‘A very large opportunity’: Tehama has high hopes for new cybersecurity platform for at-home workers

Paul Vallee
Tehama founder and CEO Paul Vallée is part of a group of investors bidding to save the embattled Ottawa tech startup. File photo

In the world of cybersecurity, grave economic threats also present massive opportunities – as Paul Vallée well knows.

The longtime Ottawa tech entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Tehama, a spinoff of analytics and cloud services provider Pythian that launched three years ago.

While the firm was born before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, Tehama couldn’t have come along at a better time to respond to the radical change in work habits triggered by the pandemic.

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Over the past 24 months or so, its cloud-based platform that lets off-site employees securely access company data on their laptops and other devices has gone from a nice idea to something that a growing number of customers see as a must-have commodity.

Tehama says cybercrimes cost the global economy $6 trillion in 2021, with corporations suffering a significant chunk of those losses. The firm says the work-from-home trend has exposed businesses around the world to a wave of potential security threats that will require more robust measures to neutralize.

“When this cracks, it will be more like an egg than a walnut. It’s almost like you’re tapping the edge and once you crack through, it’ll get big very, very quickly.”

“This is a very, very large opportunity – maybe as large as the entire public cloud market,” says Vallée, who is as quotable as he is tech-savvy.

“When this cracks, it will be more like an egg than a walnut. It’s almost like you’re tapping the edge and once you crack through, it’ll get big very, very quickly. Whether I can crack through or not is anybody’s guess.”

Vallée is hoping his startup’s newest product line will be the catalyst it needs to stake its claim as the market leader in its space. 

Tehama – which landed US$10 million in venture capital a couple of years ago to fuel its scaleup drive – has poured millions of dollars into developing its new software platform, Carrier for Work.

The company touts the cloud-based system as an all-in-one solution that will fortify remote workers’ laptops, tablets and other devices with multiple layers of security and can be installed in less than an hour. 

Vallée says he consulted with dozens of leading workforce security experts during the R&D process that resulted in Carrier for Work. He argues the product could be a key weapon on the front lines of a simmering “cyber Cold War” in which bad actors from countries such as China and Russia are attempting to wreak havoc with Western commerce.

‘Serious economic consequences’

“The way China attacks Canada now is through remote work infrastructure,” he explains. “There are serious economic and national security consequences to the way that we’re currently organizing our hybrid workforce universe.”

Now, Vallée can only wait and see if potential customers and sales partners – such as a major global telecommunications firm he was wooing on Thursday – will grasp the seriousness of the looming cyberthreats and jump on board.

Tehama has already doubled in size to 80 employees since the start of 2020, but Vallée says the company still hasn’t left the starting blocks.

“Right now, I feel very bullish,” he says. “The dice are in the air. We don’t know how they (will) land yet. Whether this is a game-changer or not depends enormously on whether it captivates the imagination of our buying audience. I hope we create a giant here in Ottawa.”

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