ITWeb TV: SA’s cyber security players can compete globally

Adrian Hinchcliffe
By Adrian Hinchcliffe
Johannesburg, 31 May 2024
Snode Technologies’ co-CEO Christi Maherry speaks to ITWeb group editor Adrian Hinchcliffe about her career in cyber security, including founding LAWTrust and her recent move to Snode. She also discusses how South Africa’s cyber security sector can compete on a global stage and calls for more collaboration across the sector. In closing, she provides tips for improving gender inequality in ICT and cyber security. #itwebtv #innovation #cybersecurity #SouthAfrica #Localislekker #Snode

South African companies, especially in the cyber security space, can compete on the global stage, but it might require a change of culture.

This is the word from Christi Maherry, co-CEO of Snode Technologies, speaking to ITWeb TV in the run up to the ITWeb Security Summit (4 to 6 June).

Maherry co-founded and was CEO of LAWTrust, before taking it global and selling it to Altron, and has also run a US technology firm, before she joined Snode late last year. She believes that a lot of innovation and inventions come from South Africa; however, she adds, the national culture of being modest can hold companies back on the international stage.

“South Africans have a lot of grit, but we tend not to tell people how good we are – that’s our culture. If you look at American companies, they often start with the marketing material then develop the product. We do it the other way around and that sometimes doesn’t work in our favour,” she said.

Highlighting security companies that have experienced international success, Maherry mentions Mimecast and Entersekt. She added: “I’ve seen people and technology from South Africa are well recognised [internationally].”

Part of building an international presence, however, relies on building a solid base in the local market first.

Christi Maherry, co-CEO of Snode Technologies. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)
Christi Maherry, co-CEO of Snode Technologies. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)

“Guys in the security space are seen as global leaders. What we need to do is get South African companies to trust that we are good enough. We understand the South African threat landscape so much better, as the attacks are different than they are in Europe.”

One priority for Snode, which is present in Vietnam and the UK, is to increase its local footprint with clients in its home market, but she admitted there is work needed to build the brand locally.

Maherry joined Snode to work alongside the founder, Nithen Naidoo, who is also co-CEO, and help scale the company.

The business is mostly comprised of technology people, but that is set to change, she noted. “We’re adding a sales force. The business has never really done marketing before, so we’re doing that and building the brand.”

The culture and mindset might also need tweaking. “Snode does a lot of things for free; we have to build the business and create jobs, and we can only do that if we start charging people.”

Maherry also said collaboration with international companies could prove fruitful for growth. “The days of huge competition should be in the past. We can rather collaborate and, as long as there’s a win-win and it’s an integrity-based relationship, you can actually solve the problem.”

And working together, she believes, is necessary for the good of the sector and client companies. “It doesn’t help if everyone confuses the end-user [with different products]. They all do pitches and products; it’s so technical, how do you choose? Rather be more transparent and work together.”