CTO Sessions: Yonatan Eldar, Apiiro

What makes an effective tech strategy? “… my strategy is to use the proven and most stable technology where the edge is still sharp, but you don’t necessarily bleed.”

Headshot of Yonatan Eldar, Co-founder & CTO at Apiiro

Name: Yonatan Eldar

Company: Apiiro

Job title: CTO and co-founder

Date started current role: July 2019

Location: Israel

Yonatan Eldar is the co-founder and CTO of Apiiro. He is an expert in software development and methodologies, who brings more than 16 years of experience leading software teams across industries and technologies. Previously, Eldar was Architect & Engineering Manager at Microsoft.

What was your first job? My first job was as a Developer in the IDF, where I spent 7 years, eventually becoming a Dev Department Head. I build new products from scratch from planning through design and development, testing, and release.

Did you always want to work in IT? I always wanted to build things – LEGO was a good introduction. When I got my first computer I knew I wanted to write software.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I studied Computer Science at the Technion - Israel’s Institute of Technology.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I began my career as part of Israel's Defense Forces. I spent seven years there and worked my way up from developer to department head, where I was given the opportunity to lead the release of several products, from planning to design, and development and testing. I then worked for a handful of smaller tech companies in Israel before I joined Aorato, a provider of enterprise security solutions. Due to its success, Aorato was later acquired by Microsoft, and that’s how I joined the team there. However, I always said I never wanted to go “corporate,” and after four years of leading engineering teams at Microsoft, I decided to leave to pursue other opportunities.

I could have joined another large company or startup, but I knew I wanted to do something that was challenging and innovative, while also solving a larger problem in the industry. That’s when I connected with Idan (who founded Aorato) and we iterated on a few challenges we faced while working in security at Microsoft, and that’s when it clicked – we founded Apiiro to reinvent proactive risk remediation in cloud-native applications.

What type of CTO are you? I’m laser-focused on building my team at Apiiro and bringing in great people to join. I also still make an effort to frequently code, fix bugs, and test things myself.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I’m more excited about the value that technology brings to people, rather than the hype around specific technologies. For example, a good application of blockchain that contributes to bettering society is something I get excited about, but not necessarily the technology itself.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Probably blockchain, but if it's providing real applications that better society, I'm all in.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Over the last year, we’ve seen tremendous growth and innovation at Apiiro. Most notably, we unveiled Apiiro’s Dependency Combobulator – a modular and extensible open-source toolkit to detect and prevent dependency confusion attacks. The Dependency Combobulator allows organisations to safeguard against this newly uncovered type of risk, which has been on the rise this year as a key vector in supply chain attacks targeting dependencies within software packages. This new solution is a critical element in Apiiro’s multidimensional approach to securing the Software Development Lifecycle to prevent both direct and supply chain attacks.

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? Apiiro was born as a digital native in the cloud, so we don’t have the need to deploy any additional digital transformation initiatives. At the office, there is no paper and every tool we use is a SaaS platform or focused on automation capabilities to ensure we can provide our customers with the most agility to support their business priorities. Apiiro, however, supports organisations that are going through digital transformation with their software development practices. This is a huge selling point for us and we’re proud to be able to support our customers in securely deploying applications to the cloud with speed and agility.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? With the influx of ransomware and cyberattacks, the security and safety of our customers is always top of mind. At Apiiro, we help customers remediate proactive risk, and the most obvious cases of risk for our customers have been due to the Log4Shell Spring4Shell vulnerabilities.

Our customers come to us with similar examples of software supply chain risk on a regular basis and we help them to properly triage and understand what's going on with their infrastructure. A key component for our customers is ensuring we can reduce further risk in the most efficient manner, utilising as little manpower as possible.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We only develop new features and add new technologies that help our customers achieve their business goals – not for hype, not for curiosity, and not for excitement. We are laser-focused on developing solutions that empower our customers to achieve their own business goals, which include deploying more secure and more robust software to the cloud.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? There will always be technical debt and challenges when prioritising different product features or infrastructure changes, but this is always the case in a startup environment where innovation is at the forefront to better support our customers. However, we never find that we have trouble matching our technology strategy with our product strategy – as they go hand in hand.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Unless you have a compelling reason to use the newest shiny object in the market, my strategy is to use the proven and most stable technology where the edge is still sharp, but you don’t necessarily bleed. It's important to consider the “why” behind the technology you build or deploy.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As the inherent need for software solutions continues to grow, I think the demand for hiring great developers and other technical roles in the organisation will become even harder. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to get any better in the foreseeable future. However, no matter the need and demand for software developers, my advice for other CTOs and technical leaders, as they deal with these challenges, is to never compromise when it comes to the talent your organisation requires. Don’t hire more developers just for the sake of hiring – rather, only hire the people that you are excited to work with and who you strongly believe will provide great value to your company. Mistakes will happen, but having the right people, even though it may not be the amount you need at the moment, will always provide more fruitful results.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the years, but I’m far from being done.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I've made mistakes like everyone else, but it's all led to this exact moment. I'm very proud of my accomplishments and don't have anything specific I would do differently.

What are you reading now? It’s been a while since I read for pure enjoyment, but I’ve read some great children’s books lately with my six year old.

Most people don't know that I… make the most perfect chocolate chip cookies with brown butter you've ever eaten.

In my spare time, I like to…Play chess.

Ask me to do anything but… Get back on Facebook.