The Future Is Now: Etai Hochman of Mirato On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
Be prepared to disappoint everybody, including yourself. You will always want to achieve and do more. I want to spend more time with my wife, I want to spend more time with my daughters, I want to build more features, I want to learn more about a new industry, I want to spend more time with our customers. More. More. More. I want to do all of that, but I cannot. Understanding this is key for expectation management.
As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Etai Hochman, co-founder and CTO of Mirato.
Etai Hochman is the co-founder and CTO of Mirato, a recognized technology and innovation leader in the field of third-party risk management for the financial industry. Etai has successfully broken norms across a wide range of industries, from improving academic education for gifted children in mathematics (Bar Ilan University Israel) to optimizing the radio networks of the world’s largest mobile operators (Intucell, acquired by Cisco) to unlocking a new breed of cyber insurance for enterprises (founder of At-Bay). While still in high school, Etai earned a B.Sc. in mathematics from Bar Ilan University before enlisting to serve in the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, where he worked for six years creating a strategic cyberinfrastructure that unlocked new operational capabilities for Israel. During his tenure, he also completed an MBA from Tel Aviv University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I think I was eight or nine when I got my first computer. From the very first time I saw a computer at my cousin’s house, I really loved it — it was like a magic machine to me. In Hebrew, the computer is mechashev, and a magician is mechashef. I drew the connection immediately between these two words and their meanings.
I had always had an affinity for numbers and methodology, and this new machine was exciting and magical to me. My family called it “breaking the box” whenever I would think of a new way to approach something or if I found a way to solve a problem around the house. I learned how to code when I was ten, and it came very naturally to me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Early in my career, a manager challenged me to identify and solve a unique customer problem. I needed to find something we were not even aware of yet and outline a solution within an aggressive timeline — three weeks or less.
I hit the road, flying across the U.S. to meet with a variety of our customers in NY, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. I spent the day with the customers’ engineers, following them through how they used our products and what type of challenges and opportunities they faced. As a former software engineer turned product manager, I knew our products backward and forward, but did I truly understand how our customers were using them?
I returned to the office and worked for 48 hours straight on a prototype for a new product, which was eventually approved. We built it and shipped it, and it quickly had a significant impact on our business unit’s goals for sales and customer satisfaction. We won an award, and this project helped inspire other customer-focused programs throughout the company. My technical background helped me connect with our users and draw feedback from them in a way our other executives had not yet been able to do.
After this project, I became an entrepreneur. I had a voice that I did not have before, and I was able to understand the things that I could do that no one else could. In short, this experience taught me that my technical understanding and ability to explain solutions in a format that could be digested by executives would be a key part of my success moving forward.
Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
In today’s fast-moving global economy, organizations are finding themselves increasingly reliant on third-party partnerships in order to remain competitive. These suppliers open the organization to additional risk, which is managed in a third-party risk management (TPRM) program. These programs in large organizations typically use outdated technologies, which results in significant human time and effort spent on manual processes.
At Mirato, we empower risk managers to leverage new advanced technologies to apply a greater level of automation and intelligence to highly manual TPRM processes. Cognitive computing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) are used to augment TPRM and power performance alongside human thought processes and traditional analytics. We leverage the efficiencies gained by other known methodologies such as intelligence gathering, data analysis and software development to improve upon an organization’s existing TPRM program.
How do you think this might change the world?
The secret sauce at Mirato is our ability to understand risk processes and build automation to make these important functions more efficient and effective. We empower very smart people to focus on high-value work, without having to waste time on redundant tasks and data administration.
We are focused on financial services today, but this type of automation in risk management applies to other verticals. For example, the automobile industry relies on thousands upon thousands of third-party suppliers at every stage of production and distribution. Helping to mitigate risk in this industry could have a direct influence on performance and consumer safety. This technology also has the potential to expand into industries such as healthcare, where it could have a very positive impact.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Some readers might hear the phrase “automation” and assume that this will replace humans in the risk management field. We do not see that happening at all. This type of technology is helping risk management teams enable their people to do what machines cannot do, and not waste their time going back again and again to an assessment questionnaire or a business continuity plan. Instead, the addition of this technology allows these risk professionals to focus on the more challenging work of mitigation planning, scenario development and other more advanced functions of their profession.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
My entire background led me to this. When I was a software engineer and algorithms developer in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), an elite intelligence unit in Israel, I was learning many different aspects of risk and cyber risk management. I took what I learned in the Army and went to work analyzing cellular networks, where I assessed these vast networks from a bird’s eye perspective — looking for the geographical places where we might have the most risk of failure in the network, fix it automatically and monitor to make sure nothing deteriorated, all using sophisticated AI. I then moved into the insurance industry for a time, where I was managing the risk of loss from cyber-attacks. Then I moved into building this infrastructure at Mirato that is designed from the ground up to allow organizations to decide how they want to manage risk. I have taken everything I learned before and helped to create a powerful risk management infrastructure to benefit our clients.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We are always eager to add new design partners. I give a lot of credit to our earliest intellectual design partners, who got us to an amazing product. As we continue to build more applications on top of our infrastructure, this group continues to be very important to us.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
An innovative marketing strategy that we have used is our design partnership program. The design partnership program has helped us get the word out to key partners and potential customers and demonstrate Mirato’s value quickly.
