The future of cybersecurity VC investing with Lightspeed’s Arif Janmohamed

There are two types of enterprise startups: those that create value and those that protect value. Cybersecurity is most definitely part of the latter group, and as a vertical, it has sprawled the past few years as the scale of attacks on companies, organizations, and governments has continuously expanded.

That may be a constant threat for the executives of major companies, but for cybersecurity VCs who pick the right startup targets for investment, it’s a potential gold mine. Here at Extra Crunch, we compiled a list of top VCs who have invested in cybersecurity and enterprise more broadly and asked them what’s interesting in the space these days. We compiled ten of their responses as part of our investor survey and you should definitely take a look for their interesting takes on the space.

But we wanted to go a bit deeper on the topic to learn more about what’s happening right now in cybersecurity. So today, we talk with Arif Janmohamed of Lightspeed Venture Partners, one of the leading investors at one of the top enterprise VC firms in the world. He’s invested in companies ranging from cloud-access security broker Netskope and search analytics platform ThoughtSpot to Qubole (big data analytics), Nutanix (hyper-converged infrastructure), and (cyber risk management).

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Arif Janmohamed. Image via Lightspeed Venture Partners

TechCrunch’s security guru Zack Whittaker, managing editor Danny Crichton and operations editor Arman Tabatabai sat down with him to discuss what he’s seeing at the earliest stages in cybersecurity, which trends are being ignored by the industry and what he sees as the future of security in an always-changing present.

Introduction and Background

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Danny Crichton: Let’s start with a bit of your background.

Arif Janmohamed: Sure. I’m on the early-stage side, so I have the most fun when I’m working with founders at the very earliest stages of company formation, where I can focus on company design, product and go-to-market and then find the right balance of teams to fill that out.

I’m on the board of Netskope, which is a cloud-security company. That one I did the Series B back in 2013. I’m on the board of TripActions, which is a corporate travel company, I did that one and then led the Series A and the Series B. I’m on the board of Moveworks, which is an AI engine for IT that was seeded by me and then I’ve supported them through their subsequent financing. I’m also on the board of a number of other companies.

Am I purely security-focused? The answer is no, I’m very much enterprise-focused. Security in my mind really fits within that rubric of the enterprise stack that’s getting rebuilt for a cloud-first world.

What’s snake oil and what has real value?

Zack Whittaker: So I’ve got a question that I just want to jump right in with. I’m always curious about this, especially when it comes to the very early stage, how do you go about distinguishing between potential snake oil and the things that seem really viable in the security world?