Reputation management begins with honoring our promises and delivering to the customer as per the commitment made, and, Mr. Kevin Nikhoo, serial entrepreneur is very particular about promises made. Mr. Nikhoo shares with eBrandz readers his business and personal beliefs and ideals, his interests and why he credits honest-to-goodness qualities like hard-work, passion, communication skills and commitment with success.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, CloudAccess is a cloud-based security-as-a-service platform company focused on delivering comprehensive and affordable security solutions for medium and large organizations around the world. CloudAccess SingleSource platform includes Identity Management, SaaS Single Sign on (SSO), Web SSO, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Log Management. Each product’s monthly service subscription can be purchased separately or as part of the entire suite in a pay-as-you-go model with no hardware, software or administration costs, and zero-day start. CloudAccess SingleSource is the only cloud-based platform in the market today that offers a comprehensive stack that eliminates the cost and resource barriers that most organizations face today. Designed for the cloud with multi-tenancy, scalability and high-performance, each product in the SingleSource platform provides enterprise level functionality based on industry standards.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
Hi, I am Kevin Nikkhoo, CEO, CloudAccess Inc. I have been in the field of information technology for the past thirty two years. My leadership and analytical skills have stood me in good stead in the various positions I have held, both managerial and technical, for several companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to smaller interests.
I am a serial entrepreneur by choice and before CloudAccess, I founded Crescent Enterprise Solutions in 2005 and Vertex Systems, way back in 1992. I was also a Managing Partner for Sino-Century Capital, a venture capital firm focused on offshore information technology firms and successfully listed offshore companies on NASDAQ.
I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering from California State University, Los Angeles and MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.
I have been featured in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Business Journal, Merrill Lynch Business Insight, BackOffice Magazine, The Outlook, Daily Breeze and USC Business Magazine, among others. I have been a speaker for many industry shows and conferences, both domestically and internationally.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?
Though enterprise security products have been available for many years, customers had been telling us that the cost, complexity and lack of resources have been major barriers for many organizations. We founded CloudAccess with a vision to provide comprehensive security solutions that allow every enterprise to enjoy the benefits of cloud computing, without the barriers to entry, including, hardware, software and personnel costs as well as helping enterprises to focus on their core competencies.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Even the greatest of ideas cannot be turned into successful businesses without great employees. One of the most important aspects of any organization is its ability to attract and retain qualified personnel that believe in the vision and mission of the company and enjoy what they do everyday. At CloudAccess, we believe our employees are like family. As a startup company, we work harder to deliver technology solutions that have not been available in the past. This requires dedicated employees who go the extra mile to take care of our customers. So, it is easy to see why we believe that our employees are a major pillar for our success at CloudAccess.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
1. Have passion for what you do – Being an entrepreneur means that you have to deal with many difficult issues every day. If you do not have a passion for what you do you will soon be tired of solving the challenges
2. Don’t be afraid of hard work – Entrepreneurship requires hard work coupled with high energy. You need to have a vision beyond the daily challenges.
3. Be willing to take risks – Entrepreneurs takes risks and rewards. Some people prefer the security of an employment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for those few who are willing to take on the stormy weather while sailing through entrepreneurship there is great joy at the end of the journey.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I believe I have been very lucky. I have always been involved in ventures that I have loved and enjoyed the challenges as well as the rewards. However, if I were to start my career over again, I would not change the path that I have taken but I would start earlier with a better understanding of economic cycles and macro-economic factors because they do impact businesses significantly.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ability to take risk
Great communication skills
A realistic vision (achievable goals)
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Statistics show that most startups fail within the first two years of establishment. Personally, I would stick with an idea if I believed in it. However, customers are the best measuring stick. We need to listen carefully to our customers and change direction as quickly as needed. So, in my opinion it should not even take two years to know if you have an idea for a successful business. Our customers let us know very quickly.
How many hours do you work a week on an average?
I work for around 60 hours a week which is typical for any entrepreneur.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life
Being an entrepreneur has affected my family in a very positive way. I have three children. My wife and children are very much involved in what happens in my business every day. I believe they learn from the everyday experiences as much as I do. What better way to bring knowledge, excitement and learning to home?
What motivates you?
Happy customers. I am very driven to make sure that every one of our customers is completely satisfied with our products and services. This is the only important measure for our business success.
How do you generate new ideas?
