Suzanne Magee is the co-founder and chief evangelist officer of Bandura Systems. Chris Fedde is the company’s CEO. Headquartered in Columbia, MD and Lake St. Louis, MO, Bandura Systems is the creator of the PoliWall® TIG™ (Threat Intelligence Gateway), a comprehensive security platform designed to help enterprise and government networks combat emerging cyber threats. The company’s first TIG was developed for the US Department of Defense. Now, Bandura offers its automated, scalable product to businesses, agencies, and institutions seeking to protect their sensitive data without diverting staff resources.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Suzanne, can you tell us about starting the company? When did you enter the world of cyber security?
SUZANNE MAGEE: I became interested in the internet in the early 90s, when it was a communication between the universities, sort of a DOS prompt, and you’d just type some things in. I was really fascinated with how that was so easy to use, so quick to connect around the country. Then I started working in the late 90s for another entrepreneurial company that was putting websites up quickly, as that became the storefront for companies. I was doing business development for them, and I came across the SANS organization in cyber security, and I said to the founders of the company—I was working in the dotcom boom, before the dot bomb, 1999 until right at the beginning of 2000—“you better put some security in place if you’re going to take credit cards on your websites that you’re putting up.” Well, they weren’t interested in the cyber security, network security space at the time, so I said, “I learned more about security from SANS, and this presidential directive to secure the critical infrastructure of the United States and that it was going to take the private sector working with the public sector in order to do that, because the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines could not protect us from cyber attack.” So, I said, “I am going to leave this company and I’m going to go start a company just focused on addressing that mission.” We founded TechGuard Security then in February of 2000 in my basement in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.
We developed some technology at TechGuard in part with the Department of Defense. We were working with them to solve several problems and applied some technology we had developed and filed some patents on to those particular issues. And then we were in process of developing this PoliWall and then applying it to various problems in the Department of Defense, we realized that there was also applications for financial services, healthcare—critical infrastructures outside of the federal government. And really it was a waking up in the night one night, realizing we would never be able to commercialize this product under the defense and intelligence services organization at TechGuard. I said, “we really need to spin this out and make it its own company.” Also, we really didn’t have the right culture for a technology product company. It needed to be more Silicon Valley-esque. We needed to have actual windows and be able to use social networking in order to get the word out about our products. So, it made a lot of sense, and that was really the impetus to spin this out with the intellectual property, inventory, and first customers into a separate company called Bandura.
Q. How did you get your start, Chris?
CHRIS FEDDE: I left the government business in 2001. That’s where I learned about security and cyber security but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I left the government business, went to a small company—small at that time—called SafeNet, which is in Maryland. They wanted to grow into a commercial security business, and so I was real pleased to join with them. I became the CEO there and built that into a company that did really a broad range of cyber security. They still did some government business; they were about two-thirds commercial. And that commercial was real commercial; we did global commercial business—we were selling authentication into China. They always headquartered here in Maryland, so we were real pleased with the environment that was being built in Maryland for security companies. At the time our owners decided to sell it, we were the fourth largest security company in the world, and we were proud to say we were from Maryland.
We exited that company on behalf of our owners at the time, and that’s when I started a true startup—I was employee number one. It had a parent company, not unlike the circumstances that Suzanne had. We had a parent company that wanted to get started in Maryland as a commercial cyber company. I started that and built that up, and that went about two years and got sold to another security company owned by Silicon Valley investors. That was successful for the people involved—they almost all kept their positions and rolled into the new owner, so that was good for them—and that freed me up to look at the opportunity presented to me at Bandura.