Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Interview with John Lochow, CEO of Sipera
John Lochow is the new CEO of Sipera (www.sipera.com), a Richardson-based provider of Voice over IP security products. We caught up with John and Brendan Ziolo, Director of Marketing at the firm, to learn more about the company, as well as its expansion plans.
John, you're new at firm -- why you'd join, and what are you hoping to do at Sipera?
John Lochow: I've been involved in this space for quite some time, and I think that in my opinion, the market for on-demand, IP services and IP appliances is exploding. It's just going to accelerate over the next six months to a year. I was also aware that there is a big hole, in that not a lot of people are thinking at the level and depth that we are. Coupled with the investors I saw backing the business, that perked my interest. They brought me to take a look at the company, and that pulled me out of retirement.
Why get back into the business after retirement?
John Lochow: It's just such an exciting space. It's hard for anyone in this business who's been there for a long time to completely quite. When people approached me, I preferred to stay home and play with the horses at the ranch, but when folks presented the opportunity I thought it was very exciting. This is a company that is in the right place, at the right time, in a market beginning to explode. It's a wonderful opportunity to go to the next level and grow the business.
For those who aren't familiar with your company, what are your products used for?
Brendan Ziolo: Sipera Systems creates a Voice over IP security appliance. What it does for the enterprise and service provider customers, is it helps protect against attacks in Voice over IP protocols. It also handles other security issues, such as confidentiality and privacy of communications, user authentication--ensuring a user is who they say they are--and allow you to employ various policies around communications as well, such as who can communicate with who.
How big of a problem is VoIP security--it this a problem today?
Brendan Ziolo: It's definitely a problem that exists today. We see that in the prospects and customers we are talking to. It's still early in terms of the extent that Voice over IP is being deployed, but just last year, VoIP surpassed traditional phone lines in the numbers deployed. We're at the crossover of the hockey stick in terms of Voice over IP, and the threats will flow right after that. The security issues need to be addressed as companies are rolling out VoIP. We saw this with data and email--when email started spam was not an issue, now different reports quote that 70 to 90 percent of Internet traffic is spam.
Why use a VoIP specific security product, instead of just using existing IP networking security tools to address the problem?
Brendan Ziolo: Voice over IP is a very different technology. If you go back to the email example, if you look at an email for five seconds, 30 seconds, or three minutes to see if certain words are not allowed, or if there's a virus, or there's some attack that's okay. You can't do it with Voice over IP, due to its real-time nature and the fact that it uses different protocols.
John, earlier you mentioned the investors in the firm. Who is backing the firm?
John Lochow: Probably the most visible is Austin Ventures, who you know is the big player in Texas. They dominate our market here. We also have Sequoia Capital out of California, which has a lot of marquis names they've dealt with, and we also have two smaller boutique firms, Duchossois and Vestar Ventures, who are also involved.
What's next for the company?
John Lochow: The base product is here, and we're developing the next generation to get a wide gap between any potential competition, should it arise, and create a barrier to entry over the next six months. We're also tooling up our sales force, training it, and creating channels to distribute the product, and getting ready for what we perceive is an explosion in IP appliances towards the Christmas months.
How big is the operation in Texas--also it looks like you've got some overseas operations?
John Lochow: We've got roughly 40 employees overseas in India, and sales people in the UK. We have roughly 40 people here.
Finally, any plans for hiring?
John Lochow: We're hiring sales people here, and we're always looking for that key genius who understand this technology. But, we're mostly expanding our sales and sales engineers.