Karishma Sewduth interviews Mari-Louise Labuschagne, co-founder of Port443 to understand her journey , the future of South African cyber industry, and what opportunities Israeli cyber-tech holds for the SA ecosystem.

KS: Give us a background about Port443?

ML: Port443 is a cybersecurity company operating across the Middle East and Africa offering services to all market segments. We believe that security should be readily accessible, affordable and always ahead of the ever-evolving threat landscape. Our core platform is a SOAR (security orchestration, automation and remediation) platform on top of which we offer automations “as a service” across multiple security controls and across multiple security technologies. The automations augment security engineering teams, introducing efficiency and speed in reacting to IOCs and a focus on continual hardening of the existing security controls.

After being responsible for the deployment and operationalization of SOAR platforms across MEA – I realized there was a need in the market for SOAR “as a service”. The technology is new, expensive and the skills are hard to come by. To this extent, I wanted to build a business that brought the power of next generation cyber security platforms to the broader market. Providing it at a price point that was conducive across MEA, on a consumptive basis so organizations can consume exactly what they need. Building a software development company in a niche, fast growing yet incredibly important industry led me to start up Port443.

KS: What interesting comparisons can you draw between Israel and its booming start-up scene, and SA and its rapidly growing Cyber sector?

ML: South Africa – as well as the rest of Africa – I believe – has a great appetite for new innovative technology. South Africa is often identified as the launchpad for emerging companies and technologies to break into the rest of Africa. In a similar way that Israel is a launchpad for emerging companies and technologies into the rest of the world. Just like Israeli companies, South African companies have aspirations to make their mark known outside of our immediate borders. It has been forecasted that six of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa (Word Economic Forum), all with a GDP growth rate in excess of 6%. In a similar fashion to how Israeli start-ups see tremendous growth outside of their own borders, so too does South African start-ups. Globally, any country that has significant growth attract nefarious actors and as such, cyber security should always be top of mind.

KS: Please tell us about your relationship with the Trade Mission in SA, and your experience doing business with Israel.

ML: We have been very fortunate to have a great relationship with the Israeli Trade mission, which as an organisation, has been excellent at facilitating introductions between ourselves and Israeli technology companies.

KS: Did you find the Trade Mission helpful towards finding success in your business?

ML: It was actually though an event organised by the Trade Mission that I first got introduced to SOAR technology 4 years ago. As Port443 is a SOAR as a service provider – I would say that it has been a very successful interaction.

KS: What do you think the Israeli ecosystem can learn or gain from SA?

ML: At Port443 we focus a lot of our time on innovations that will allow us to offer services that are priced appropriately for our market. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for new technologies coming into our market is the price point. At our core – we believe that every business – big or small – who wish to do so – should have access to affordable cyber security solutions. Further to this, one must be mindful of not painting the entire continent with the same “brush”. In Africa, there are 54 countries, each with their own legislative, economic and cultural differences. Being cognizant of the currency volatility as it relates to USD denominated services / products and the vast difference when it comes to the relative maturity of the underlying technology infrastructure are all considerations that need to be taken into account. It has often been said that if a new product / service can successfully work in some countries in Africa, the supposition is that it can work mostly anywhere in the world given the vast challenges faced. Many countries in Africa tend to lag technological adoption and when they are ready, they tend to leapfrog the rest of the world. This presents a massive opportunity if the timing is right.

KS: Any last things you would like to share with us, tips for other cyber related companies here in SA in working with Israel.

ML: As above:

·        Price is a consideration

·        Tolerance and patience to lag and then leapfrog technology

·        Currency volatility

·        Robustness of the services given the infrastructure related challenges

·        Treat each country as an individual and materially different country, notwithstanding the similarities that might present themselves on the surface

KS: Would you recommend other entities in SA to work with the Trade Mission?

ML: Most certainly, there is always benefit to be gained from being exposed to emerging and best of breed technology. Trying to engage directly with multiple organizations in Israel can prove to be difficult. Navigation of the Israeli cyber security (and other industry) organizations is better facilitated via the Trade Mission. The Mission is also good at ensuring there is benefit that flows in both directions.