CTO Sessions: Staffan Truvé, Recorded Future

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? "How to scale up their defences against ever-increasing cyber threats, with limited human resources and budgets."

Name: Staffan Truvé

Company: Recorded Future

Job title: CTO and co-founder

Date started current role: 2009

Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Staffan Truvé is the co-founder and CTO of Recorded Future. He has co-founded over 15 software companies, including visualisation pioneer Spotfire (acquired by Tibco) and Appgate (now Cryptzone) for network security. Truvé has been a visiting Fulbright Scholar at MIT. His research interests include threat intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and information visualisation. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

What was your first job? My first ‘real' job was as a sysadmin at a sausage factory! One thing I learned there was the importance of responding quickly to operational problems, to keep the system running at all cost. At Recorded Future we like to say that "the ball is always in your court" - you have to decide what to do next to fix things!

Did you always want to work in IT? Not always, but I've always been fascinated by robots and automation, so IT (or rather computer science) was always high on my list. Of course, I couldn't really have predicted at the time how much those interests would align with what I ended up doing for the rest of my career...so far! Or how important they'd be to the world we live in today!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? MSc in Engineering Physics, MBA focused on Management for R&D organisations, PhD in Computer Science focused on AI and computer vision.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Since getting my PhD, I've always worked in the borderland of research and start-ups. I love getting new research results turned into useful products and to help bridge the gap between theory and practice.

What type of CTO are you? Sometimes I call myself "Chief Talking Officer" - so more outbound than inbound, since I love to educate and evangelise about exciting new technology and products. But I also love to work on longer term tech strategy, and to prototype new stuff.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Depends on how emerging it can be - but quantum computing is both fascinating and scary, since it opens up new opportunities for really powerful computations, but also threatens the whole way in which we secure IT systems today using encryption.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Deep Learning is clearly overhyped right now - it is incredibly cool and can be used to solve problems we had no idea about how to solve a few years ago (see next bullet!), but it is not the complete solution, instead it has to be combined with more traditional algorithms.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? The most exciting initiative during the last 12 months has been to finally move some of our "deep semantic" natural language processing from being rule based to being machine learning based.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Recorded Future itself was of course "born digital", so in a sense we haven't needed to transform. On the other hand, as we scale both our data holdings, our customer base, and our own organisation we have been forced to handle several orders of magnitude of more data, and that has transformed how we work to keep operating efficiently.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? How to scale up their defences against ever-increasing cyber threats, with limited human resources and budgets. We just surpassed one billion intelligence cards - that's a billion different types of technical indicators, attacks, risks, and threats that organisations need to defend themselves against - there's no way to do that without massive scalability.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We do this in a couple of ways: I already mentioned working with orders of magnitude of more data - this requires evolving our technologies. As we enter new markets, we also need to support more languages in our semantic analysis. To meet our customers' demand for more technical data and support for more junior analysts we have to develop new highly scalable analysis methods and better ways of organising and visualising data.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No - I think these go together.

What makes an effective tech strategy? I think prototyping is key. Spending time on experimenting and evaluating before going all-in on one solution. Another thing is to build your systems using abstractions - to prepare for future technologies by abstracting away from specific products and having internal APIs that can be kept over several underlying technology/product generations.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As the exponential speed of technology evolution continues, I think the CTO will be ever-more important. New technologies like AI influence all parts of an organisation, and the CTO needs to understand how to prepare both for risks and opportunities.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Helping my colleagues in different organisations take their new research results and dreams and turn them into fast-growing profitable companies.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Maybe not spent time working with people who (in hindsight) did not have enough drive or motivation to accomplish their goals.

What are you reading now? The Misinformation Age, by Cailin O'Connor and James Owen Weatherall.

Most people don't know that I… Am a pretty decent cook.

In my spare time, I like to…Cook, read, and sail.

Ask me to do anything but… Sing.