An Interview with Tammy Kahn, Co-Founder of Blockchain Cyber Security Firm FYEO
Tammy Kahn, CEO and co-founder of FYEO, charts her progress from a strategic communications and philosophy degree, via a family business selling antiques on eBay, to leading a blockchain cybersecurity firm working on layer one blockchains. She is “face planted” in technology she says and loves it.
But initially she wanted to be a journalist who was responsible for the university’s subject choice, but decided not to apply to provincial radio or TV stations in order to study in the wider business world. However, she managed to write for Forbes and the Huffington Post and found this skill very valuable in her own business as well.
“I found that I liked strategic communication and business better than regular reporting, but I also liked the philosophy that would serve me well later in life. My emotional intelligence is pretty good, which is helpful when I’m starting a business with five other people , especially when most of them are code logic experts – I like to look at how the pieces fit together from a business and partnership perspective.”
Kahn has an interesting view of logic that is part of her passion.
“I learned the hard way that things can be logical and valid, but it doesn’t matter because they can be false. Whereas something that is true can be completely illogical. Having this understanding is crucial when running a startup.”
Before venturing into the startup world, Kahn worked in the family business which included a lot of dinnertime talk, so she was indoctrinated from an early age for business to be a focus of every part of her life.
“At the family dinner table, we talked about homework and orders in the same breath.”
The family business wasn’t very technical despite online sales, but Kahn discovered Web2 marketing, which she loved—so much so that she formed a small marketing company to help other businesses use Web strategies. Then she met one of her co-founders Brian Gale and together they worked on a Web3 project. It was at this point that Kahn was bitten by the technology behind Web3 or the “face plant” as she says in Web3.
The result was FYEO, or For Your Eyes Only, a cyber security company. There are three pillars to the business now, but it started as a company building decentralized applications for larger enterprises.
Another of the co-founders, Thomas Olofsson, is a security expert, and they quickly realized that while there may be smart builders working in this area, there was a lack of security expertise, so they decided to leverage their internal strengths and set up a consulting arm to act as safety auditor for other projects.
“We were able to determine that any project was only as good as their last code revision. We started looking at possible attack vectors and including non-code aspects like social engineering hacks. So even though the code might be perfect, about 35% of the hacks came from non-code related vulnerabilities. This led to the development of FYEO Domain Intelligence or FYEO DI.”
FYEO has another founding partner, Mikael Byström who has been collecting intelligence from the Dark Web since 2013. As a result, the company has leaked 25 billion credentials and has used this data to crack 18 billion passwords. Using this vast amount of data, FYEO DI can monitor potential phishing sites, monitor employee password security, and basically monitor chatter on the dark web that may be relevant to their customers.
“We also plan to release the world’s first truly decentralized password manager next quarter. And we’re releasing it for free. We think it could be a game changer and greatly reduce if not eliminate the problem of password leaks.”
A decentralized team
The FYEO founding team is decentralized with Byström, Olofsson and Björn based in Sweden and Kahn, along with her co-CEO Brian Gale and President and CFO David Garrity based in the US, each with their own area of expertise. There are a total of 26 employees.
“It is important to our culture that everyone has their own path they can focus on and that they can build important things with people they like and trust. This is how we build our own culture.”
This adherence to the culture also informs how they choose their clients and partners who must fulfill their business code. FYEO met Flare Network at ConsenSys last year and have been working together ever since.
“There is no shortage of interesting work to do with Flare. The code team loves to go deep and working with a team like Flare is very satisfying as Flare prefers to have ongoing revisions that reflect our team.
“We like to get in early and look under the hood. Mikael Björn, part of the founding team who leads the Cybersecurity Research practice at FYEO, really dislikes what he calls “drive by reviews” which are superficial and only at one point. “We like to be an extension of the team.”
“What we like about Flare is their willingness to take our constructive feedback seriously. It’s clear to us that they want to create a truly secure environment for community users.”
Flare is also on the FYEO DI platform – taking all aspects of security seriously.
“They realize that security is a critical component as they build and scale.”
Right now, Kahn is looking for new projects that build on Web3, especially those in the early stages. She believes the startup program (with its financial discounts) can be very valuable for new projects to take advantage of FYEO’s anti-phishing and dark web monitoring of their domain. They also look for more mature projects like Flare where they do ongoing threat monitoring, code reviews and basically become an extension of the team.
“Oh, and we’re also looking for beta testers. Go to gofyeo.com to beta test our decentralized identity platform. Be brutal in your feedback because we’re going to launch it next quarter. Be part of a worldwide movement.”