Interviews and Reviews

Taking Control of SaaS in the Enterprise; Interview with Uri Haramati, CEO of Torii

An early-stage company operating out of Israel, Torii offers a suite of tools that helps IT managers at larger companies to see and control the software-as-a-service (SaaS) products in use across the organization. SaaS has been a thorn in the side of IT, as employees opt in to dozens of apps, using their web browsers, granting access to sensitive data assets, without any means for centralized control. 

Let’s speak with Torii CEO Uri Haramati about how IT leaders can shine light on software that lurks in the shadows and the best ways to think about IT’s role in the age of SaaS, GDPR and employee churn.

How did you come up with the idea for Torii?

I’ve been active in the software product ecosystem as a founder and manager for several years now and am a firm believer that “the age of SaaS” is upon us. But talking with my peers in the IT space, it became clear to me how problematic SaaS stack bloat is from a governance perspective. I realized that there was huge demand for a solution that can help reign in the chaos.

And so far, Torii’s trajectory has been amazingly validating. The IT managers who are using our product to audit and manage their organizations’ SaaS stacks are discovering hundreds of unsanctioned apps, and it’s been amazing to see dozens of new apps being onboarded every month in these organizations. Our customers have been able to quickly address security gaps, automate their daily processes, improve their regulatory standards and significantly cut waste.

Tell us a bit about your background as a software entrepreneur.

I’m one of the co-founders of Life on Air, the company that launched Meerkat, which eventually evolved into Houseparty, a B2C app used by millions worldwide. I served as Houseparty’s product lead until late 2016. Before that, I co-founded Skedook, an event discovery app, and served as its CEO for two years.

But I wouldn’t have gotten very far without my Torii co-founders, who also come from seasoned industry backgrounds. All three of us have experience in different aspects of managing software companies and running innovative teams.

Uri Nativ, our VP Engineering, has been coding software for over 19 years. He founded the Klarna Engineering center in Tel Aviv, and he has broad experience building B2B enterprise products from his days at VMWare, EMC, nLayers and Sanctum.

CTO Tal Bereznitskey was formerly the VP of R&D at Bizzabo, leading the engineering team from its initial mobile offering through the transition to an award-winning SaaS platform.

How does Torii help with today’s challenges when it comes to regulatory compliance, cybersecurity and employee turnover?

Once IT managers connect their various data sources to Torii – these can include financial apps, browser extensions and single sign-on platforms – then it takes just minutes for our engine to transform all of those signals into a useful inventory report and audit dashboard.

From there, managers can use the information we provide on each SaaS product’s data access permissions to see which apps might raise regulatory eyebrows, or might open up the organization to cyber vulnerabilities. Given that we provide visibility into which employees commonly use which apps, it’s also easy for IT managers to minimize the impact of taking apps out of circulation – both temporarily, while they’re being evaluated, and permanently, in cases where they are no longer relevant or their use is just too risky.

Torii also enables IT and HR departments to achieve new levels of operational alignment. When it comes time for a team member to leave the organization, Torii’s workflows allow managers to easily automate offboarding from all relevant SaaS platforms, so it can happen instantly, without errors, thereby minimizing any exposure to risk.

From your own contact with IT leaders in recent years, what’s their overall impression of the “shadow IT” phenomenon and the need to regain control of the organization’s tech stack?

Self-service SaaS adoption is a huge blind spot for IT, and in my conversations with IT executives, it seems like many of them have either given up or taken an “it’s not my problem – the security team will deal with it” type of attitude.

I get it. To me, it totally makes sense that IT leaders would feel overwhelmed and helpless, which is why my team at Torii is working so hard to help IT feel empowered and in control again. They might not ever again be in position to pre-approve the software that employees want to use, but they can stay in the loop on what SaaS products are being used, and they can take action quickly.

We also strive to help IT leaders create cultures of accountability within their organizations, advancing standards of educated software adoption, instead of just blocking new technologies, which can take a toll on productivity.

Tell us a bit about the Torii team and how you’ve evolved as an organization.

From the get-go, it was important to all three founders to work with only the best engineers, and thanks to our experience in the local ecosystem, we had an extensive network of contacts to cherry pick from. We also made sure to hire designers who understood our vision of creating an enterprise IT platform that had uncharacteristic levels of intuitive usability, utility and stickiness.

So we’ve got an amazing product team, comprised of ambitious, curious and innovative full-stack designers and developers – people who can grow in their roles as we grow as a company.

We started small and slow, developing the idea, verifying product-market fit and slowly building our team and platform. Now that a year has passed since we launched our product, I can say that we’ve gained a lot of experience with our users and design partners.

We’re currently at a stage in our growth where we can no longer handle the demand from our offices in Israel, which is why we’re now focusing on building out our sales and success teams in the US.

How does Torii’s approach towards SaaS management differ from the approach that other solutions take?

Our platform adopts the user-centricity that consumer product interfaces and experiences, applying it to enterprise IT software, a vertical where that approach is definitely different. From the very beginning, we’ve been obsessed with creating a product that delivers value every single day, a measurable objective that simply isn’t on the radar of most enterprise SaaS companies.

Other SaaS management tools on the market provide valuable data, but we aim to provide new levels of data accuracy. We make sure that there is no room for mistakes in the data we provide on each app and on each process, whether it has to do with license utilizations, opportunities to save costs, or security and compliance issues.

Torii also differs from the competition in our approach towards workflow automation. While other tools provide value mostly in their reporting functionality, ours allows managers to set up custom sequences of rules and triggers for maximizing efficiency and minimizing latency and mistakes when IT needs to take action.

How do you feel today’s corporate IT leaders need to view their roles? 

In the near future, software will manage software, freeing up IT teams to focus on other things. This transformation had started already, and the IT role needs to evolve if it’s going to stay relevant.

IT executives can either keep chasing after line-of-business software users, blocking them from adopting new technologies and slowing down the organization, or they can empower better decision making around technology, encouraging the organization to adopt the best SaaS solutions while managing governance issues related to these tools in the background.

With the automation of IT processes, the IT team can be quick, agile and focused on the tasks that matter, knowing that nothing potentially dangerous is going on undetected.

What’s next for Torii?

We have just announced our seed funding round, led by some of the best investors in our industry, which is yet another signal that we’re on to something with this company. We’ll use the investment to further expand Torii’s capabilities, to the point that it can run key processes with no human intervention required.

The truth is, we’re just scratching the surface of this new and evolving market. SaaS management is new territory to everyone. It becomes more necessary with every new SaaS business app that goes to market, and literally hundreds are launched every month.

We feel that Torii is in the right place at the right time, providing the right tools to answer the burning needs of IT teams.

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