Software at Scale 19 - Vanta

Interview with Christina Cacioppo, CEO, and Robbie Ostrow, First Software Engineer

  
0:00
-59:17

Christina Cacioppo and Robbie Ostrow work at Vanta, an automated security and compliance company with a mission to secure the internet. Vanta sets up monitoring via a set of continuous tests to ensure basic security best practices, like mandatory MFA for employees. Each test bubbles up to one or more compliance standards like SOC-2 so that companies can rapidly move their audits and unlock deals.

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This episode is special because of two reasons: I currently work at Vanta, and it’s the first combined interview with both the CEO and the first engineer at the company, which led to an interesting conversation with multiple perspectives.

As usual, the episode focuses on the technology and business of Vanta, and I’ve tried to not go easy on them, even though there’s an obvious bias involved :)

Highlights

My notes are italicized

2:00: “In order to work on a security company, you’d actually best start with compliance company” - compliance is a “hair-on-fire” problem for companies since it helps unlock deals, whereas security is often an afterthought. Solving compliance helps make companies safer since the incentives align better. This idea and the headache of SOX compliance at my previous job convinced me to work at Vanta.

5:00 - Continuous security monitoring vs. snapshots that are double-checked in audits

11:00 - How Vanta was initially built.

17:00 - Should security reports be standardized or extremely customizable per company?

20:00 - How does someone decide on the set of security policies? Do customers ask for advice?

31:00 - How should engineers think of developer productivity for their startups? What has the impact of initial choices like MongoDB and GraphQL been as the company has grown?

40:00 - At what point should a founder decide to hire an engineer? What qualities should the engineer have? At what point should the founder stop interviewing engineering candidates?

52:00 - How to effectively build a brand for a security company? Experiences over the past few years.