Tech Talks Daily

YL Ventures funds and supports brilliant Israeli tech entrepreneurs from seed to lead. With headquarters in Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv, YL Ventures manages $260 million and specializes in cybersecurity. It accelerates the evolution of portfolio companies via strategic advice and U.S.-based operational execution, leveraging a powerful network of CISOs and global industry leaders.
Andy Ellis was recently named operating partner at YL Ventures, has been inducted into IDG’s CSO Hall of Fame. The former CSO at Akamai Technologies will now be supporting YL Ventures’ portfolio companies post-investment with product development, go-to-market strategies, and customer engagements.
In today’s episode, Andy shares his story and insights from his career. We discuss why VC firms and investing in Israeli cybersecurity startups and why more CISOs are taking advisor/investor roles. I also learn what brings him to Israeli cybersecurity companies.


Andy Ellis, an operating partner at YL Ventures and advisor to the startups in their portfolio, discusses his experience and origin story, his role in YL Ventures, and the trend of CSOs taking advisor investor roles.


  • 🏆Andy Ellis was recently inducted into the CSO Hall of Fame after serving as the CSO of Akamai Technologies for 21 years.
  • 💻His love for technology stems from receiving a Commodore 64 as a holiday present.
  • 🔒YL Ventures focuses on investing in Israeli cybersecurity startups due to the dense startup ecosystem and the practical experience of military operations.
  • 👥CSOs taking advisor investor roles is driven by the ability to move upstream and effect change before the product shows up, as well as to increase influence and diversity of thought in organizations.
  • 💡Diversity for its own sake should never be the goal, building an inclusive and welcoming environment is key.



welcome to the tech talks daily podcast where you can learn and be inspired by real world examples of how technology is transforming businesses and reshaping industries in a language everyone can understand here is your host neil c hughes welcome back to the tech talks daily podcast now after recently learning how andy ellis was


recently named operating partner at yl ventures and been inducted into idg’s cso hall of fame i felt compelled to find out more yes about that incredibly cool accolade but also how he’s going to be supporting while ventures portfolio of companies post investment with product development go-to market strategies customer


engagements and so much more and regular listeners will know i’ve had a variety of guests from yl ventures in the last six years we’ve been recording this podcast so i’m genuinely looking forward to a good old-fashioned catch-up so buckle up and hold on tight as i beam your ears all the way stateside where andy alice


is waiting to share his story with us so a massive well welcome to the show can you tell the listeners a little about who you are and what you do sure neil thanks for having me i’m andy ellis i’m currently an operating partner at yl ventures and an advisor to a couple of the startups in our portfolio orca vulcan grip


before that i was the cso of akamai technologies which i did for 21 years so starting as a security engineer the only person in the security team building a team of almost a hundred people forty percent of whom were women which is usually a pretty staggering statistic for our industry i was recently inducted into the cso


hall of fame which joins my my interest interesting collection of awards i have the air force commendation medal the wine spectator award of excellence the spirit of disneyland award i won the sherman oaks galleria spelling bee and now i have the cso hall of fame oh the ciso hall of fame that is incredibly cool


and a question i always like to ask my guest especially when i’ve had such a fantastic career in technology is try and learn a little bit more about their origin story so who can ask where did your love of technology come from can you remember what it was that put you on this path that you’re on today


so i think it’s two things the specifics of your technology was i got as a holiday present a commodore 64. oh yeah the zero model the one that was the darker brown before they went to the light brown so for those of you old enough to remember that was the very first commodore 64 you know that had the vic 20 before that


which i learned on uh in the classroom and i just love that right i’d get the the computer magazines that would have the basic program in the back you’d have to type it in by hand um and that was just like i love you know learning how to do that and we could use floppy disks instead of tapes so it’s a huge change and so that sort


of gave me the love of playing with computers and i actually think that play is the start of the love of a tool is that you have to be able to play with the tool to really just push it to its limits and then i’ve always just had a passion for understanding how systems work whatever the system is and how do i


