Written by Andrew Seale
Niranjan Mayya got his first taste of working for a major tech firm in 2010 when BlackBerry (RIM at the time) acquired Viigo, the publisher-geared app developing platform where he was working. He climbed the ranks at BlackBerry, moving from content to director of context and analytics, building out the company’s big data strategy along the way.
He learned a lot, including what he didn’t want to do.
“BlackBerry taught me that I really don’t thrive in the big company dynamic… that whole cycle of trying to understand what resonates in a big company and all the championing and politicking you need to do to survive,” says Mayya. “I just wasn’t cut out for it.”
So in 2013 he left BlackBerry and took to chasing projects until it hit him: what he wanted was to be on the frontlines, to be able to build something, to solve a problem.
“Doing it for yourself without all the clutter that comes with a big company is very satisfying because there’s only two people in the ecosystem there – you and your customer,” he says. “You instantly get validation if the customer chooses to buy your services.”
Mayya continued in the big data sphere he’d grown to love, focusing his efforts on building a generic big data platform, which could solve real time analytics at scale. He teamed up with Vinish Kathuria to launch Rank Software in late 2013.
“We were basically in our pajamas in our basements at that point,” he says. “But we were able to land an enterprise customer having never met them.”
The customer was Swisscom, based in Switzerland, which wanted to be able to use big data to sift through network data and identify cyber threats. And just like that, Rank had found its niche.
Today the company offers an enterprise grade analytics and visualization platform for incident response, which includes everything from malware analysis to email screening. It’s well suited to a world where cyber security is a growing threat and Mayya says there’s no illusion in his mind that some day he won’t grow to a size where some of the pain-points he felt at BlackBerry start to seep back in.
In fact, he welcomes a point where Rank becomes a major player in the cyber security market.
“I don’t want to make grandiose pronouncements like I want to be the next BlackBerry or the next Shopify because it’s much too early… but I want to build something long lasting,” he says. “(But) if I put rank on the map, I put Toronto on the map.”
It’s a bold thought, one that feels a bit out-of-place coming from someone who found the politics of a big company overwhelming. But Mayya says he just returned from a trip with Mayor Tory and several other startups to visit the tech ecosystem in Israel and it made him feel like maybe there’s a bigger role for him to play as a startup evangelist.
“(Israel does) an absolutely amazing job of selling their country and selling their ecosystem,” says Mayya. “When people talk about startups they talk about Silicon Valley and Israel and maybe Boston and New York but they don’t talk about Toronto – they should, and it’s up to us to change that… we need to start telling our story in a much louder voice.”
StartUp Spotlight on: Toronto’s Cybersecurity Sector
Check out the other pieces in our spotlight to learn about the Toronto-based cybersecurity companies that are leading the global push toward a safe, reliable digital world.