Every company has to face stark challenges in the process to achieve success, especially one in the Information Technology sector. During its lifetime, it witnesses several technological waves. Natalya Kaspersky, President of the InfoWatch Group, is leading one such company which is constantly monitoring the changing IT-environment and attempts to predict what kind of threats these might bring to enterprises.
Natalya started in 1997 by establishing an antivirus company Kaspersky Lab with her ex-husband Eugene Kaspersky, which she led for 10 years. Her role was to turn a good antivirus software into a successful business. By the time she stepped back CEO, the company had 125 million USD in revenues and was #4 in the international market. An unfortunate disagreement regarding the company’s future with her co-founder led to Natalya to leave Kaspersky Lab. As a compensation part she received Kaspersky’s daughter company – InfoWatch.
At InfoWatch, Natalya tries to get understanding the thin hits from the market, customers and technicians, in order to conclude what kind of products the company will be doing in a year or more.
Overcoming Initial Challenges
At the helm Natalya was faced with a massive challenge to overcome, as the company was in a very bad shape and experiencing huge losses with product problems. The company develops software to prevent enterprise from insider threats including data leaks. Since the customers did not fully understand the need in this type of product, her biggest obstacle was to create demand for the product. She set out to create a brand-new market in Russia by establishing a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Association and holding relevant conferences, also a magazine, a website devoted DLP as such, etc.
Following the 2009 economic crisis customers started cutting expenses, especially on new and unknown IT solutions, thus dropping InfoWatch’s revenues by 60% and exposing the company to R&D difficulties. This was a pivotal moment when it was unclear if the company will be able to survive or not. But after 3 years along with numerous efforts, and with the help of Natalya’s earnings from the sale of her shares in Kaspersky lab, she was able to make InfoWatch into a healthy profitable organization.
Creating Something Exceptional
The idea of the product goes back to 2001, when Natalya was CEO at Kaspersky, having just bought an anti-spam software. “We thought, if our product can filter incoming spam, why not to filter outgoing information?” says Natalya. At that time DLP was not yet a recognized market segment so without having any clear understanding of the market, they started to create a prototype. The prototype was a success, and in December 2003, Kaspersky Lab registered a new company – InfoWatch – as its 100% subsidiary. In 2010, InfoWatch started to enter international markets.
The company started international expansion in 2008 into Western Europe. But it turned out that the labor laws in EU, especially in Germany, prevented companies from buying DLP software assuming it violated privacy. InfoWatch had no power to prove, how the privacy could stay untouched if the software used right. Having failed in their initial attempt, the company decided to buy a market share. And in 2011 invested in EgoSecure, which developed a complementary product – endpoint security protection. Now InfoWatch daughter EgoSecure is presented in Ettlingen, Germany and in Luxembourg.
Such a step allowed to the company to create a significant presence at Western Europe.
Presently, the InfoWatch Group has 14 local offices, in CIS countries, UAE, Malaysia and Europe. InfoWatch offers several products to enterprises to protect their data and infrastructure from inside and outside threats.
Learning the Craft
Natalya does not credit a single person as her role model all through her life. At different stages of her business and companies she had different heroes who guided her. One distinct mention is of Alexey Remizov, president of the company where she worked before Kaspersky. Natalya considers him as her first business teacher, who helped her by revealing the first secrets of business. Later on she took advices from her husband Igor Ashmanov, a CEO of his own business, who helped her by analyzing difficult situations in business. Though at InfoWatch, there have been many people Natalya tried to learn from.
“I believe that one person can’t know everything, despite how clever he or she is.” says Natalya. She explains the need to refer and use varied examples in business, especially when businesses are changing rapidly and bringing new surprises with it.
Decisions are Integral to being a Leader
An integral part of any manager’s work is routine – planning, controlling the results, awarding those who succeed and punish those who don’t. And one of the most difficult job for Natalya is to fire the people who don’t fit the job. Unfortunately, if a manager can’t do dismissals, he/she can’t be a real manager. For example, Natalya rotated through 5 marketing directors in InfoWatch before she found the one with whom she was completely satisfied. Content with her choice, Natalya explains the changes are necessary as you need different people at different stages of the organization’s development.
Change is Growth
After 20 years on CEO position and leading organizations successfully, Natalya felt the need to take a step back from administrative activities. So she passed on her position to a hired manager to enjoy the absence of responsibility and the opportunity to enjoy what she likes to do. Natalya has never been deeply involved in all the small organizational details in any of the 14 companies in the Group. Her task has always been a general line and vision, and she likes to do it.
With her vast experience, Natalya has a piece of advice to those who are getting into leadership positions. “Stay stubborn and believe in your luck. It comes to those who believe in the goal and stay persistent!”