optimize it and make it better like i’m the guy who backs into a parking spot so it’ll be a little bit faster when i go to leave and because it’s safer to back in when i can see everything then when i’m in the car trying to back out and i can’t see who’s in that lane of traffic so i combine those two things into


wanting to take computers to make the world better oh man you brought back some memories there i too remember copying code for hours out of a book or a magazine just to make something move on the screen i also remember taking me equally as long to correct the syntax errors afterwards oh my goodness you really had to learn how to find a


syntax error when you know it’s especially when it was on tape and you’re like oh my god i have to load it up and then like scroll through but you learn some great skills that later show up when you’re like oh here’s how you debug something yeah because it was so costly to debug originally absolutely and here in 2020 well then


what is it that brings you to the world of israeli cyber security companies is there a story there so i started working with wild ventures as an advisor we have a cso advisor pool of about 100 advisors and i’d been doing that for about four years and for me a lot of it was helping develop the technologies that i wish


existed right you know i’m always trying to move upstream like i don’t want to solve a problem after the barn burns down i’d like to solve the problem before the barn ever gets built in fact before you have horses you should already be designing your barn and so getting to do that to work with these amazing founders


and help educate them about what problems is a ciso had was where it started and so i got to come out to israel and you know i’m a conservative jew so i’m always happy to travel to israel if i have to pick a country to go to that’s certainly going to be the one so i would come out every year and i’d


get to meet with the founders and attend cyber week and hang out with the wild ventures folks and so when it was time to move on from akamai i reached out to yoaf who’s the sort of the partner founder and said hey yo i’d love to come and work within the portfolio is there a role for me and he was like


absolutely and so my role is operating partner which i like to joke is an executive without portfolio for the portfolio so my job is to help make all of our companies successful whatever that means so for some of them that’s just executive development right they’re new executives inside a startup that wants to become a big


company and i have you know experience as an executive in a large successful publicly traded company and israel has got such a great reputation at the moment of course it’s dubbed the startup nation and there’s a lot of excitement and a vibrant tech scene there but why don’t you think vc firms are investing in israeli cyber security


startups right now because there does seem to be a real trend around them yeah and i’m really happy to see that trend some of it is i think there’s more willingness to take the risks there’s a confidence that you tend to see that is you know sometimes warranted sometimes not and that’s you as a vc you have to kiss a lot of


frogs to find your prince and princess um and but there’s there’s a lot of princes and princesses out there and there’s people who you have practical experience they were operational in the military they have their degree there’s already such a dense ecosystem of startups and larger companies that people get experience


working inside a company and then say oh i have an idea to go solve a problem and so that confluence and it’s all happening you’re mostly in tel aviv you know there’s some startups down in beersheva but they’re all so closely packed together like you can go stay in a hotel and within a mile walk there’s hundreds of companies so unlike


you know silicon valley where if you want to meet with people you’re driving for hours the last time i was in israel i never got in a taxi cab except going to and from the airport i literally walked everywhere from my hotel now when i’m going back next month probably i’m going to take a taxicab but that’ll have more to do with the weather


than the distance and what do you think is behind the trend of csos take taking advisor investor roles as well because again another trend we’re seeing more and more of so i think it’s probably driven by a couple of factors one is the same one that drove me which is that ability to sort of move upstream and affect change before the


product shows up i think one of it is i think csos aren’t quite considered c-level executives in most companies when i speak across the cso community very few csos actually have a management relationship reporting to the ceo that’s different than like every other c level executive and often there isn’t a path from being


a cso to being the cio or to being the ceo so once you hit see so you’re basically tapped in your career that you’re not sitting at the executive table you come in to report to them to brief them but then you leave the room when the decision gets made and so csos as they’ve hit this seniority point in their career are looking for


their next opportunity and saying how do i have more influence and more effect and so advising companies working with startups is certainly a great way to do that you know invest in those companies because if you want to take the step to the board you know while people are looking for security experience on a board