By allowing people into your initial processes and design exploration, you are able to delve much deeper into your customers’ needs and wants than what your early research, surveys and other market investigations can possibly uncover.
Invite people in and show them your product very early. Then iterate based on their insights.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The network we have in Israel is quite amazing. My career would not have been possible without it. From my friends in the Army and at university, to the supportive networks I found at my earlier companies, I am really grateful for the friends I’ve made in these different types of organizations.
There are so many people I should thank, and that I do thank whenever I can! One story I can share is from when I worked under Lior Div, a cybersecurity industry luminary. I was on a new project, and Lior asked me to “make a plan,” and I did not know how to get started. I was missing key information and it was my first time creating a plan of this type. I went back and told him I did not know where to begin, which was a difficult thing for me to admit! He reassured me and offered this advice, “If you do not know how to make a plan, make a plan on how to make a plan.” He offered such a simple tip — realizing that everyone does not always have all of the answers — and this has guided me several times throughout my career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
While I am still very much a student of entrepreneurism, one area where I actively give back is in our schools. A good education is critical to success. I was fortunate to have amazing teachers from who I learned a tremendous amount. Everyone should have that same opportunity, but the reality is that we are not quite there yet.
I volunteer to teach math and computer science at the high school level. I wish I had more time, but for now, I do what I can. It has been rewarding from the very beginning. I remember reconnecting with some of the students in my very first math class a few years later, and they shared what an impact I had on them. One even went on to pursue a very unique role in the military, indicating how my experience had inspired him to pursue that opportunity. While I started as a volunteer to give back to these kids, they end up rewarding me, too.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Be prepared to disappoint everybody, including yourself. You will always want to achieve and do more. I want to spend more time with my wife, I want to spend more time with my daughters, I want to build more features, I want to learn more about a new industry, I want to spend more time with our customers. More. More. More. I want to do all of that, but I cannot. Understanding this is key for expectation management.
- Learn to manage urgency versus importance. We cannot do everything for everyone, so learn to weigh each item’s urgency and its importance to your broader goals.
- Embrace feedback and learn from it. It is easy to get defensive when someone comes to you with feedback, but do not let pride get in the way of hearing — and ultimately embracing — good feedback from well-meaning people.
- Scale at pace. It is tempting to want to grow quickly, especially when you build something people want, that fills a need, that solves a problem. However, you can quickly dilute your value if you spread out functionality and features to try and please too many different types of users too quickly. Stick to your original targets and grow only when you are ready.
- Hire the best people and make sure they become better. I cannot say this enough. I have been very lucky to find the best people, and I owe our success to their excellence. The second part is equally if not more important. Once you are in this partnership, it is your privilege and obligation to help your partners evolve and become the best version they aspire. This is a story I like very much. Assaf, our research & development director at Mirato, is the best engineer I have ever met, an inspirational leader and an amazing enabler to his peers. All that, and he has been my best friend for the last 15 years. Our commitment to each other is to stop at nothing, including hard feedback, to make sure we are better versions of ourselves every day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Our education system needs an evolution. I do not have the answer, but it is clear the entire education system across the world needs more investment — money, talent and ideas. We need to invest more in our children’s future. I will continue to do my best to help on a local level. One of my dreams is to take a year off from work and take my family on a trip around the world where I would develop a unique curriculum for my girls. I would work in local information and travel-based knowledge that could create a deep set of meaningful lessons, and they would be able to take these learnings with them through their entire lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing is free, not even a kick in a**.” My grandfather told me that. Everything you get, you get for a reason, good or bad. He encouraged all of us to work hard for everything we earn. A negative experience will make us stronger if we learn from it. If we earn praise, it was deserved, and it might get you to the next step or earn you a new tool you needed. Understand the reason, learn from it and move on.
My grandfather passed away 25 years ago, and I have seen this lesson proved to be right over and over during this time.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
What we do at Mirato has not been done before. We are taking thoughtfulness, experience and know-how from different industries — cybersecurity, big data, risk management, artificial intelligence, business analytics and data analytics — and bringing it into the management of big risk processes at scale and at depth. It is effective because our technological capabilities are designed to distinguish entities, controls, people and locations automatically. We enable risk managers to focus on what they are good at. With this, we believe we can change an $8 billion TPRM market and own 25 percent of it. In fact, 50 percent of the TPRM market today is human labor and we are focused on optimizing output from that group.
Beyond the risk management issues, we also bring the best talent to the table. Mirato has strong relationships, which we have built on trust and excellence. We know each other, care about each other and drive each other to be better, every single day.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. I am busy building, so your readers should also follow Mirato, where we are much more active on social media! Follow Mirato on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The Future Is Now: Etai Hochman of Mirato On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.