SpiderBytes Podcast: SpiderBytes: the SpiderOak Podcast Dave Pearah, SpiderOak CEO

9.5.2021

Our first episode is here! We’re excited to introduce SpiderBytes to the world, and who better to start us off than SpiderOak’s fearless leader Dave Pearah. To learn more about Dave on his LinkedIn profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/pearah/.

SpiderBytes is sponsored by SpiderOak. (Funny that we sponsor our own show. Go figure!) We’d love you to check out our software at https://spideroak.com

Transcript

Adam Tervort:
Welcome to the very first inaugural episode of Spider Bites, the podcast from SpiderOak. I’m your host, Adam Tervort. I’m excited today to introduce you to our podcast, give you a little introduction on why we decided to do this and then, of course, introduce you to our very first special guest. So, we live in a world where security is increasingly important and privacy is increasingly scarce. Sometimes it can feel like security and privacy fall into two types of discussions. There are many people who either don’t care or have given up because they feel like security and privacy are too hard to achieve. The other camp are the people who think the sky is falling, everything is terrible and while on occasion that may be true, it generally isn’t. There a lot of people in the middle, people who care deeply about these subjects and who want to make a difference, who take steps in their personal and professional lives to enhance their security and their privacy and we want to give them a voice.

Adam Tervort:
Now, at SpiderOak there are many people like this internally. In my seven years here, I have learned a ton from our engineers, from our CTO, Jonathan Moore and from today’s guest Dave Pearah, who’s our CEO. I wanted to give people like them an opportunity to talk to you about security and privacy. Not necessarily from the perspective of, we’re a company who sells software that you might want to use but from the perspective of, what do you as a person do to address these problems. So, that’s what we’re going to do on Spider Bites, we are going to feature different people from all over, who are interested in security and privacy and who would like to talk about the things that they do. Hopefully, through this process, all of us can learn a little bit more, picking up a tidbit here or a new practice there, a tool that we can integrate into our workflows or a system that we can implement that will help keep us just a little bit more safe online.

Adam Tervort:
And through this, we’ll all be able to increase our security and privacy, both digitally and in the real world. With no further ado, I would like to introduce you to Dave Pearah, who is the CEO of SpiderOak, after this message.

Adam Tervort:
This podcast is sponsored by SpiderOak. At SpiderOak, we believe security is important and it’s our mission to secure the world’s data. From secure data compartments for collaboration and data storage, to protecting your backups with end-to-end encryption or even protecting communications in space. We want to be part of your plan to protect your most important data. Learn more at spideroak.com

Adam Tervort:
Today, I am very excited to introduce Dave Pearah, who is the CEO of SpiderOak and has graciously agreed to come on the show and be my first guest. Hi Dave.

Dave Pearah:
Thanks Adam.

Adam Tervort:
So, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell everybody a little bit about you and interesting things they may not know about the SpiderOak CEO.

Dave Pearah:
Talking about myself is my least favorite thing to do, so thanks, first of all, for having me. I promise that I’m going to be channeling Dave Pearah the man, the US citizen, the individual, not the CEO of SpiderOak here, so I’ll do my best. As early as I can remember, I was interested in computers and just wanted to be a programmer and a computer engineer and I was very blessed to be able to do that. I ended up going to U of I, that’s Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, getting a computer engineering degree, ended up working for a number of companies as a hardware and software engineer. And ended up going back to school, grad school at MIT. I was really unclear whether I wanted to, kind of, stick with hardcore engineering or I wanted to go in public policy or, kind of, go into business.

Dave Pearah:
So, I kind of hedge my bets and ended up getting two degrees there because I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” And to some degree, Adam, I don’t know if I have grown up but here we are, 30 years later. Ended up taking on roles mostly in the commercial sector and healthcare, advertising but usually on the technical side, just being a chief technology officer or a chief product officer. Really wanted to try my hand at being a CEO and I was really blessed to have an opportunity to help run an open source company that had been around for a while and was looking to take it to the next level. And that was my real first taste of what it means to run a company and I’ve had the opportunity to do it again here at SpiderOak, So that’s a little bit of my background.

