From Hacker to Entrepreneur: Lessons from 5x Founder Oliver Friedrichs


To learn lessons from a 5x founder, click here to watch Oliver Friedrichs’s global keynote.

Serial entrepreneur and investor Oliver Friedrichs can trace his origins to the earliest days of tech when the internet was still in its infancy.  As a hacker turned cybersecurity startup founder, Oliver hasn’t just witnessed the evolution of the cybersecurity landscape, he’s helped shape it. 

“I’ve been in the cybersecurity space since the late 90s. I was a hacker,” Oliver says. “There was this thriving hacker culture that wasn’t revolving around criminal activities like you would see today, like fraud and credit card theft and other types of crimes, but more about exploration.”

While Oliver didn’t have nefarious intentions, he was accessing systems illegally and ultimately came face to face with law enforcement. They gave him two options, use his forces for good and help secure the systems he was hacking, or get arrested.

“That’s how I got into cybersecurity. And it really provided me with a massive opportunity,” Oliver says. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve had the chance to start five companies in the cybersecurity space.” 

Four of those companies have since been acquired by industry giants like McAfee and Symantec. His current endeavor Pangea is a pioneer in the Security Platform as a Service space.

In a global keynote for Founders Network on August 30, Oliver will share the lessons he’s learned as a 5x founder. 

His global keynote will provide insights on:

  • Conception and idea validation
  • Setting the vision
  • Building a team
  • Raising capital

Market Timing

As a 5x founder, Oliver has learned that timing is everything. In 2008 he founded a company called Immunet in the midst of a financial crisis. At the time he was building a product in the antivirus space in a crowded field of 50 other vendors including cybersecurity heavyweights like McAfee and Symantec.  As a result, Immunet failed to stand out against the competition and ultimately he sold the startup for $21 million to SourceFire, a cybersecurity solutions provider. 

“Market timing is always one of the most important things for any company. Your product has to work. It has to be a good product no matter what. But timing is so essential,” Oliver says. “In some cases you could even have success launching a crappy product if you time it right. I would definitely advise against it because it will catch up with you. But there’s a lot of companies that I can think of that have done that. They just were in the right place at the right time.”

Pioneering Tech

While Oliver was too late with Immunet, his next endeavor Phantom Cyber Corporation hit the market too early. That product applied automation to security operations and created a new category in cybersecurity called security orchestration automation and response. By pioneering the category, Phantom Cyber gained notoriety and was ultimately acquired by Splunk, a software company that provides operational intelligence software that monitors, reports, and analyzes real-time machine data.

“We created a whole new category in the cybersecurity space that didn’t exist and it now has 20 other companies in it,” Oliver says. “We were probably two years early, but in this case we created the market because there was a real problem and a real need.”

5x Founder Mistakes

When it comes to founding a successful startup, practice makes perfect. An HBS study found that while first time founders have a 21% chance of succeeding with their company, second time founders who succeeded with their first company have a 30% chance of succeeding in their next company. Additionally, second time founders who failed in their first company have a 22% chance of succeeding with their second. As a 5x founder, Oliver says his greatest lessons came from his mistakes. 

“I’ve learned a lot of what not to do over the last 25 years, which makes doing it easier today,” Oliver says. “Oftentimes it’s knowing what not to do that actually helps you to do the right thing.”

To learn lessons from a 5x founder, click here to watch Oliver Friedrichs’s global keynote.

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