Customers and employees are great sources of new ideas. After all, who knows how to improve products, services and processes better than the people who are using it every day? You just have to listen.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My greatest fear is failing to deliver what I have promised. I believe that my word or promise is more important than any contract or legal document. To manage this fear, we make sure that our communication with our customers, employees and partners is clear. I personally ask our customers what they heard from us and if we have delivered on it. I look for every opportunity to improve on our communication and making sure every employee clearly understands that we need to deliver on our promise.
What are your ideals?
My ideals are truth, compassion and a balanced life.
How do you define success?
There are different ways to look at success. Although most principles in my life apply to both business and family, I would say that I define business success is when every customer is a happy one and family success is when there is unconditional love.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Have a clear vision and strategy and stick with your principles, this will help you overcome any challenge along the way.
Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
CloudAccess’ initial capital came from investors. I presented the idea, business plan, risks and rewards to a few select investors. My intent was not to get ‘bids’ for the highest investor offer but to find investors that I felt comfortable with and could communicate with.
How do you build a successful customer base?
You might have heard of the ‘bowling strategy.’ You need to knock down the first pin before you go after the other pins. I believe that customer success is the key for growth and success of any company. So, in early stages of a startup, I would get one customer at a time and ensure their satisfaction. Once, the initial customer base is secured and operational efficiency is established then the company can scale with various marketing programs. A shot gun approach does not work.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
Simple. Los Angeles is a major technology hub, and, I live here.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Many have tried to see if there is a pattern but have discovered that successful entrepreneurs can be so different in style, view and communication style. The only common traits are they are hard-working and have the ability to take risks. However, these are only two factors in a long list of characteristics that have been documented for entrepreneurs. I do not believe there is a formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Golda Meir because she inspired not only a nation but the entire world.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Steve Jobs. He overcame many obstacles in his personal and business life and built a very successful company. I think he is an inspiration to all entrepreneurs and corporate managers.
What book has inspired you the most?
Good to Great : Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by James C. Collins. It really points out what makes a great company.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is being independent and the ability to be creative. Typically, entrepreneurs find a market need and fulfill it. This requires original thinking and creativity. This is fun for me.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
I would say that experience, hard work, risk taking, communication skills and education have contributed to my success in the past.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Last year, I ran into one of my old employees. I had not talked to him for over 20 years. I had hired him when he was fresh out of college and did not know which direction he would want to take in the future. Years later, he is now a senior manager in a Fortune 500 Company. We had coffee and he thanked me for mentoring him when he worked for my company. He said that he appreciated the fact that I genuinely wanted to help him and my advice to him really changed his life and started him on a path that was very positive for him. It is very fulfilling for me to know that I have helped others succeed in business even if they are not working with me.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for others is that entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and control their own destiny in business.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Markets change. Channels for receiving information change. Today, the Internet is a major source of information for consumers and businesses alike. However, the four Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) are still as valid as ever. At CloudAccess, we use webcasts, Internet and other online channels to reach our customers.
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
As a startup, we believe in ownership. At CloudAccess, we do not have hierarchies. We have a team that works together to solve customers’ problems. Each employee is fully empowered to help customers. I always tell our employees that you do not need to worry about what I think. You need to worry about what our customers think about you and the company. I encourage every employee to be an owner and take pride in what they do. We accomplish this by providing stock options for employees, review customer and employee issues in open forums and let the employees come up with solutions.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you have made?
When I was younger, I underestimated the macro-economic impact on business. In 2001, when the high-tech industry crashed, we were in the process of taking the company pubic or selling it to many interested acquirers. I have learned from those experiences.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
At CloudAccess, we have a documented escalation procedure which is part of our operational handbook. We have developed a complete monitoring and management system that give us a real-time view of the state of our operations. Each employee is empowered to take action as needed if there is an issue that could impact a customer. In addition, we have automated notification to senior management and process escalation so that real time decisions can be made. I believe CloudAccess has a very sophisticated model to prevent mistakes or potential damages. We have actually tested it on the field.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I have three active children. I enjoy spending every available non-work time with them. I play soccer and enjoy traveling and reading biographies and business books.
What makes you happy?
A loving family life. A fun and exciting work environment.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
This is a very good question because I have thought about it many times and discussed it with my wife. The answer is certainly time away from the family. Long hours are part of being an entrepreneur and there is no doubt that I had to sacrifice family time to grow the business.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Apple is a great company to look up to. I think Facebook and Twitter are extreme examples of recent high-tech success. I also admire GE, which I do not consider a high-tech company, but I think it is a well-run company.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
I hope that in 10 years’ time, I can be in a position in life, where I can help others. There are many non-business causes in life that I would like to support. Some of us have been more fortunate than others and we need to step up and help those who have not had similar opportunities that we have had.