they’re also looking for that c level executive experience and so if you haven’t been in the boardroom on a regular basis i think it’s a little harder to find those board positions it really is and another hot topic at the moment inside businesses of from all industries is improving organizational management and increasing


diversity and diversity of thought is that something that you’re tackling as well absolutely so that was a a big goal for me at akamai was how do we do that and it really is driven by a couple of things i actually think diversity for its own sake should never be the goal like that’s a measurement you want to


see you want to see that you result in diversity but if you’re aiming for diversity in an organization then you’re probably going to miss out on the important thing which is building an inclusive and welcoming environment right i once had a speaker who came in and he said look if you if you have two people


you have diversity you know because everybody’s going to be a little bit different yeah but if you don’t have inclusion what you’re going to start to have is a fight yeah you want to have a place that each person who comes in feels welcomed and that’s what lets you get to better representation where people will look


around and see people who are like them who aren’t all you know oh look it’s the company that only hires you know white dudes in silicon valley um and you don’t see yourself there so my goal was to build an inclusive environment that met our people where they were that gave them growth and development


opportunities that sought leadership as a way to invest in people rather than get more out of people now as a result we got more out of people we were able to hire people who never would have come into a security team before i would hazard over half of the people in my organization when i was at akamai


were not security professionals until they came to us because most security jobs aren’t security jobs when you think about the people who write a report on you know your latest threat research there’s some researchers who did the research but writing a report on somebody else’s research is a journalism job i can hire


journalists to do that job i can hire librarians to be compliance managers i can hire you know safety engineers to be program managers because that’s the same task and what that does is that opens up career fields that have more diversity of body but more importantly have diversity of experience you bring in somebody who has learned


from an entirely different career field ways of thinking that you will find helpful and just as we’re talking here a few moments ago you did mention that you’ve been mentioning you’ve been inducted in the idg’s cso hall of fame i’ve got to ask that you expand on that for me because is it the most rock and roll you can get


in the technology because it just sounds incredibly cool it is really cool like i got the notification i was like this is awesome and i have this uh video that my team put together uh you know having me coming out onto a stage and the song playing from will i am your hall of fame uh in the background


and it is it’s really cool um and you know like all hall of fame selected by the press that’s generally how a hall of fame often operates as the voters are members of the media so i don’t know what that process looks like i was very honored the other people who were selected are all amazing industry luminaries i am so


happy to be in that crowd of people um i couldn’t imagine a better cohort although it’s interesting that i was like between when i was selected and when it was announced right i stopped being a cso and now i’m an operating partner so i think i’m the only member of the cso hall of fame that is not currently a


cso that and of course now though what makes you jump out of bed in the morning what is it that excites you about supporting wild ventures portfolio companies post investment with product development go to market strategies customer engagements etc what is it that really excites you about them it’s the fact that we get to help people


do things that are gonna you know save save their company security has this hard challenge that there’s so many things that need to be done across so many systems that most teams do just the basics and move on and so being able to work with a company like you know vulcan cyber who is helping companies you know


tackle vulnerability management and remediation you know that’s a hard challenge or grip who’s helping companies identify all of the sas vendors that you know people are signing up for your employer doesn’t even know half of the software as a service companies that people are using and so we’ve got a


we’ve got a covenant that will solve that problem or orca who’s basically provided a way to keep track of the security in your public cloud and make it better without having to do painful integrations so when i look at those companies i get out of bed and i’m like this is so exciting to help any of these companies i’ve got


eight more i could just go through this list here you know but i’m not sure we’ve got time for that and getting to talk to them and everybody who i talk to wants to be on the phone with me like i’m not taking any meetings just because there has to be a meeting this is always if there’s not value that


i’m providing the meeting isn’t going to happen and from those eight of the clients they said you’ve got a long list i’m curious are they all focused on one area or trending areas or are they scattered right across the industry oh no we scatter them across the industry we have you know metagate that is clinical iot


security so only in medical practices that are on site so not even the whole medical industry but only places that are have medical devices ride vision that is providing you know drive for safety for motorcyclists i mean that’s about as far from most security things as you can see but it’s about you know motorcyclist


