Gonen Fink made a daring career move after 12 groundbreaking years at Israel’s renowned Check Point Software Technologies. He founded Pythagoras Solar, an innovator of power-generating, energy-efficient windows.
Though Pythagoras won international attention and awards, the idea proved to be ahead of its time. Fink put the window on the back burner, dissolved the company and joined LightCyber, an Israeli company founded in 2011 to provide a new approach to protecting against cyber breaches.
Chutzpah, resilience and thinking out of the box: This is the skillset Fink absorbed during seven years in the elite intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces and as a strategic planning consultant to the Ministry of Defense.
Now 45, the Ramat Gan native tells ISRAEL21c: “As an intelligence officer, I was dealing with information, strategic thinking and planning. At the Ministry of Defense I was involved in long-term planning and analyzing long-term needs.
“It’s unusual to deal with long-term projects in your early 20s, and that was one of the key areas that later on applied to my ability to build a business. I had to look 10 years ahead, predict national needs and understand the technology we’d need to meet them, and figure out how to budget and plan accordingly.”
The father of four children ages five to 13, Fink says he enjoys building just about anything: products, technologies, businesses.
“Things and processes can solve significant problems,” he points out. “Security is the farthest field you can think of from solar energy, but they are both big problems that impact everybody.”
Following his military service and consultancy, Fink earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and computer science, and a master’s degree in digital philosophy, both from Tel Aviv University.
When he came to Check Point in 1994, the now-large corporation was then a five-person startup. Check Point developed the first commercial firewalls that shaped the security industry.
“I was involved in development and product management, and later I was chief architect, vice president of products and vice president of solutions and strategy, so I was an integral part of the growth of this huge company that is now a leader in the market,” says Fink, whose wife continues to work at Check Point.
“But after 12 years, I was looking for new challenges and was interested in solar energy.”
Reaching back to his training in the army and in university, Fink looked for new technologies to bring to new markets. He began Pythagoras Solar with Dr. Itay Baruchi.
The men developed the world’s first transparent photovoltaic window glass, designed to generate energy for the building from the sun. The idea was lauded worldwide and won $100,000 in the GE Ecomagination Challenge for promising renewable energy innovations.
“Pythagoras was an exciting venture, and it exposed me to a totally different market,” says Fink. “This kind of technology definitely makes sense, and can change the world — but will take more time. It’s a revolutionary approach in a very slow market where innovation is measured in decades, not in years.”
Back to the future
He and his partners put the project on hold in early 2013, and Fink went back into a field he knew well. However, he went in a different direction.
“I saw the cyber-security market had reached a point that requires disruptive solutions. The growth of the digital world cannot continue as is, with cyber-attacks so prevalent on a daily basis. It is now acknowledged that using current solutions aren’t enough.”
He compares the situation to physical security. “You need to lock your door, but at the same time you realize it’s not enough and that’s why there is a big market for alarm systems that alert you the moment someone breaks in. The same is also true for national security. You build walls, but at the same time you also need another layer of more sophisticated defense based on intelligence.”
Likewise, in addition to the all-important firewall there is a great need for detecting a breach caused by a cyber-attack immediately, he says. A prime example is Target, which took about three weeks to react to a major breach of its Internet site at the end of 2013.
“The reality today is that an attacker can be in your site for months and even years without anyone noticing,” says Fink. “Therefore, the next frontier is detecting a successful attack before any damage is created – and that is the new area addressed by our product.
LightCyber’s Magna software detects security breaches, flags them and remediates them.
“Since I had a good understanding of the market and its problems, I felt LightCyber’s approach is the right direction. The technology that exists here is extremely exciting,” says Fink, who joined the company as CEO in October 2013.
“It takes the unique knowhow and diverse cyber expertise of the founding team and packages it into a smart engine that is easy to use by customers of all sizes, and not just by very large corporations that could employ teams of data scientists and cyber analysts to chase after the endless amount of cyber breaches in their network.”
Fink predicts that quickly detecting compromised computers — rather than preventing attacks – will become an increasingly dominant part of the cyber-security approach.
“In just a few months, we installed and sold the product to dozens of customers and we are detecting breaches on a daily basis,” says Fink. “I believe our technology is the best solution, and over the next two or three years I want to take a leadership role in the emerging market.”