Lior Div planned to come to America from the moment he started Cybereason. “When you establish a company in Tel Aviv and you don’t want to sell the company, and you want it to grow, you have to be close to the market you are selling to, and for us, the main market is the United States,” said Lior Div in an interview.
Lior cites his military experience as good preparation for running a company. He spent 6 years in the Israel Defense Forces, including as a commander of a cybersecurity team in the Israeli Intelligence Corps. “I joined at the age of 18 and by 19 I was an officer with more than 20 people reporting to me,” said Lior. “I needed to accomplish missions. At a very young age you learn the difference between being a leader and a manager, and how to motivate people, measure them and push them to excel to achieve a mission.”
Lior Div, the company CEO, started Cybereason with fellow Israeli-born entrepreneurs Yonatan Striem-Amit and Yossi Naar. The first two years of the company’s existence was spent developing the technology to protect companies from cyber intrusions. “The type of people I hired in Israel came from the right places, from the military and government, people with the right hands-on experience in cyber,” he said.
In January 2014, Lior came to America on an L-1 visa, which is designed for executives, managers and employees with “specialized knowledge” to transfer into the United States. He describes the visa process as “lengthy.” It is not easy for a foreign national to start a company in the United States. An L-1 visa is one of the few ways to accomplish this but it requires the business to be started abroad first. Lior is waiting for his green card application to be approved so he can become a permanent resident.
Lior notes that in Israel people gain experience in cybersecurity in military and government positions but typically then move into the private sector. He finds the talent in America is excellent for running a big business, better than in Israel in areas such as sales and marketing. “We believed in Boston we would be able to find the right talent and that has turned out to be true,” he said.
The company has been growing rapidly and is up to 450 employees, with a valuation of $1 billion. Cybereason was one of 50 U.S. billion-dollar startups with an immigrant founder in a 2018 study by the National Foundation for American Policy.
Lior said Cybereason now has hundreds of customers, in different parts of the world, most in finance, but also in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, technology, insurance and manufacturing. The company has moved into providing cybersecurity connected to the Internet of Things (physical devices with connectivity) and protecting devices. “The U.S. will be the major market that we’re selling to, but right now we have a team in Tokyo, in Europe, in South Africa, South Korea and Australia,” he said. “Of course, the majority of the team is in the United States.”
What does Cybereason do that is different from other companies? “We build a cybersecurity platform that can identify if there is an active adversary or hacker working inside the environment,” said Lior. “We’re very different in our post-breach mindset. No matter what you do, somebody will be able to bypass a mechanism, and what we know how to do is to push them out of the environment quickly.”
Lior says that the military background, what he describes as a hands-on offensive operations capability, informs Cybereason’s technology and approach to addressing hacking. What companies have to worry about, he says, is not a few guys sitting at home and hacking but attacks that go across the whole enterprise, moving from one device or server to another. The purpose of Cybereason’s technology, he notes, is to process attacks in “real time” to discern and combat a pattern of attack. Lior contrasts his company’s approach of aiming to protect the whole enterprise with a “siloed” approach that “protects one thing at a time.”
Cybereason does not install its technology like an air conditioning company installs a new unit in an office building. “Everything is done remotely,” said Lior. “We don’t need to send people. It’s connected to the cloud and from that point they are protected.”
Immigration rules on the movement of people can make it more difficult for a company with customers spread throughout the world to operate. “We’re sending people back and forth all the time,” said Lior. “And not just in the U.S. but all over world. Tel Aviv to Japan, Tel Aviv to Europe.” He says the ability to move people globally is important for Cybereason’s business to grow and respond to customers.
In past centuries, people arrived in America for the first time and generally stayed for the rest of their lives. With the speed of travel, we have a new phenomenon: Individuals who visit a country before deciding this is the place they want to make their life.
Lior Div says he traveled to America many times but admits now that he did not know as much about the country as he thought. “I now understand the differences between Boston and New York, New York and Silicon Valley, the Midwest, and so on,” he said. “You get to know the culture at a much deeper level once you’re here than when you’re looking at it from Israel or elsewhere.”
Being an immigrant to America has taught Lior that watching TV shows from that country or making occasional visits does not mean you know the country’s culture. He has applied the lesson to business. “I learned you need to operate the company in a global manner but to take into account the differences in local culture and behave accordingly to achieve the best results.”