Security Now a 'Board-Level' Issue: Venture Capitalist

Steve Herrod, a former VMware CTO and now a venture capitalist, discusses what he's investing in today and why security is his top priority.

security investment

Steve Herrod knows a thing or two about finding and creating technology innovation.

Herrod worked at virtualization innovator VMware from 2001 until 2013, with the last five years of his tenure there as CTO and senior vice president of R&D. Since leaving VMware in February 2013, Herrod has been a managing director at venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners looking for the next big enterprise technology innovation.

"I'm still a technologist first and an investor second," Herrod told eWEEK. "I'm spending a lot of time finding the groups that are tackling the really thorny problems in enterprise infrastructure."

Herrod has been spending a lot of time with Google and Facebook, as a way to help predict the way that the rest of the world will follow from a technology standpoint. In particular, Herrod said he really likes Facebook's new motto of, "move fast, but with stable infrastructure."

There are now three primary activities on every CIO's agenda, he said. The first is the cloud and determining where and how application workloads will be deployed. How to enable mobile for all types of environments is another key CIO activity. Security is another primary activity for CIOs that Herrod is interested in.

How Herrod is able to find new technologies and entrepreneurs is all about what he referred to as "Silicon Valley karma."

"If you go out and help lots of different groups and consult with them, then ultimately, good things happen around the corner," Herrod said. "So it's all about having an opinion, and then people will come up to me and bring interesting ideas."

Most of the companies Herrod is investing in have not yet finished their products, but they do have a strong passion for what they are building. He likes to get involved with the engineering teams early on to help organizations think about what a 1.0 release and the future road map might look like.

One of the companies Herrod is invested in is Illumio, which is still in stealth mode. Herrod likes companies that take the stealth approach, as it allows them to figure out what the technology is about and not confuse the market.

General Catalyst Partners led a $34 million Series B round of investment in Illumio in September 2013. Total funding for Illumio currently stands at $42.5 million.

"Illumio has all the things that I look for," Herrod said. "They're tackling a really nasty problem in security that fits with where the world is going."

The team behind Illumio is also very solid and includes former VMware, Juniper and McAfee staffers, Herrod said.

"Security is my top investment focus right now," Herrod said. "I believe that it is the right time for increased investment in security for many reasons."

One of those reasons is the simple fact that the value of technology assets that hackers can break into is growing. At VMware, Herrod was aware of many security risks and attackers trying to gain access—with increasing levels of sophistication.

"Security has now absolutely become a board-level conversation, where CEOs are held responsible for customer credit cards and the information they hold," Herrod said. "As a board-level issue, security has also become a higher priority issue, as well."

Herrod looks back fondly on his days as VMware's CTO and thought very carefully before moving to his current career as a venture capitalist. "Being the CTO of a company like VMware is the perfect background for being a venture capitalist," Herrod said.

The things that he enjoys most are spending time with great companies and people, while trying to come up with an opinion on where the world will be three years from now. "I'm absolutely loving it; I'm spending my time meeting optimistic, aggressive people that have strong opinions on where the world is going," Herrod said. "It's pretty invigorating."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.