About this episode
There are stories, and then there are “epics”: tales of a journey so full of unexpected twists and excitement that you’re left wondering how all that could happen to a single person. Niloo Razi Howe’s life is such an epic. Whereas most epics feature men with swords, this one focuses on a woman with heels and a hockey stick.
While Niloo’s story as an Iranian exile is well-documented, our primary focus is on her career which began as an author and quickly moved to becoming a McKinsey consultant and then attorney… until she founded one of the few modestly successful online pet supply businesses in the 90s. Refusing further capital for a business she did not consider long-term viable, Niloo moved on to become a venture capitalist herself.
Moved by 9-11, Niloo found the cyber security market and made it her sole focus as an investor at Paladin Capital Group. We discuss her early learnings from investing in security which focus on her time working with a portfolio company selling the millimeter wave scanning systems that are now commonplace at airports everywhere. Our conversation detours here into the truly unusual: 3 Americans (Jack, Niloo & Dave) attempting an informed conversation on international privacy.
Drawn back into the action, Niloo took subsequent roles transforming a startup (Endgame) and then tried her hand at transforming industry titan RSA as their Chief Strategy Officer. In yet another twist, Niloo then left it all to focus on her terminally ill mother. This experience affected her profoundly and we wrap up this first part of our conversation with Niloo by exploring how she now structures her career on 3 pillars of different activities versus 1 job.
The 2nd half of our conversation with Niloo focuses on her recent work in Washington DC where she holds several positions and recently (October 22nd, 2019) testified to Congress on the United State’s cyber security readiness. We begin with the topic of retaliation: What’s the proper response to a cyber attack if you want to discourage future aggression?
With the 2020 elections on the horizon, Niloo explains her perspective on influence campaigns such as the highly publicized activities by Russia in the ’16 presidential elections. While often seen as election interference, she explains the broader goal of Russia’s strategy as an attack on the fabric of trust throughout a country— and how your phone and social networks can be complicit in this scheme.
We end on a hopeful note: there are plenty of reasons to believe things will be better in the future in cyber security, starting with government restructuring from long outdated WW2 norms to a more modern organizational design.