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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 147

June 1, 2022

#147 Tony Zirnoon: The Partnership Trust Building of Zero-Trust Security

Tony Zirnoon, Head of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships at Appgate, joins Chip today in this episode of Ecosystem Aces. In this episode, Tony ...

Tony Zirnoon, Head of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships at Appgate, joins Chip today in this episode of Ecosystem Aces. In this episode, Tony shares his experiences as a “people connector” at Appgate.

Appgate is a cybersecurity services company enabling businesses to operate with confidence in this digitalized world. As an industry leader recognized by CRN as one of the top ten security companies in the world, Appgate strives to bring security closer to people and processes. 

In this podcast, Tony discusses how Appgate strategically establishes, utilizes, and evaluates its partnerships through the points of:

  • The Importance of Trust at Appgate
  • How and Why Appgate Focuses on Partnerships
  • Going To Market from Partnerships

The Importance of Trust at Appgate

In just a few years, technology has brought tremendous digital transformation for companies in all sectors and regions. COVID also played a huge part in accelerating the already fast-paced development, bringing new opportunities and demand to the market; digital adoption became a crucial factor for success. While many greet this development with open arms, cybersecurity experts see it as a double-edged sword. 

A cyberattack could be coming from anywhere in a hybrid world where everybody is digitally connected and disparate. The movement from a small-scale data center toward cloud computing and society becoming inured to sharing personal information online has dispersed and intensified the area of attack. As a result, the hacker economy has multiplied throughout the years. Today, the hacker economy is the third biggest economy, following the US and China, with a market size of $6 Trillion. By contrast, the cybersecurity market is sized at $200 Billion. In other words, cybersecurity is fighting asymmetrical warfare against an opponent 30 times its size. 

Appgate’s solution to this problem is called the Zero-Trust Architecture. It is a unique way of democratizing and simplifying cybersecurity in a people-driven way. Despite what its name suggests, ZTA is all about trust. “I’m at a company that would talk about zero trust, trying to establish and really cherish trust, and what I do is based on trust,” Tony said. ZTA’s mission starts with trusting none and constant reverification.

Why does trust mean so much to cybersecurity and Appgate? From a cybersecurity perspective, trust consists of both identity and behavior. Shifting behaviors create dynamic problems, where users may not trust the same identity under different circumstances. To trust an online entity, its persona, the situation, and the timing must all come together. Since both identities and behaviors have diversified, it has become much harder to trust anyone anymore on the internet. 

How and Why Appgate Focuses on Partnerships

The security industry is micro-segmented, and for a reason. Tony compares this structure to a submarine. Imagine there is a small hole on the outer surface of the submarine. Although it may cause issues in a particular compartment, the submarine will be able to stay afloat. This is possible since the submarine is highly compartmentalized, allowing each compartment to work in harmony while preventing a hole from compromising the entire machine. There’s similar compartmentalization in the security industry - Tony calls it microsegmentation - that prevents single ransomware from influencing an entire system or risk profile. 

Although technology allows companies and individuals to perform multidimensional functions, Tony believes that it is vital for companies to stay on track, focusing on what they are good at. In the micro-segmented cyber security industry, companies should take on segments that they could excel in while seeking partners that could complement one another’s segments. So here’s where Appgate’s partnership strategy starts: gaining mindshare and knowing its own value proposition. “Be true to your value, be true to your brand,” Tony said. 

The next step is about assessing partners’ value propositions. Do they help complement the technology? Do they streamline our process? Do they add additional value? There is a steering committee at Appgate that targets, lists, assesses, and strategizes partnerships to answer those questions. It closely scrutinizes partners to look for a valuable alignment, ensuring that the partnership is ready for development. Tony states that this may be the most crucial part of partnerships.

Many companies often skip the enablement step after development. Development and execution is like building a bridge to an island. However, if we fail to enable the transport, vitalize the island market, or give consumers a valid reason for using the bridge, the bridge would be a mere attraction. Therefore, companies must keep enablement in mind before jumping into the market. 

These five steps of value proposition, assessment, development, enablement, and execution complete Appgate’s partnership strategy.

Going to Market from Partnerships

Tony witnessed a lot of companies making the mistake of jumping into the market without establishing relevant relationships. Tony uses another analogy here for cybersecurity non-experts. There are two types of employees at Home Depot. There are ones that simply tell you where certain products are, and there are ones that ask you about the motives behind your visit to guide you through a more compelling consumer experience. Partners must strive to be the latter. We should listen to our partners’ stories to connect with them and understand their value propositions. 

It should not be partners' priority to jump right into selling without establishing a connection first. As mentioned before, trust is less available and more valuable. Tony advises companies to get together, ask questions, ensure the story resonates, and then position themselves as a complementary solution. Partners should care about POV (proof of value) as much as they care about POC (proof of concept), to create the connection and convince each other that what is said will be delivered. There will be no collective outcome when companies don’t take those baby steps for alignment.

Wrapping Up

“It has to be a win-win-win for you, your partner, and your customers,” Tony said. As a company with a wide range of partners, including cloud security providers, data centers, and med-devices, Appgate considers partnerships a valuable ramp. They allow Appgate to expand access and answer questions that Appgate alone cannot. And just like how Appgate approaches cybersecurity, partnerships are all about trust at Appgate. Like how ZTA treats online identities, Appgate treats partnerships with constant validation - but of behavior, character, and integrity.

To learn more about Tony and what his team at Appgate is working on, you can follow him on LinkedIn.

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