Adam Tervort:
Well, I know talking about yourself, I don’t think anybody really likes that very much. And you’ll notice, none of these questions are directed at me, they’re all directed at you.

Dave Pearah:
Exactly. Well played.

Adam Tervort:
So, tell us, what’s a tidbit that most people don’t know about you.

Dave Pearah:
Because I am definitely not one of those people who live out loud. We could just check out my Facebook feed, I honestly wouldn’t even know how to login to Facebook. I think I have an account but I’m not even sure how to operate it anymore. And the only thing I posted to LinkedIn and it’s what people tell me to post. So, I’m really into obstacle course racing or what people call mud runs. So, I started eight years ago, once a year I would make sure to do either a spartan race or a tough mudder race and been upping the distances since then, I’ve gotten up to what they call a beast, which is like a half marathon. And I got one in almost exactly 30 days from now, I’ll be running one spartan beast in Attica, Indiana and I’m trying to step up my training runs and workouts, so I will equip myself honorably. The goal is always to finish and I have a good record so far. So, that’s kind of a big thing I like to do.

Dave Pearah:
And since COVID happened, last year they canceled most of those events, so it’s been a couple years since I’ve done it. So, looking forward to it.

Adam Tervort:
So, if any of you listening are going to be at the spartan beast around in Attica, Indiana, look out for Dave Pearah.

Dave Pearah:
Yeah. I’ll try to wear a headband or something from SpiderOak. I’ll be heading out swag by the food tent, no.

Adam Tervort:
Well, Dave, one of the things we like to do on this podcast is just talk about security and privacy concerns. So, for you, what are the things that you think about, again, as an individual, not the… Well, it could be as a CEO too. But what are the things that you’re thinking about, as far as security and privacy problems and concerns and the tools and strategies you use to try and address those?

Dave Pearah:
I have to say, if I just roll back the clock, when I was more of a CTO, not the CEO, my biggest concern as the person representing the company, cyber security was pretty far down the list, if I have to be honest, or something I didn’t really throw myself into with a great degree of enthusiasm because they’re paying me and my team to make stuff that does things and security is really like… and there’s a bunch of assholes out there trying to ruin our day and I have to account for them too, right? So, for us, cyber security was like, how little could we do to avoid being embarrassed or inconvenienced, honestly. Because we weren’t building things… People’s lives weren’t depending on us and existentially, threats to the business were more like, could someone hold us ransom for a couple of days? Or could they take it down? And how fast could we respond to that.

Dave Pearah:
And that happens. I’m not going to go into specifics but there were definitely times where we were taken down or we were inconvenience but it’s just a small blip in the lifetime of working at a company, right? So, to me, it was some BS thing we just had to check a box on and I wanted to spend as little… And frankly, we just didn’t have a lot to spend on it, right? On a personal level though, I’ve always been the kind of person who’s, I’m pretty private, so like I mentioned earlier, I’m not on Facebook really. And I try to keep a really small footprint online because I feel like my information is just getting sucked into every place and everywhere. Even when I’m just filling out stupid checkout forms for buying products and they ask me my phone number, my reaction, to be honest, is like, how dare you? Why do you need my phone number?

Dave Pearah:
I’ve even just set up a magicJack’s phone, like honeypot phone number, for when I buy things online and I get the craziest phone calls, that go straight to my email. So, I’m a pretty private person and I don’t like to use tools. So, I’ll even go out of my way to host my own email server, which is just my last name.com because I don’t want people to have casual access to every message I’ve ever written.

Adam Tervort:
Right.

Dave Pearah:
I don’t even like to text people using insecure tools, just knowing that the carriers can sell that information. And it’s not even a matter of, I’m that interesting or people are trying to get after me, I just think that I would just be the collateral damage of a larger hack, right? Like T-Mobile just got, what was it? 30 million, I don’t know, 30 million. You can’t even count these things. 30 million accounts at T-Mobile were compromised. Like, yeah, that’s just Tuesday. So, I just try to keep a little footprint. So, my primary means of protecting myself is to having the smallest possible online presence/using tools that I have the most degree of control over. I wouldn’t even say that was on the extreme end of that before I joined the company, so this is something that’s kind of been my MO for the long time because I just don’t trust what people can or can’t do with my info.

