Monday, April 20, 2015

Cloudless Skies: On Leaving Team Revolar

On Wednesday, April 15th, I officially left the Revolar team. Though the execution of my decision was swift, I had been contemplating it for several weeks, but, not for the usual reasons you might find on a "I was part of a start up" blog. There was no animosity, or even frustration, involved in the decision. Rather, it was a growing realization that the paths that Jacqueline and I had envisioned for the company were growing more and more disparate. In this case, however, that is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it will benefit both of us substantially.

As most of my friends and peers know, I was one of the first information security researchers to dive into the Internet of Things (IoT) space seven years ago. I've been blessed to be a part of ground breaking research focused on both attacking and defending IoT for that period of time. My experience in the embedded systems engineering space extends even further to the early 2000's, when, for a brief period, I focused on firmware reverse engineering and attacking IEEE1275 systems on SPARC and Mac platforms.

As a result of these experiences, I wanted to build technology that could solve the issues I kept seeing over and over in consumer technology. While industrial environments are equally as plagued by security risks, it is the consumer space where we are going to see risks grow from "Ack, someone stole my credit card number" to "Can we trust our car not to veer off a cliff?" (Hi Charlie and Chris). This dramatic shift in the capability of digital systems still has yet to be addressed in any viable shape or form. While we are seeing standards initiatives being launched in the IoT and Machine to Machine (M2M) spaces, it will take a significant amount of time for new (and existing) companies to adopt or adhere to these standards.

That, for me, is where Revolar came into play. I saw the Revolar personal safety device as an exceptional example of a device that required a whole new level of information security integration. Jacqueline, being an intelligent and adaptable entrepreneur, immediately saw the viability of a partnership between us. Jackie and her team would define the business practice for the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the personal safety device, and I would re-design the technology on which it should be built, and integrate my existing Internet of Things security platform as a way of addressing potential security risks, while creating viable licensing opportunities. It seemed like a perfect fit.

Over time, however, we found that our vision for the organization evolved in different directions. While I was more interested in creating a research and development product team, Jackie became more interested in developing within the personal safety space. While these things are not entirely separate from each other, the underlying logistics and strategies for the business models deviate substantially. I started to realize I was pulling her in a direction that was distracting her from her original goal: simply helping people with straight-forward technology.

Thus, after a few discussions with my lawyer team, and a few more calls with the exceptional members of the Lab Mouse Security board of advisers, it made sense that if we were growing two separate trees in one ceramic pot, either the pot would shatter, or one tree should be replanted. I chose to preemptively plant myself back in the Lab Mouse pot.

For transparency, however, I will openly admit that I left the organization without asking for equity or a return on my time. There are several very important reasons for this. First and foremost, I did not want to take capital away from the team when they are in a critical juncture financially. As most of my peers know, my hourly consulting rate is a fair one, but our industry as a whole is expensive. If I were to forego equity and ask for a return on my time as a consultant, it would take a significant toll on the Revolar team in the middle of a critical round of funding.

Secondly, I refused to push for equity as a return on my time because of the implication of holding stock in an organization that I have no influence in. Since I will not be developing the Revolar technology, cloud infrastructure, or communications protocol, I cannot in good conscience profit from a consumer offering whose security model I have not been able to audit or design. That said, I know the Revolar team is exceptionally talented, intelligent, and resourceful, and will do everything in their power to release a product that addresses consumer safety effectively.

Overall, I have to say that this was one of my most favorite business experiences. I learned an exceptional amount from the Revolar team in these months, and I am proud to have been a part of their growth, even for a small period of time. I wish them nothing but the best, and hope to see them all succeed in their goal of bringing safety technology to the consumer market in the near future.

Best wishes for a brilliant flight,

Don A. Bailey
Lab Mouse Security