A Tale of Twins: The Story of iboss
If you’re a tech company—or any kind of organization with a network and users—cybersecurity should be (and probably is) one of your foremost concerns. And if you’re going to prioritize cybersecurity, one of the first ways you’re likely going to do that is through a web gateway: the part of your network that knows what data’s going in, what data’s going out, and whether the right people are sending the right data.
If you’ve used a computer at a school library in the 2000s, you might recognize a web gateway as the tool that prevented you from going on Facebook. But if you’re a network administrator, you likely know the web gateway as a primary means of delivering and managing cybersecurity.
iboss is a company that knows the value of web gateways, but when it was founded in 2003, Co-Founders (and twins) Paul and Peter Martini knew that this technology would soon be forced to change.
See, web gateways are a long-standing concept, but the way they originally operated was as a physical appliance—often located at a company’s headquarters. Because these gateways were hardware-based, remote offices would need to backhaul their data through HQ in order to manage security. At this point, bandwidth costs were low relative to today, so data was a lot easier to control. But once mobile and cloud technology took hold, and once large networks became decentralized, such a thing was no longer feasible.
Bandwidth demands skyrocketed, which meant that companies had to purchase more and more infrastructure, leading to drastically increased costs. Companies attempted to solve this problem by offering cloud-based web gateway solutions, but these early efforts forced organizations to choose between cumbersome hybrid cloud solutions or giving up the additional security provided by physical web gateways.
iboss was founded to solve this problem, with the iboss Distributed Gateway Platform. The platform is the first (and only, the company says) subscription-based web gateway, giving organizations the flexible, scalable cybersecurity protection they need while enabling customers to maintain control of their data.
A Tale of Twins
CEO and lifelong coder Paul Martini got his software engineering start in the late 1990s when he was 18 years old. Back then, the California native was designing and implementing FPGAs for Palo Alto-based communication equipment company Copper Mountain Networks. He would be present for the company’s IPO in 1999, and he also worked on the broadband network infrastructure used by telcos to build what we now know as the cloud.
In the early 2000s, he left to start an engineering firm with two people from Stanford University. Named Engineering Services, the consultancy worked with clients like the United States Navy, HP, and, in one particularly cool example, “We were doing stuff for the NFL with those cameras you see over the field. In the early 2000s, we made a prototype for that,” Martini said.
He added, “It was fun in that people would come to us and all these different companies would have these really great ideas, and our job was to blueprint it, design the software, and design all the hardware. I think the beauty of it was that there was a lot of diversity in the types of projects we made.”
By the time he left to start iboss, the firm had grown to 250 employees and was beginning to expand nationally. While proud of the success his consultancy gained, he and his brother Peter had a vision for the evolution of computer networks: “to change the way network cybersecurity is delivered.” Fifteen years ago, iboss was born from that vision.
What’s interesting, Paul explained, is that despite being twins, the brothers are extremely different in both looks and personality. “We're twins, and we look nothing alike,” he said. “He’s got blonde hair [compared to Paul’s black hair] and blue eyes, and he’s a few inches taller, but we're very much yin and yang—very complimentary. Our personalities are like 180 degrees almost, with the same deep base so it works really well for us.”
The company’s first six years were spent working heads-down on the product, bootstrapping and developing the technology that runs iboss today. Their work during the early years (and in the continuing product development since) has earned them over 110 issued patents. “We were at some points issuing three patents a month, and our pipeline was so deep that the space was transforming by the day.”
The company says that because the Distributed Gateway Platform is built for the cloud, “[you can] easily deliver and manage security on complex and decentralized enterprise networks.”
The CEO describes their target customer as any network with 1000 devices or above, such as enterprises, school networks, and everything in between. They are currently working with over 4,000 organizations, ranging in scale between 1,000 and 1 million devices.
While the company is currently headquartered in Downtown Boston, this wasn’t always the case. The company was originally founded in San Diego, and they made the move, simply put, because of their high growth rate.
“As we grew, it became clear that the options were San Francisco, Boston, and New York. You have to be in one of those three just for our appetite for labor—and there's great talent in San Diego—but we needed to get to where we are today as fast as possible,” Martini said.
While they seriously considered San Francisco and New York, Boston offered a number of advantages. The square footage was cheapest, the cybersecurity talent was (and continues to be) world class, and the environment was extremely professional. They would open their first Boston office in 2016, and with this move, Paul came to The Hub while Peter stayed in California to run the San Diego team.
The CEO opted for a small, 2,000 sq ft office above the Wendy’s at Downtown Crossing, done as a trial to test the waters of the Boston tech ecosystem. This trial proved to be a quick success, and the company moved to their current Federal Street location around six months later.
The move to Boston came a year after their first outside funding, a Series A led by Goldman Sachs in late 2015. While Martini explained that the company gets calls from potential investors on a daily basis, he’s satisfied with the company’s current outlook, citing a “good board” —featuring former Credit Suisse CEO Frank Fanzilli and Bain Capital Senior Advisor John M. Connolly—and a “really clean cap table.”
The company currently employs nearly 400 people across their various offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. In their next phase, they plan to hire 300 employees across all fronts, including sales, marketing, product, management, engineering, and more. Of those 300 hires, Martini said, about 250 will be in Boston. On the leadership side, iboss hired Chris Kasper (former CEO of Harvest Power) as COO and CFO in February.
A lot has happened for Paul Martini over the last two decades. He was there for the early days of the cloud, issued over 100 patents while founding a cybersecurity company with his brother, and moved the headquarters for said cybersecurity company across the country. What comes next for the company is unclear, but whatever it is, it will surely be tackled with the same spirit and drive that got iboss—and Martini—here today.