Decades before he joined the ranks of Silicon Valley’s super rich, Jay Chaudhry lived with his parents in a Himalayan village without running water.
The founder of Zscaler is now part of a growing wave of billionaires who have built cybersecurity businesses. Chaudhry, 60, and his family benefit from stakes in the San Jose-based firm worth almost $3 billion. He along with six other cybersecurity software tycoons to emerge with 10-figure fortunes in the past year are worth about $9.5 billion combined, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and together represent the latest wealth surge among the founders of internet-focused firms.
“I do look sometimes back and say, ‘Whoa,’” Chaudhry said in a telephone interview last month. “My success so far has mainly been because I have very little attachment for money. My obsession is really to make sure that the internet and cloud are a safe place for everyone to
Fueled by the rapid rise of cloud-based computing, companies are increasingly tethering more and more of their business to online networks. While this allows them to gather unprecedented levels of operational information, it also exposes their firms to more cyber threats.
Data protection laws and high-profile cyberattacks -- such as the world’s biggest airline data hack last year -- are equally forcing companies to reconsider their internet defenses. At the same time, Western governments have expressed concern that China’s intelligence services are snooping on foreign citizens through products sold by telecom giant Huawei .
“The world runs on large-scale networks and data systems that are inherently complex and highly connected,” said Awais Rashid, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Bristol in England. “If we can’t protect them or be confident in their integrity, it leads to serious problems for society at large.”
The growth of cloud-focused cyber firms including Zscaler, Fortinet Inc. and Palo Alto Networks Inc. poses a threat to the market share of more established network software providers such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc. Fortinet’s two main individual shareholders — China-born brothers Ken and Michael Xie -- have emerged as billionaires this year in the wake of the Silicon Valley firm’s shares surging more than 20 per cent
Yet even with this increased competition, some of the oldest cybersecurity firms have kept growing. Closely held ESET counts three billionaires -- Miroslav Trnka, Peter Pasko and Rudolf Hruby -- among the six co-founders that own all of the 27-year-old, Slovakia-based company. ESET has seen about 20 percent a year growth in revenue since 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and has become one of central Europe’s fastest-growing tech firms.
Trnka, 57, and Pasko, 63, started programming during the Cold War and helped resolve one of the world’s first computer viruses, which affected a Slovak nuclear power plant, according to a case study from Vienna University of Economics and Business.