We talked to Yoav Levy, co-founder, and CEO at Upstream, about automotive cybersecurity, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yoav Levy: Thankfully, my family and I are all fine! We are fortunate to be vaccinated and hopefully, in Israel, we have seen the worst of the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Upstream.
Yoav Levy: I have two decades of experience in management, marketing, and business development of IT and security products. This includes small start-ups and multinational companies that have IPO such as Checkpoint. Together with Yonatan Appel, Upstream’s CTO, we founded Upstream as we noticed that the connected vehicle industry was fast outgrowing its cybersecurity capability. We aimed to solve this fundamental problem by enabling OEM car manufacturers and fleets to detect, monitor, and respond to attacks targeting any part of the connected vehicle framework – even for vehicles already on the road. I am an avid kite-boarder and surfer in my spare time.
How does Upstream innovate?
Yoav Levy: Upstream Security offers a cloud-based automotive cybersecurity and data analytics platform purpose-built for connected vehicles and smart mobility services. Our platform uses machine learning, data normalization, and digital twin profiling technologies to detect anomalies in real-time using existing automotive data feeds. By creating a digital twin, we do not require anything physically installed in the vehicles. This alleviates many issues and reduces costs. Coupled with AutoThreat Intelligence, the first automotive cybersecurity threat intelligence feed, Upstream provides unparalleled cybersecurity and data-driven insights, readily available and seamlessly integrated into the customer’s environment.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Yoav Levy: 2020 was a year of disruption in the automotive industry, both because of COVID-19 and the new automotive cybersecurity standards and regulations. The rising number of connected vehicles increases the entry points and vulnerabilities that hackers can leverage, and the ever-growing automotive cyber threat landscape continues to develop.
If one would look at it merely from a business point of view, Upstream’s activity throughout the Covid-19 period has successfully grown in various aspects. The company is growing extremely fast, we are actively recruiting, we have expanded our series B funding round with a large investment from Salesforce and signed massive customer deals.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Yoav Levy: The coronavirus pandemic disrupted each of our employees’ and managers’ lives just as it disrupted the lives of everyone in the world. It was important for me to be transparent and honest with our staff members from the beginning and to assure them that we would retain our entire team throughout the pandemic. This certainly gave them peace of mind.
Over half of the Upstream employees are parents who needed to juggle between their familial duties and being at home with their children while finding a way to keep working and grow within their career. Thankfully, not only were able to retain our team, and given our growth, we have increased our team significantly since the start of the pandemic. This presented other additional challenges as we needed to ensure the new team members had a sense of team and purpose at the company even though they were all working remotely. Also, at the start of the pandemic, we didn’t have an HR manager, therefore I invested a lot of time maintaining close relations with the management team and the rest of the employees. It really taught me the importance of seeing, understanding, and allowing the needed flexibility for our people. Both the pandemic and the growing process of the company brought me to the decision to hire an experienced HR manager, to make sure we have all human aspects covered.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Yoav Levy: We couldn’t have our usual face-to-face meetings with clients, so we utilized several CRMs and project management tools to manage projects and relationships from a global perspective. We actually found that zoom meetings with clients helped strengthen our relationship from both the employee and customer perspective as it allowed us to be more personal and meet each other’s families and pets for example.
We have also continued to send our newsletters and blogs to engage with our customers. We started our TechTalk series where we host diverse partners who are all top industry leaders and experts to have a casual fireside chat about various hot-topics within the automotive ecosystem.
Your final thoughts?
Yoav Levy: The past year has been a microcosm of the life of an entrepreneur. Being able to respond to change and crises is the key to entrepreneurial resilience. If you can navigate through these hardships, there are great personal, team, and business opportunities on the other side. Stay healthy and stay safe.