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Going from $0 to $100M ARR in just 18 months with Wiz co-founder Ami Luttwak

A "wiz" indeed, Luttwak discusses how to find success with customers during tough times.

Von Adam O'Donnell, Host of the Sit Down Startup podcast

Zuletzt aktualisiert: September 5, 2023

For most startups, developing a product or service in an untapped market is the ideal scenario because it usually means minimal competition—increasing chances for success. But that’s not the path Wiz decided to take. Instead, Wiz’s founders went for a market with thousands of competitors and emerged as one of the most impressive startups in history.

Founded by an experienced team who previously led Microsoft’s Cloud Security Group, Wiz is now one of the world’s largest cloud security companies. Launched in 2020, Wiz went from $0 to $100M in annual recurring revenue (ARR) in just 18 months, and now works with over 30 percent of the world’s most influential Fortune 100 companies.

Ami Luttwak, co-founder and CTO of Wiz, joined the Sit Down Startup podcast to share how the hands-on culture has massively contributed to its success. “From the CEO, to the product, to the CTO … it’s a hands-on culture,” he says. “We don’t just manage, we actually do.” Tune in to this week’s episode to learn more about the company’s recipe for success.

Starting Wiz at the dawn of the Covid-19 outbreak

Ironically, Wiz’s co-founders left Microsoft to start their own cybersecurity company weeks before the U.S. declared a nationwide lockdown, which isn’t the ideal situation for any startup.

“Sometimes in a startup, there is too much noise,” says Luttwak. Between investors wanting to meet the team, conferences, and taking various flights to meet clients, many entrepreneurs spend a large portion of their time on travel. The lockdown allowed Wiz’s co-founders to focus on customer meetings and increase their sales, which led to them securing impressive rounds of funding. “What allowed Wiz to scale in the beginning was the quiet environment,” says Luttwak.

Work with your customers

Before developing their products, the Wiz founders went to prospective customers to see how they were using their current cybersecurity tools and to determine what they lacked. After completing cybersecurity assessments, they found potential threatening cybersecurity issues on multiple occasions for which the existing cybersecurity tools—regardless of vendor—couldn’t help fix.

When developing a new product, Luttwak says the team presents their ideas to customers first to get their feedback and ensure new products meet their needs. He advises, “Don’t build for two years, and then go to the customers. Be very close to the customers, and work with them.” By partnering with customers, Wiz could understand what customers lacked and then develop their products.

While this strategy has proven to be effective for Wiz, Luttwak says it can also be stressful, especially when there is a lot of demand for a product that hasn’t been developed. In these moments, being self-confident and open to new ideas is key to ensuring product success.

“Don’t build for two years, and then go to the customers. Be very close to the customers, and work with them.”Ami Luttwak, co-founder and CTO of Wiz

Rapid growth and scalable solutions

Wiz’s team isn’t new to the startup scene. Their first business, Adallom, was founded in 2012 and acquired in 2015 by Microsoft—its largest security acquisition at the time. Working at Microsoft taught them how to build products at scale, which is why they had to cut 70 percent of their own features. “You don’t build a feature if you can’t scale to a hundred millions users,” says Luttwak.

As a result, the Wiz team decided not to add any features that could not scale from day one. The risk companies would take is customers enjoying a product that won’t be able to keep up with the demand. And although customers might want certain features added to existing products, if they don’t scale, it won’t work. “In everything that you do, you have to think about scale from the beginning,” advises Luttwak.

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