Overseeing business development, sales, marketing, and legal, Robert is a true road warrior. I caught up with Robert late one afternoon to delve into his background in scaling major successes like Akamai. Robert also dedicates time to organizations who develop privacy regulations and policies, which is so relevant to Ionic’s mission of data protection.
Christy: You joined Ionic as Chief Legal Counsel. What attracted you initially to the company?
Robert: I spent a number of years in the content delivery space and witnessed the explosion of the internet in general and cloud computing in particular. I also spent time in the data analytics space and watched businesses transform themselves based on the power of data and what they could do with it if they had adequate control and visibility. Lastly, I had a front-row seat to the world of encryption in the late 90’s as it unfolded to support the transaction-ready web we know today. I then got introduced to Adam and was fascinated by his vision and the massively scalable platform the Ionic team was building. And it was right here in Atlanta. Simply put, I just had to be part of it.
Christy: I remember that you swiftly became indispensable during sales negotiations for some of Ionic’s landmark deals, and, over the years, your role here at Ionic has indeed expanded in scope. Tell us about the responsibilities you’ve picked up: What challenges you? What do you love?
Robert: In addition to managing Ionic’s legal affairs, I quickly took on keeping up with a number of legislative and regulatory efforts that were (and still are) evolving, most notably the emergence of data security and privacy regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). I then took on the business and corporate development role to help build the Ionic partner ecosystem and our corporate expansion, following a path I had taken in the early days of Akamai. Finally, in late 2018, I was put in charge of sales and marketing. I love building companies, particularly the challenge of taking the incredible power of the Ionic platform and solutions our brilliant engineers have developed and finding a way to get that into the hands of customers and partners to address a critical business need – in our case gaining control and visibility over and protecting the valuable and sensitive data of an enterprise or agency – and doing so in a way that enables our customers and partners to derive value quickly.
Christy: Of course this isn’t the first time you’ve accumulated responsibilities in response to a rapidly-growing organization. You and I have spoken extensively about your background at Akamai. Can you tell us a little more about how your role there expanded as Akamai began to scale? What parallels do you see here at Ionic?
Robert: Like Ionic, I joined Akamai as their first General Counsel; within months Akamai went public and grew at a frenetic pace revenue-wise, people-wise, customer-wise, etc. I then started the business and corporate development team and oversaw acquisitions, global expansion, strategic partnerships and new product development. I ran Product Marketing for about 18 months and oversaw Akamai’s transition to selling solutions. I was then put in charge of growing all of the company’s international sales and business development, and got to oversee 4-fold growth in under two years across Europe and Asia. It was a crazy time, and the rush of being part of it was infectious.
In Ionic I see an even greater potential. The confluence of events: increasing threats targeted at data, growing risks (and impacts) of data breaches, the need to protect the privacy of personal information, proliferation of connected devices and applications, the explosion of mobile, cloud, IoT, etc., with data at the core of everything. The world is desperate for a scalable platform that will tie it all together and recognize that the old ways won’t work anymore. And Ionic is perfectly positioned to provide the glue that can hold it all together.
Christy: One of your strengths is in communicating Ionic value to prospective partners. What types of partnership opportunities are you discussing these days? Why should someone partner with Ionic?
Robert: No company can provide an end-to-end solution on its own, not even the big names we all know. We are building an ecosystem that includes our customers, application developers and partners of all sorts. We have announced partnerships with the major cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud – and we look to expand our partnerships with hosting and application providers who store, process and manage data in the cloud. Our customers need our platform to interoperate with their critical cloud applications, so have announced partnerships with names like Microsoft, McAfee, BigID, TITUS, Splunk, and others and are looking to make it easy for most all enterprise applications to become Ionic aware. Others can rely on the Ionic platform to secure and control access to the sensitive data their application processes – it’s our core competency – so we have integrated with Intel, Reversing Labs, Virtru, HyTrust and others so they can focus on what they do best and rely on us to protect the data. And finally, we continue to look to partner with systems integrators, application developers, managed service providers and others who can leverage the Ionic platform to provide all manner of services on top of our platform.
Robert: The NTSC was formed to provide a voice in Washington to Chief Information Security Officers – those on the front lines of information security and protection – to improve cybersecurity regulations, standards and awareness, educate legislators and support laws and regulations the address the concerns of data security and control and consumer privacy in a practical and meaningful way. The US TAG recognizes the need for consistent international data privacy standards, to prevent breaches of sensitive personal data and give consumers more control over the use of their data.
Christy: I know that you envy me living so close to the East Lake Golf Course when the PGA Tour Championship comes through town. If the weather’s nice, where might someone find you on the weekend?
Robert: You might just find me “spoiling a good walk” as they say; I do enjoy the game of golf, even if I struggle to record a few pars and the occasional if not rare birdie.
Christy: You once told me where to find the world’s best martini. Would you be willing to share that travel tip with our readers? What makes a perfect martini?
Robert: I was introduced by one of our Ionic colleagues to the original James Bond Vesper martini, made of gin, vodka, and Lillet Blonde, and finished with a thin slice of lemon peel; if you are ever in London, find the Duke’s Hotel in St James and you won’t be disappointed.