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Endeavor Detroit launched its 2021 ScaleUp program for exceptional leaders of future high-growth companies in the region to support their next-level growth and scale. ScaleUp entrepreneur Raffaele Mautone, Founder and CEO of AaDya Security, gave Endeavor a snapshot of what it has been like to take his business from startup to scaleup.
How did the idea for your company start?
Starting my own company had been in the back of my mind for about 10 years. I saw glimpses of what I believed would be a great opportunity to pursue, as there was nothing out there in the cybersecurity solution space that really focused 100% on small and medium-sized companies. When Cisco acquired Duo, I was lucky to have many job offers, but none of the opportunities seemed like a match for me. I am a firm believer that it is better to try and fail than to never try at all. So, after a few conversations with my husband, I started AaDya in February of 2019.
What was the moment you knew pursuing your idea was the right thing to do?
I called a few of my former leaders from Dell, McAfee and FireEye to bounce my idea off of them. At first they were skeptical, but then I showed them my design and walked them through how AaDya could change the landscape of the cybersecurity industry. Their support and agreement that it was the right time to disrupt the industry really motivated me. After forming the company, we signed 13 customers as design partners which gave us the opportunity to learn what was important to them and confirm what we were building resonated.
What aspect of your product are you most proud of?
Judy, AaDya’s virtual cybersecurity assistant. Without her the rest of the solution is amazing but not as compelling. Companies that have 1 to 250 employees rarely have a security team member to manage all of the point products that are out there. Judy does the heavy lifting and guides users just as an information security team member at an Enterprise company would. She’s a game changer in this space, and her artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to grow, which is another exciting aspect.
What is the wildest issue you’ve had to work through as an entrepreneur?
Payroll, taxes and other areas of HR and Finance. I really miss my former team members who specialized in these areas, and now I understand and can empathize with what they went through on a daily basis. I am not suggesting I never thought their work wasn’t hard, I just had no idea all that it encompassed. Now I have team members helping me in these areas and for that I am grateful.
What has been one of the most difficult moments on your journey to scale so far and what made you keep going?
No one warned me the first year of starting my own company would be messy. I mean throw food at the wall and see what sticks kind of messy. Thank goodness I’m already bald, because I am pretty certain I got a few grey hairs in my goatee that first year. Trying to build a solution with six pillars, hire team members with different skill sets and deal with a pandemic is definitely not what I expected. Being in Detroit definitely helped me navigate those challenges. Thankfully, it has been easy to find other founders willing to meet and talk through everything we’ve been experiencing together. The strength of Detroit’s ecosystem is one of the reasons I keep going — that and seeing our customers’ excitement about our platform. My current team has also kept me inspired and I am in awe of how far they’ve come over the past two years. I appreciate everything they have given to AaDya and I am glad I can give back to them, our customers and our community.
How important has good mentorship been to your business growth?
This is so critical — as a founder you have to surround yourself with advisors who will push you. Having everyone agreeing with you isn’t going to do you any favors, you need people who will challenge you. I am very fortunate to have an amazing support team advising me, and some very close friends who keep me grounded and act as another outlet when I need it.
Has being in Southeast Michigan been beneficial to your growth?
Yes, being headquartered in Detroit and having more than 75% of our team located in Michigan has helped us in many different ways. As we begin to sell across the U.S. and look into going global, we keep receiving the same positive reaction when people hear we are from Detroit. It’s a city that has an incredible history and has touched many lives. Everyone is rooting for us and the city, and I am so glad we planted our roots here.
Any one piece of advice for other entrepreneurs in scaling mode?
It may sound cliche, but don’t worry about making mistakes. You will make mistakes, team members will leave, and you will learn from these situations. All startups and founders go through this in the first year. You will second guess yourself 10-20 times a day. Learn from it and keep going. Failures need to happen so you and the company can grow.
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