Dubai-based cybersecurity startup, AHAD on expansion mode

Interviews Startups

Rohan Daniel Nair, the Founder & Chief Operating Officer for a Dubai-based cybersecurity startup, AHAD walks us through his journey as an entrepreneur and shares his experience to create a successful and profitable company that has grown by 400%

What is AHAD and what was the driving factor to launch the company?
AHAD was launched at the peak of the pandemic in November 2020. Despite businesses closing due to covid, we saw an opportunity to launch AHAD to fight against cybercrime and leave a positive impact on businesses, helping them safeguard their operations and critical assets across the globe.

The launch of AHAD during the COVID-19 period was driven by the escalating number and complexity of cyber-attacks, highlighting the urgent need for stronger cybersecurity measures. The World Economic Forum revealed a staggering $6 trillion in losses caused by cybercrime, emphasizing the critical nature of this issue. With the rise of digitalization and the increasing amount of sensitive data being stored and shared online, there has been a corresponding increase in the frequency and severity of cyber-attacks. This has created a need for effective and reliable cybersecurity services & solutions, which is where AHAD stepped to securely transform organisation by providing them with the tools and expertise needed to become cyber resilient.

In addition to this, AHAD also offered a range of other offering including red team engagement, vulnerability management, penetration testing (PT), adversary simulation, incident response (IR). As an early-stage start-up these offerings provide clients with a full suite of offensive security solutions that helped organizations identify and mitigate risky vulnerabilities before they are exploited by attackers, while ensuring that they were compliant with the latest industry standards.

What inspired you to choose the name AHAD?
In Arabic, “AHAD” means “One” or “Unique”. As a company, we have been unique in our cybersecurity offering to customers. With great expertise in threat intelligence and offensive security capabilities, we managed to win large enterprise and government customers in the first year of the company formation. In the last 2 years we now have 45+ customers who are using our services & solutions to protect their data and networks from cyber-attacks. We are proud of the fact that we have managed to disrupt the traditional system integration space and contributed to the way companies approached cybersecurity.

How did you raised the capital to fund this venture?
As a bootstrapped company, we have already achieved profitability and 400% revenue growth, which has attracted the attention of exciting investors. We are now in the process of opening our seed round and have already had promising discussions with potential investors. Our goal is to complete the seed round by Q2, 2023, allowing us to bring in additional funding and accelerate our growth trajectory.

What challenges did you faced in the initial phase of your startup and how did you overcome them?
We knew that launching a startup in Covid time was going to be a challenge. But when we saw the skills and expertise of our founding partners and the team, we knew that we could overcome any hurdles and accomplish anything. And we did! We won major customer details in two years, despite being up against established players in the UAE region.

Cybersecurity is a crowded space, what is your strategy to find your niche and how do you intend to grow?
The competition in cybersecurity is fierce, but there are so many opportunities for innovation. As AHAD we initially focused on being a pure-play cybersecurity company known for its offensive security and intelligence capabilities alongside providing strategic advisory, consulting, design, implementation, and comprehensive security assessments to help organizations identify critical risks and become cyber resilient.

Intelligence, offensive security, and expertise on regulatory compliance to assess the risks and demonstrate compliance against mandatory compliance regulations, data protection and legal specifications, were some our niche offering which most of the established players didn’t have the skill sets.

We focused on our technical reports which are the best in the industry. Each is customized to the specific scope of the engagement and outlines any perceived vulnerabilities that we have discovered. The reports are designed to be easily digestible but complete in the findings, giving both the exploitation likelihood and potential impact for each vulnerability. In addition, each vulnerability includes a remediation strategy for mitigating the risk associated with the risk.

Since the launch of AHAD, how has been the reaction from the market?
Since its launch in Nov 2020, AHAD has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the UAE market. We are proud to report that we have already garnered 45+ customers from all major industry verticals, including government, healthcare, telecom, BFSI, and large enterprises. This enthusiastic market response is a testament to the effectiveness of AHAD in helping businesses protect their cybersecurity landscape.

We are always looking for new ways to increase our product value proposition for clients. We do this by working on adding new features to their existing product offerings, or by creating a new solutions offering altogether. This helps us to grow with the market and ensure we are delivering a solution that is relevant now and into the future.

During the course of our journey till now, we have also managed to collect several accolades and some of them are:

  • Got selected by DTEC (Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus), to be a part of the Sandbox program.
  • Selected among the Top 100 Companies out of 30,000+ Participants competing from 200+ countries for the ongoing Entrepreneurship World Cup as a Global Finalist.
  • Won the Entrepreneurship World Cup 2022 UAE finals.
  • Won DTEC (Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus) Innovative Company of the Year Award 2022
  • Were invited to be part of Demo Day and present at Step Conference MENA’s largest Startup and & Investor meetup

What is your key market at present and how have you grown since you started your company?
We are currently in UAE region and aim to expand in Saudi in 2023. The growth since our inception in Nov, 2020 has been incredible, but our goal is to be expand into the Middle East, Levant and Africa region by 2025.

What are your plans for this year?
The year is going to be a busy one for us at AHAD! We’ve got a lot of exciting things planned, which includes launching AHAD in Saudi region shortly. This year, we also plan to roll out our managed security offering. We’ll be providing the full spectrum of cyber defences covering—identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

We’re going to continue working on our the AHAD B2B cybersecurity marketplace product line. This year, we’re going to focus on making it more accessible and user-friendly and add new features to the platform.

What has been your biggest learning as an entrepreneur?
I have learned that every day is a chance to learn. Every day, we find ourself in situations where we can take away something new and useful for our business.

Also, it is important to have the right founding partners and team. It’s easy to get caught up in your own ideas, but if you don’t have people who can bring different perspectives and skills to the table, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Kindly offer your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and startups.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut when working as a new startup, so make sure to spend time with other people who share your interests so that they can challenge your thinking and keep things fresh!

Don’t be afraid to ask for advise or ideas as a new entrepreneur. People are usually more willing to offer advise than you think, and it’s always better to seek advise when you need it than to try to figure everything out on your own.

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