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Jack Naglieri - Founder & CEO, Panther Labs, angel investor in runZero, Fleet DM, ConductorOne, Tromzo

This interview is part of our Infra Angel Spotlight series where we showcase some of the best angel investors in the infrastructure IT and cyber-security space and how they help founders build the next generation of modern software companies.

Dan Nguyen-Huu spoke to Jack Naglieri, founder & CEO of Panther Labs, a cybersecurity company which has raised over $100M in venture capital to modernize how security teams detect and respond to incidents.

Jack shared with us his experience of expanding his role from founder / operator to angel investor in various startups in and around the security and dev tool environment.

Jack, tell us about Panther Labs and your founder journey!

I started Panther back in 2018, born out of my frustrations as a security practitioner at Airbnb and Yahoo. I spent my entire career in security engineering and incident response, and it was clear that our current tooling wasn’t built to withstand the needs of security teams in a modern cloud era.

That’s why we designed Panther to fundamentally reinvent SIEM in a scalable and cloud-native context so that modern security teams can answer questions quickly, detect truly suspicious activity, ingest all helpful and contextual signals at any scale, and protect their organization’s ability to achieve their mission.

I went from being a practitioner to a first-time founder because I wanted to solve hard security problems and alleviate pain from many teams. I had to learn a lot along the way (and still learn more daily). After all, there’s no training on how to be a founder.

My first exposure to angel investors was through raising capital to build the company. They helped me immensely in growing as a founder and setting Panther on the right trajectory early on.

How did you get into angel investing?

I started angel investing initially because mutual investors brought me in to help early founders. They’d introduce me to new companies and suggest that I might be able to help as an angel, operating a startup that’s several stages ahead. It was a new and invigorating experience being on the other side since working with angels helped me save time and make the right decisions early, and I hoped to pass on that knowledge to other early companies.

As a founder, your cap table should include angels with diverse backgrounds and operating experiences. Having a good mix of current and ex-operators is essential for balanced advice.  

Ex-operators that have gone through a long journey with a successful outcome like an IPO or acquisition are incredibly helpful for long-term strategic advice, helping you plan for scale, laying out a mature executive team, or building a winning and enduring culture.

As a current operator, my advice for founders is perhaps a bit different in that I’m in tune with current conditions in the capital market, emerging technologies, and customer sentiment. Many of the more tactical problems that founders are facing, like bringing on their first marketing hire, might be ones I’ve just recently encountered.

What do you look for in founding teams?

I’m drawn to great people solving big problems in one of my domains of expertise! After all, who you’ll work with is an important element of making a good investment decision because of the permanence of the decision.

There are also questions that I ask myself. How intimately does the team understand this problem? How are they building something that solves it? These are all important considerations when I’m deciding on investments.

Of course, I also make a lot of investments in the security space because it’s a landscape I know well. I’m aware of the existing problems in this space and can easily suss out which ideas and solutions show promise based on my first-hand experience as a practitioner.

What value do you try to add as an angel investor?

I tell founders they can reach out to me whenever they need to discuss anything. If their questions warrant us hopping on the phone for 20 minutes, I try to make myself available. In the early days of Panther, the angels who would always answer the phone during intense moments were the ones who ended up giving me the most help. Responsiveness meant a lot to me back then and provided a lot of value.

The areas that I cover when working with founders range from company building, raising capital, strategic partnerships, product direction, and more. Sometimes, it’s simply being there for them during the emotional rollercoaster of running a startup and the uncertainty that comes with it. Being a founder can be lonely, and having a strong support network of angels in your corner that have gone through the experience is extremely helpful.

What are some trends you are seeing that you would like to invest in right now?

The two general areas I like right now are developer-oriented security and further abstraction of software development. I also have a big affinity for startups built by ex-practitioners who want to solve a pain point they experienced in their careers. This usually leads to a high level of product knowledge and customer empathy. A good example here would be my investment in Tromzo, which focuses on contextual-based vulnerabilities in the software delivery pipeline and was founded by Harshil Parikh, a prior security leader at Medallia.  

There’s also a trend in security to build products solving more granular problems, like ConductorOne, which is creating time-bound permissions that people have built on top of identity platforms, and runZero, a cyber-asset management platform that lets you gain deeper visibility on all your assets on your network that you may or may not know about.

As I go through my own founder journey, I’m excited to partner with fellow infra, IT, and security founders who want to reinvent the future. Being a founder can be challenging at times, but it’s also a ton of fun when you have the right people around the table, and I’m excited to share more of my learnings with founders!