Meet the founders: The brains behind NeuVector talk startup ideas on the soccer field
Fei Huang and Gary Duan co-founded NeuVector in 2015 right at the start of the Kubernetes container security era. Not only colleagues at work but also friends in life, Fei and Gary bring over 35 years of combined experience in enterprise security, virtualization, embedded software, networking, and cloud. But their passions and interests in life don't end with security: soccer, hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and photography are their hobbies (and we'll let you guess who does what!) Fun fact - the soccer field was where they started brainstorming business ideas that led to founding NeuVector.
During this interview, Fei and Gary answered ten questions, ranging from how they met, their views on the Kubernetes security field, best approaches on getting things done, and how to build a successful security business.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Fei: "When I was a kid, I wanted to be a scientist. I was always fascinated by science and wanted to invent something cool."
Gary: "I can't remember what I wanted to become, but Maradona greatly inspired me. That's probably where my passion for soccer comes from. Both Fei and I love soccer and play often."
How did you meet?
Fei: "We met around 20 years ago. When I arrived in the United States, my friend brought me to his apartment in Fremont. Gary was living there, and that's how we became friends and later roommates."
Gary: "We became good friends soon after because we liked to be active and do things together."
Fei: "I remember on the first weekend, Gary brought me to the soccer field, and we started playing. This continues to this day."
Gary: We also went on a photography trip in Lassen Volcanic National Park and got to explore some other national parks in California."
How did you start NeuVector?
Fei: "When I worked for VMware in 2014, containerization started disrupting the traditional cloud environment. I could feel that the migration path to get into distributed computing was a container. It was the right way to do the migration path for cloud for distributed computing, achieving high scalability, the right flexibility, and the right speed. That path attracted me, and I was excited to see the big change for the cloud."
Gary: "Fei was in virtualization, and I was in networking. Gradually we found out that a container is a unique place where we can share our knowledge combining virtualization, security, and networking and build a product."
Fei: "We were living in Silicon Valley, and everything here is about innovation and new ventures. We would meet at the soccer field and bounce ideas around. By that time, I had already started two startups and was eager to do something new and different. Gary had a cool idea about building some network security for containers, I got interested, and we decided to give it a shot. We saw a big change ahead of us, and a big change means a big opportunity."
What's the best thing about NeuVector?
Fei: "The best thing is our team. Our people have more than 20-30 years of virtualization, security, and networking space experience. They are at the stage where they already learned enough lessons and now come together to do great things."
Gary: "We are very proud of our team. It's small but very efficient: great product builders and marketers."
Fei: "All the core team is friends and teammates that we have known for many years of working in Silicon Valley. We got to know not only each other but also each other's families. We know we can work together."
Gary: "In Silicon Valley, everyone loves technology and doing things no one has done before. When there is an opportunity, people are willing to sacrifice a stable lifestyle to work with new and exciting startups."
What is the market like, its challenges, and opportunities in container/Kubernetes security?
Fei: "There are a few challenges. First, it's a young and a fast-growing market. Kubernetes is open-source with too many people involved, so things in this field change every day. To stay ahead of the game, we also have to be fast. Secondly, it's a hot space with many vendors getting in that generate many misleading messages, confusing customers, and adding some hurdles for us. But we know where we stand: we've built our solution for container security right at the start; we pretty much invented it. I believe that in the end, it's about delivering the true value to customers and helping solve the real issues."
Gary: "The speed of the industry and the developer-driven security practice is both a challenge and an opportunity. Security used to be very clumsy, hard to manage, slow and required many human interactions. Now it's about making it fast and easy to use."
Is an open-source model for security good or bad?
Fei: "Ten years ago, nobody believed that you could do security with open source. That sounded just like a conflict by nature. But now the world has changed. Everybody accepted that you could do a great job with open source for commercial use. And the same thing for security: it takes a while, but people accept it and believe in it because of proven success from the big players like Google that do a good job in security too."
What does it take to create a successful business in security?
Fei: "I think it's about setting long term and short term goals and rethinking them very frequently: weekly or sometimes even daily, evaluating your decisions from all the angles. Also, it's about rethinking those goals from the customer's perspective and not just your own. Innovation has to come from us but to create a successful business, you have to put yourself in the customer's shoes and understand their problems and values."
Gary: "For a technology company, you need to build a very unique and advanced technology that solves customer challenges."
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Why?
Fei: "One of the best ones was to think big, but start small. You have to think hard to come up with a big idea, but you have to take baby steps for execution. It's all about execution. Anyone can have many ideas, but not everyone can make it happen."
Gary: "We've been growing NeuVector for the last five years now. What I learned is to be patient and persistent. Everything takes time, from building the product to getting it out to our customers. Sometimes you might want things to happen fast, but you need to be patient first."
How do you get things done, plan your days and prioritize?
Fei: "For me, it's about how you execute and prioritize as there are too many things to do and too little time. I rely on my calendar, note down all my tasks and prioritize them. For something that's not urgent, I still locate time in my calendar two weeks later to make sure I don't forget it. Also, it's about continually reviewing things, adjusting and changing. The world is changing fast and especially in the software space. If I made some decisions today, they might not be the right ones two days after. We have to keep adjusting ourselves to fit in."
Gary: "For me, it's all about project management. We take small steps; we do faster iteration so we can fix errors quicker. It's essential not to be afraid to make mistakes but try to fix them quickly."
Fei: "Absolutely. We all make mistakes. It's impossible to be 100% right all the time. It's ok to make small failures as long as we keep changing, learning, adjusting, and trying. The difficult part is to avoid making big mistakes because those can fail your business."
Finally, a book recommendation that changed your life and why.
Fei: "When I was young, I liked to read books about science. But since college, I became more interested in biographies and history books. I recommend looking for wisdom there."
Gary: "One of my favorite books is "The Last Place on Earth" by Roland Huntford. I've visited Antarctica during my travels, and this book is about the race to the South Pole. It's about having the careful preparation and rigorous execution, and those insights can teach you a lot for business as well."
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