A Slice on Manav Mital, Founder and CEO of Cyral
Manav Mital is originally from India, in his native tongue, the word Cyral is derived from the word “saral” which means “simple”. On a quest to make a company and product that was easy and simple to work with, Manav co-founded Cyral, a security as a code software company that helps teams observe, control, and protect the most sensitive data. Prior to this venture, Mital immigrated to the U.S. in his early twenties to pursue a degree in computer science. “I have a computer science background, both by training and by education. I came to the U.S. several years ago to receive my Master’s in computer science at UCLA, and worked at Yahoo for a little bit after that.”
Prior to leaving his job at Yahoo, he began work for Aster Data, at the time, a big player in the data space that would eventually get acquired. Mital however, gained more than just experience at his time with Aster Data, he met his future co-founder. Mital met fellow engineer Srini Vadlamani essentially on his first day of the job. Mital recalls him and Vadlamani as recruits number 30 and 31, so basically back to back. He shared that while they’ve worked together for a couple of years, they’ve managed to stay close over the last 10 years. “Even though we were working on different things, we used to get together and exchange notes. In 2018, I was exiting my first startup and so was Srini [Vadlamani]. Cyral was driven by our goal of wanting to work with each other. It almost didn’t matter what we decided to do next, as long as we were together.”
Although Mital wasn’t alone in his entrepreneurial journey, that didn’t eliminate the harsh truth that there is always a personal risk that founders sign up for. Mital would go as far as to say that there’s also financial, opportunity and reputation risk. While the Bay Area is often coined as an “entrepreneurship-friendly” place, the risk of failure is so high that Mital shared it “can become a burden”. As if the journey of being a full-time entrepreneur wasn’t enough for Mital, he shared that their greatest risk actually had more to do with one particular bet. “The biggest bet that we made [in 2018], was that big and small companies alike would embrace an automated infrastructure coding approach to manage how they provision their infrastructure, how they deploy their services and how they orchestrate all their workflows.” He went on to add that they have seen this bet pay off, as companies with small teams, all the way up to 10,000-person enterprises are needing to provision services and their data management workflows. Mital feels confident that they have built a product that is “horizontal” in nature and can serve such a wide range of customers. “Even though the company is young and in its early stages, the evidence we have seen for that is very encouraging.”
Speaking of varying company size, Mital shared another obstacle he faced when getting Cyral off the ground, hiring talent. He noted locating the right people is an obstacle any company faces regardless of size. Mital was focused on creating an environment in which his employees would be productive, successful and happy. Something Mital couldn’t predict, however, was the COVID-19 pandemic. With companies transitioning to a remote work situation, Mital expressed the difficulties he experienced: trying to get new team members on board and on the same page in a remote environment. “For us, that has been a big challenge, especially as a remote-first company while creating new departments, introducing entirely new functional roles, creating new leaders and getting people to collaborate with each other.”
When Mital looks back at his career as an entrepreneur, he reflects on how every day is different, and how the role of CEO/Founder is fluid and changes as a company scales.
“As an entrepreneur, especially as the Founder and CEO, the company scales very rapidly right under your feet. Every two months your job description and your day-to-day look very different. Decisions get increasingly harder because you have to make decisions based on data, which is something we’re increasingly removed from. When it’s just you and your co-founders, everything is in front of your eyes and you can do a lot of fact-based analysis. As the company grows, everything gets muddy so you have to make decisions under uncertainty.”
Manav Mital received his Bachelor’s from the Indian Institute of Technology, and his Master’s from the University of California Los Angeles, both in Computer Science. He later held engineering roles at Yahoo and Aster Data before founding his first company, Instart Logic where he stayed for over 10 years. Mital now is Founder and CEO of Cyral located in the Bay Area. Connect with Mital on LinkedIn.