Former Rabbinical Student And Autodidact Cofounds Fast-Growing Web Security Software Firm
Given Israel’s defence and security priorities, it’s no surprise that the country is home to many cybersecurity start-ups and world leading security software companies. According to the Israel National Cyber Directorate, in the first half of 2021 alone, Israeli cybersecurity companies raised $3.4 billion in 50 deals and seven of them became unicorns. In fact, more than a third of worldwide cybersecurity unicorns are Israelis.
What is surprising is that a former Rabbinical student and self-described autodidact, Tzury Bar Yochay, helped found Reblaze, the fast-growing, Israel-based web security firm. The company positions itself as providing a proprietary unified platform, shielding web sites from the myriad of threats found on the Internet. Sites utilising the Reblaze solution inhabit their own private, secure cloud on the Internet, fully accessible to legitimate traffic but invisible to assailants.
“The idea of the company came to us while we were actually wrapping up a highly classified project in a laboratory, which, believe it or not, was not connected to the internet. What happened was, we were seeing at least once or twice a week, headlines about how a company got hacked by someone claiming to be a 13-and-a-half-year-old child. And this website was taking off and this bank, had this data leak. So, it seemed to us working on such a high-level project, knowing what the capabilities of the teams that we are working with and the talents and the knowledge and the know-how that we have around us and the contribution that we have seen on the web market, I thought maybe we should be focusing on this segment rather than on the defence industry and military intelligence,” says Reblaze cofounder and CTO Yochay.
Yochay is one of three cofounders, including Eyal Hayardeny and Philippe Biondi, that started the Tel-Aviv headquarters company in 2011. “At the time there was an iron dome for rockets, right? So, we said, ‘let's do a cyber iron dome.’ Meaning, you put a different system of which every input goes through that shield. And it will simply filter incoming traffic without the need to deploy anything on the actual servers. We came to this idea of building a cloud-based security shield,” says Tochay.
At the time, the company’s approach to web security was similar in concept to two other company’s in the space. Yet Yochay decided that he didn’t care what others were doing. “We're going to do it our own way. And so, we did. We're not going to stop because others are addressing this problem. Because A, it's a real problem. B, cloud is the future. C, there's always a way to do things in a different and unique way, which most likely will be appealing to some segments of the market,” says Yochay.
Taking a different approach is something that defines Yochay’s path to web security software innovator and entrepreneur. Up until the age of 17, Yochay was educated exclusively in a Yeshiva, studying to become a Rabbi and knew very little about the world outside his religious studies. He had no knowledge of math or science, let alone the ability to build software.
“I was in that path actually quite successfully, but every teenager comes to a point at which you start rechecking or testing: Who am I? What am I? Is this for me, not for me? What is out there? Actually, that was a tough time for me as I chose to leave. And then I was like, I'm the best student, or at least top student where I'm studying right now. If I'm going outside, I'll start from zero. I'll be the worst one in the class. No math, no geography, no English, physics or biology,” says Tochay.
Yochay tought himself English using traffic signs as his first “dictionary.” He had never owned a book outside of religious texts. “And then slowly, I was able to actually read and understand English. I bought these magazines and newspapers and dictionaries, and I was struggling word by word. And I read a lot of books on computers. I was reading so many books, hundreds of them, I'm not exaggerating. I learned the language of programming networks. Once I broke through the barrier of the language, I swallowed in anything I could find about anything, and worked hard,” says Yochay.
He began fixing PCs and then started working on developing software and got his first business break when he met someone who was willing to hire him building business solution software. “I found something I liked. I really liked something that challenged me and gave me satisfaction, and also helped me make a living. But that was years of struggle, I'd say, up until I got to this point where I was actually able to make a decent living,” says Yochay.
In time, he became the CTO of Tchelet Systems in 1998, then moved to Hypermedia in 2004, followed by a consultancy that he founded in 2007, followed by the founding of network software solutions company, Regulas Labs in 2009, prior to cofounding Reblaze in 2011. Yochay is also the creator of Curiefense, the open source cloud native application security platform that protects all forms of web traffic, services, and APIs.
Today, Reblaze is growing fast, serving over 200 clients around the world including the likes of eBay and Forbes, as well as many small and mid-sized companies. “We are in massive growth. We're having this brand-new AI driven platform done, it's already out there in its early versions. And the upcoming versions are fascinating in terms of the capabilities and the power they provide our users to stand against all sort of attacks, sophisticated attacks day to day. And the demand for the service has grown since everything digital is growing around us,” concludes Tochay.