Wharton FinTech
Published in

Wharton FinTech

Mahmoud Abdelkader, CEO/Co-Founder of Very Good Security — Safeguarding the World’s Data

Miguel Armaza sits down with the brilliant Mahmoud Abdelkader, serial entrepreneur and CEO/Co-Founder of Very Good Security, a company that’s on a mission to protect the world’s information by providing essential security and compliance infrastructure for other businesses.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Mahmoud’s journey — from Egypt to New York City. Mr. Abdelkader’s family immigrated to the US in 1992 without knowing a word of English. He grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to Maryland, where he eventually attended the University of Maryland for his Computer Engineering degree.

“Right out of college, I worked on Wall Street building algorithmic trading systems and high-frequency trading. I survived the crash of 2009, but also wanted to build something that was really fun.”

  • Discovering his love for entrepreneurship. In 2009, Mahmoud joined Milo.com as employee #4 and witnessed first-hand the thrill of a fast-growing startup and fell in love with the startup life. Milo was eventually acquired by eBay for $75 million in December 2010.

“I was number four there, grew that to about 35 folks, sold it to eBay within a year and a half, and kind of set me on my course to evaluate how to really make something happen with entrepreneurship. So we got into Y Combinator as the winter batch of 2011 and started a company called balanced payments.”

  • Launching Balanced Payments and building Very Good Security as a “Shadow Startup” within Balanced.

“It turns out that when you start building and innovating in regulated industries, not only do you have to go through a lot of the industry regulation, hoops, and barriers to entry, but there’s also a secondary barrier to entry just to be able to operate in that space. And it requires you to have your data security, privacy, and compliance regulations set.

So we at Balanced raised $2 million and $1 million of it went just to build our security, data compliance, security, privacy… So it turns out, companies are basically building these DIY solutions, just to go to market. So they have to build a secondary company inside of their own company.”

  • Understanding Very Good Security’s mission to secure the world’s information. and why they want to make data useful in the same way as money. Mahmoud argues the cybersecurity challenges faced by companies today, have transformed a firm’s sensitive data from an asset to a liability. Not only do companies have to deal with the reputational and customer challenges of data breaches, but they often face steep regulatory fines. So at VGS they have built data movement infrastructure that’s as secure as the technology used to move money around the world.

“Moving payment instruction is just moving data that is the class of payments, right? Why can’t we move data of any type in a very similar way that we move payments data? And if you take that very powerful concept, you start to realize that you can separate value of data from the custodianship of data itself.”

  • Challenges of unintended side effects of financial and privacy regulation and what Very Good Security is doing about it. While Mr. Abdelkader recognizes data security regulation is well-intentioned, he explains it’s actually slowing down innovation because startups can get stifled by regulation. Which strengthens the case for companies to outsource data security to VGS and focus on their core mission.

“If you have the deep pockets to satisfy regulation, you can continue executing your business. But if you don’t have deep pockets, you end up basically being a target for potential enforcement action against you… So regulation, in fact, could be a detriment to innovation.

So for our sales process, we show our customers, ‘here’s some stuff on the roadmap that you effectively did not decide to do, because you were like, there’s too much regulation involved’.”

  • Getting comfortable with rejection and why you should never underestimate the hunger of immigrant entrepreneurs… And a lot more!

“I don’t even know how to describe that… I don’t think I would be where I am today, without being an immigrant. It’s just realizing that you really have nothing to lose.”

Full interview → Spotify | Soundcloud | Apple

Mahmoud Abdelkader

Mahmoud Abdelkader is the CEO and co-founder of Very Good Security (VGS). He was previously CTO and co-founder of Balanced Payments (exited to Stripe). Prior to that, Mahmoud designed automated product matching systems at Milo.com (acquired by eBay) and built high-frequency trading systems for Wachovia Securities, now a part of Wells Fargo. With experience ranging from Wall Street to early-stage startups, Mahmoud is passionate about democratizing data security. He started Very Good Security to make best-in-class security and compliance attainable for businesses of all sizes.

Very Good Security

Very Good Security (VGS) is on a mission to secure the world’s information. Providing essential security and compliance infrastructure, VGS enables startups and enterprises to focus on their core business instead of compliance and regulatory overhead. VGS customers enjoy a Zero Data™ approach to information security, retaining the value of sensitive data without the cost and liability of securing it themselves. VGS Control accelerates compliances such as SOC 2, PCI, ISO 27001, GDPR, and more. For more information, visit verygoodsecurity.com.

Previous Episodes You May Enjoy:

Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel & Dalton Caldwell — Lessons from 5000 Entrepreneurs

S&P Global CEO, Doug Peterson — The Future of Finance, Power of Data, and Global Business Trends

Petal CEO/Co-Founder, Jason Gross — Democratizing Credit Access & Transforming an Industry!

Sallie Krawcheck, Co-founder/CEO of Ellevest — Wall Street Stories, Building Resilience, & Overcoming Bias

Kevin Busque, Founder/CEO of Guideline — Serial Entrepreneurship & Disrupting US Retirement Savings

Jarrid Tingle, Managing Partner of Harlem Capital — Transforming the Face of Entrepreneurship

Billionaire Investor, Activist, & Educator Tim Draper — China, Bitcoin, and Free Societies

Amy Nauiokas, Anthemis CEO/Founder-Cultivating Change & Building Resiliency in the Financial System

Miguel Armaza is Co-Host of the Wharton Fintech Podcast and Co-Founder of Gilgamesh Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund focused on fintech in the Americas.

For more FinTech insights, follow us below:

Wharton Fintech

Website | Medium | Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Miguel Armaza

Twitter | LinkedIn



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store