The Magic of Signal Sciences

by Shardul Shah

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In this post: Signal Sciences

There are over three thousand security vendors in the world and the vast majority overpromise and underdeliver to the community of security practitioners. From the get-go Signal Sciences’ co-founders Zane, Nick and Andrew broke that mold. We are thrilled that with today’s announcement Signal Sciences will broaden its reach and accelerate its positive impact on application security.

"When the founders honed in on delivering value to the mainstream security market, their first principles were not encumbered with the early trappings of ‘selling to the enterprise.’ Instead their collective intuition and personalities were rooted in product-led growth."
— Shardul Shah, Index Ventures

When Andrew, Nick and Zane created Signal Sciences, they decided to dive headfirst into what most observers perceived as significant headwinds. Broadly, the category of application security was not fashionable with most investors, primarily due to the limited number, size and success of prior generations of application security startups. And to be fair, within application security the class of web application firewalls (WAF) had left a poignant bitter taste in the mouths of security customers too. These tools were widely regarded as ‘compliance check boxes’ that you would turn on when the auditors were in the room, and turn off as soon as they left. The founders, coming out of Etsy, didn’t have the typical security vendor backgrounds favored by most investors. As a result, their pitch to bring a next-gen WAF to market was consistently met with audible eye-rolls from VCs and disillusioned security folks.

Nevertheless, we embraced SigSci’s outsider perspective. At Etsy, Andrew, Nick and Zane were early to experience what is now the new normal: the cloud. When they started, the cloud was still emerging, and in its wake organizations needed to transform how disparate dev, ops and security teams would coordinate to address a new paradigm for application security. The obvious conclusion they reached was to develop a product that was collaborative by design and that was architecturally sound, flexible, and with a logic that would allow for quick installation and deep value, without compromising performance. When the founders honed in on delivering value to the mainstream security market, their first principles were not encumbered with the early trappings of ‘selling to the enterprise.’ Instead their collective intuition and personalities were rooted in product-led growth.

Andrew’s intentionality is what I admire most about him. As a leader, as a cofounder, as a husband, as a friend, Andrew consistently demonstrates a purposefulness I have rarely seen in others. I’ll never forget how the team resisted, for years, the common convention of having a customer pitch deck. Andrew understood that in that first impression if they were perceived as more of the same customers would be skeptical and fail to appreciate that SigSci’s product was one that actually works.

"When we invested in SigSci’s seed round, and when we led their Series A, we knew this was going to be a magical company in an important market."

— Shardul Shah, Index Ventures

Nick, in truth, is a genius, and after many hours spent with him I found him to be a friendly one at that. The man can code: his fingerprints are all over a product that’s extraordinarily high quality, scalable, flexible, and practical for mainstream customers. And, he can lead: he has real empathy, can manage tough conversations, balance near term priorities against long term opportunities and absolutely step up in a big way.

Zane will always be my security brother from another mother. I’ll never forget my first meeting with him. I told him that I wanted to organize a talk on Attack-Driven Defense featuring him in order to “keep it in the family,” to which he replied “which family?” I explained Index’ beliefs around relationships and people and we ended up co-hosting many events, dinners and meetups. In addition to being a key reason we invested in Signal Science, Zane has helped us decide to invest in companies like Lacoon, Adallom, Fleetsmith, and Duo, to name a few.

When we invested in SigSci’s seed round, and when we led their Series A, we knew this was going to be a magical company in an important market. We had many memories, and look forward to many more (including a magic show in Tokyo!). In the meantime, thank you SigSci. All of Index is privileged and honored to have supported you in the first leg of your journey. Without a doubt, you are just getting started.

Published — Aug. 27, 2020