This month, our co-founder, Alessandra Knight sat down with Rita Mounir of Allthenticate to learn more about her vision, her company, and what she’s creating with her team.
Rita: The name of the company is Allthenticate. And as the name indicates, it's authentication for all the things. We'll let people Allthenticate themselves to all the security assets of a company, whether it's physical or digital, and by physical, I mean we give you access to something like your company's doors, to get in. But we also provide access to digital assets, like computers owned by the company, websites, servers, etc.
Ale: Awesome. And what problem are you working on solving right now? Either, as a founder, or your company?
Rita: Yeah. Sounds great. So, as a company, we're solving the employee identity management problem. We’re solving the security poverty line, which is the line separating large enterprises with big security budgets, from the small and medium sized businesses that don't have the budget to secure their companies. Unfortunately, the ones that don't have the budget aren't constantly targeted. And that's what we're trying to solve. We're targeting small to medium sized businesses, as 60% of small and medium sized businesses go out of business within six months after a cyber attack because they don't have the budget to cover the consequences.
Ale: I have definitely experienced that at other companies. And, if employees leave a company, we have a list of things that they have access to, and we divvy up the responsibilities. This tool could definitely help a lot of small companies. How did you create this idea? What was the pivotal shift for you?
Rita: It was actually my co-founder, Chad's idea. 10 years ago, when he was doing his PhD and wanted to get rid of passwords. But then he ended up dropping out of his first PhD to go do research on what would become Allthenticate, at MIT Lincoln Lab then he went back to finish his PhD at UCSB this time, and that’s where we met. We did the New Venture Competition which is a year long startup competition at UCSB, we ended up winning first place and People's Choice Awards. And since then, we decided to make it our full-time jobs and build the company.
Ale: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Rita: Um, it really depends on the period of where we are at the company. But obviously, the first thing is Allthenticate. When we were having our first paying customer, that was amazing. That was very exciting. Always looking forward to seeing what customers are going to say. And currently what gets me up, is the fundraising process for our seed round.
Ale: Awesome. And what's the one piece of advice that you might offer someone who's looking to embark on this journey to start their own company?
Rita: I think the most useful thing is to just constantly build your network. I've always been doing that since I was in college. I was always trying to be in all the events possible because then you learn how to maximize your time at an event and talk to the people you want to talk to. Always follow up with those people and make sure you're always making valuable and meaningful connections.
Ale: Yeah, I love that. I think networking is such an underrated tool and trait. Networking is extremely powerful, especially in the world we live in today.
Rita: I'm just going to add a quick story. So, I was talking to the founder of a really big company here in Santa Barbara, they are publicly traded and doing great. So I asked her how she was able to wait for years before being able to sell their product, because in their case, they had to wait four or five years before having a sales-ready product and get all the FDA approvals. I asked her “What did you do during that time?” And she pretty much said, “I built my network. I just went and tried to meet with as many people as possible.” Her advice was pretty valuable. Now, we have a sales-ready product, but it just showed me that building your network doesn’t ever stop or end.
Ale: Is most of the team remote or hybrid?
Rita: The full-time people work in person, so are some of the interns. But my co-founder, Chad, is moving to Houston. So, with that, we'll have kind of a hybrid model. The goal is to build two different offices. So, we'll have a Houston office, which we're hoping to hire engineers who will work from that office and we'll have the Santa Barbara team work from this office as well.
Ale: Very cool. Five years from now, what impact do you want to have made?
Rita: Oh, it would be cool to just completely erase those keys, smart cards and passwords. It would be great to see that in five years.
Ale: Awesome. Do you have any questions for me?
Rita: What was your favorite advice for entrepreneurs just starting?
Ale: That’s a great, great question. And I spoke to various founders, but a lot of people have similar responses. But I'd say I'd say for me, it’s to cherish the small milestones. I think they're at the beginning. Each interview or conversation you get with an investor is a really awesome moment. And you get the funding. And then you're just thinking about these large next big milestones, at least from my perspective. And I think for us, we were like, “Okay, we need to get this product out there.”
If I'm thinking big picture, yes, it doesn't look like there's many, many different mini milestones that have come, or many different milestones that have come between the six since we fundraised, and the time that we go into the app store. But if you think about it from like, a weak perspective, or even a month perspective, yeah, there's so many, small contributions that each person on the team is creating, that's getting us to this next pivotal point. Even just as human beings it's so hard to focus on the small things because we're just thinking about what's that next big thing that's going to have this huge impact in our life, but at the same time, it's like, sometimes the smallest things are what we remember most. Thank you, Rita for taking the time to chat with me! Best of luck and talk soon!