safety um you know caramba that’s you know iot security in the sdlc pipeline you’re originally focused on automotive working into the ot space so i think our goal is not to over focus into one space but to try to provide comprehensive solutions in any space that we’re in so we don’t have to have competitive


investments because we don’t invest in hundreds of companies in any given year it’s three to five companies is all that we’re going to make an investment in excellent well i’m going to love staying in contact with you and learning more about the journeys of all those clients that you’ve got there but before i do


let you go a question i always like to ask my guests is we start the episode talking about your origin story but i’d also like to know a little bit more about the soundtrack to your career in tech as well is that a particular piece of music or a song that has accompanied you throughout your career just helps you get your head in the zone


before going in a big meeting or keynote well i think that i’m going to share that with the audience who just give a clip so that you don’t get in trouble but i think some leonard cohen what a classy choice absolutely brilliant yeah it’s you know i love leonard cohen um first of all he just has that gorgeous


voice i can just close my eyes wherever i am um and i think he talks a lot about the struggles of being religious and listening to what god says into the stories and to how that you know lands in reality and you know as i see so there’s a piece that does resonate you know we have this this this calling that we see and these


things we’re trying to do that we have to match up with business realities and sometimes it’s easy for you to look and say wow you know these people i i just don’t imagine that i could even conceive of what they’re doing and it helps you think that hey maybe maybe i just need to put myself into somebody else’s shoes for a minute


because it’s certainly not as bad as some other stuff but leonard cohen i could just listen to all day long yeah you and me both with a nice glass of whiskey taboo as well yeah i also believe you’ve got your own podcast coming out when is that due to launch have you got anything in mind yet yeah hopefully


we’re going to launch it a little later this summer it’s going to be cloud security reinvented it’s going to be sponsored by one of our companies uh orca is doing the production for that and i’ll be interviewing uh you know csos and cloud architects to help sort of pull out you know what are the lessons they’ve learned


over their career that other practitioners can learn from excellent well i’ll be adding a link to that as soon as it launches on the blog post that will accompany this episode but before i let you go can you remind the listeners of where they can find yl ventures online learn more about all of your clients


there and maybe contact your team if they’ve got any questions or want to appear on your radar what’s the best way of doing that absolutely so ylventures that’s our twitter handle you can find us on linkedin um you can find us in tel aviv if you’re an israeli founder or potential founder certainly reach out to the team in tel aviv we’ve


got a great accelerator program but that’s where we’re doing our investment if you’re looking for us to you know invest in an a or a b round or somewhere else in the on the planet probably not going to be a target for us people can find me online as csoandy uh that’s generally on twitter you can also


find me you know on linkedin as well well i’m a big fan of why our ventures have had several guests on from the company over the years of the six years i’ve been running this podcast but more than i think i’ve just loved hearing about your personal story today and so thank you so much for sitting down and sharing that with me today i


really appreciate it thanks for having me neil i really appreciate it what an incredibly cool guy and also it has to be said a great podcasting and radio voice hasn’t he i know he’s going to have a hit on his hands when his show hits the airwaves in a few weeks love that and also a big thank you to andy for


coming on and sharing his insights around vc firms investing in israeli cyber security startups why more csos are taking advice at investor roles and what brings him to the israeli cyber security company space and finally of course the importance of organizational management and increasing diversity and diversity


of thought so if we’ve touched on anything that’s uh close to your heart if you’ve got a different opinion or if you’ve got something you’d like to share with us you’ve got a question my inbox is always open to you tech blog writer linkedin at neil c hughes and my website is


but if you do send a message or you connect with me on linkedin twitter or anything don’t just hit the follow or connection request send a quick message say you listen to the podcast let me give you a shout out on here and we’ll keep that conversation going so a big thank you for listening and until next time don’t be a stranger


thank you for listening to the tech talks daily podcast with neil c hughes remember technology works best when it brings people together