers and leaders in the American cybersecurity market. And, by virtue of incorporating findings from these dialogues into the vetting process, YL Ventures’ overall investment quality soars.
Post-Investment Collaborators and Customers
After deciding to invest in a team, we ramp up the depth and frequency of strategic meetings. The aim is to put our founders in front of as many advisors (and members of our broader CISO network) as possible. Preliminary vetting might have validated the general potential of the team, product and market; but the major challenge ahead is developing a roadmap for executing on that opportunity.
Upwards of 50 one-on-one meetings with Venture Advisors and other potential customers help hone and sharpen every element of a startup’s strategy. Teams get feedback on go-to-market strategy, positioning, messaging and prioritization of different features. Each company is advised and guided differently based on what they need. Expert counsel on where to focus helps founders lock in their strategy early and pursue it with confidence.
Consultative relationships with Venture Advisors can even lead to sales and partnerships down the road. After all, advisors are often giving feedback and direction based on their own professional needs. This makes them natural early customers. For example, our portfolio company Vulcan Cyber had many of their beta customers come directly from these advisor relationships. In fact, their relationship with one advisor progressed a good deal further. Andy Ellis, CSO of Akamai Technologies actually decided to become a member of Vulcan’s own advisory board, while continuing to help them as part of our advisory board program.
Scaling Up Initial Success
Continued expansion of our Venture Advisory Board — whose 28 members now represent companies with a combined market cap of over $1 trillion — will cement the program’s initial success by amplifying its unique advantages.
YLV Venture Advisors’ deep involvement in vetting seed-stage opportunities already provides world-class market validation for Israeli cybersecurity entrepreneurs. Scaling up the advisor network will only multiply this impact. Also, due to YL Ventures’ carefully concentrated portfolio, advisors can truly focus on guiding companies from due diligence all the way through to launch. This ongoing advisor support will help promising ventures execute on their full potential.
Participation in our Venture Advisory Board connects forward-thinking American and global CISOs and industry leaders to newly emerging trends and talent from the vibrant Israeli security startup ecosystem. Advisors’ relationships can often grant them early access to pre-vetted technologies they’ve had a hand in building and developed by a team they trust.
We believe investment is only a starting point. Real value comes from the quality of support and the strength of relationships we provide. This announcement marks a giant leap forward in our mission to deliver on this promise. And we’re incredibly excited to continue growing the YLV community and empowering the broader industry as well.