Adam Tervort:
Yeah. Yeah. And I know I definitely fall on that end of the spectrum too. So, there’s really two different areas to explore then. Since you’re not on very much social media, what do you do to make up for it? Do you have a compensating mechanism, when people in the neighborhood are like, I never see you on Next Door?

Dave Pearah:
It’s email mostly. The neighborhood email group and we don’t talk about sensitive things. No. So, when I talk to my friends, I’ll just end up calling them on the carrier line, I’m not using secure messaging tools. Typically, when I’m just talking with friends and family, I do rely on good old fashioned phone calls and meeting people in person, that’s kind of my style. So, I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on it. It’s not like, oh, I would love to be on these networks. I frankly feel like they would be an intrusion upon my time. So, my compensating controls are really direct one-on-one communications or when I do group communication, I keep it pretty succinct and minimal. I’ll find a way to take the conversation offline or I’ll just share very little information, in the first place.

Dave Pearah:
But you have to understand, social media, by design, is meant to be a collective experience. Whereas, some tools in conversations aren’t appropriate for that. I would no sooner have a private discussion out loud in front of a group of strangers down the line than I would do it in a room, in a crowded room. So, I’ve taken the physical world and modeled it online. So, to the extent that I’ll use Facebook, I’ll use it as the replacement for the yellow pages. Like, oh, that’s that person, I couldn’t find their website, they’re only on Facebook. Oh, I have their email, now I can have an appropriate conversation. So, that’s my compensating control.

Adam Tervort:
So, how about the other side? In those instances where you do use tools, are there any that you particularly rely on or use because you feel like they help you meet those goals?

Dave Pearah:
Yeah. So, I do use our tools, in a business context because just like any company, there’s nothing magical about SpiderOak and our business. Yeah, we make secure software, that’s our business but like any other business, we have human resources and payroll information. And we have performance and salary info and we have conversations that we wouldn’t want the IT team to be privy to. And we have information that would be devastating to our company if it were just casually made available publicly. So, we eat our own dod food, we use our own tools, to run the day-to-day conversations of the company, right? On a personal level, Signal’s pretty great. And when I want to have a one to one conversation with someone or want to share info, of a text nature, Signal’s great.

Dave Pearah:
If I’m trying to do it for a group of people over a long period of time and collaborating on a document, well, that’s not what it was built for, so I’m not really going to criticize Signal for being bad at that, that’s not what they’re optimizing for. But then I would move to some of the tools that we have, to do something like that. But you have to understand, on my personal life, email is the primary means of communication. And the fact that I’m hosting my own server and my own email domain gives me a modest level of comfort. And the fact that I use multiple email addresses gives me, whether it’s a false sense of security or not, it gives me the feeling like [inaudible 00:15:50] compartmentalizing the information so that if any one account were compromised, then, well, it would only be slightly devastating. So, that’s kind of how I use these tools.

Adam Tervort:
That’s interesting. Well, Dave, thanks for taking the time to chat today and for the insights you’ve shared. I did not peg you as a guy who ran his own email server, that is not for the faint of heart.

Dave Pearah:
Yeah. I do it terribly.

Adam Tervort:
All the ops people in the world are going, so do we.

Dave Pearah:
Yeah, exactly. You didn’t let me tell you my quotes, that was the big payoff for me to be on this thing.

Adam Tervort:
Yeah, that’s where we were going. So, what’s you favorite- [crosstalk 00:16:35]

Dave Pearah:
Oh, sorry, sorry, I’ve ruined it. No. One of my favorite quotes is by the greatest president that we’ve ever had, yes, I am talking about Calvin Coolidge. I actually, know nothing about him as a president, he’s probably one of the worst ones, as far as… I don’t know anything about Calvin Coolidge, except that he had this amazing quote about persistence and I will read it here because I certainly haven’t memorized it. It said, nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Dave Pearah:
And I quote a more abbreviated form of it to my kids all the time because you’re born maybe with a certain level of intelligence or you’re born into opportunities or you have a good work network or you don’t or you go to a great school or you have a good luck. I mean, listen, the one thing you can control is how much effort you’re going to put into something. There’s not a lot you can do to control the luck or the education or where you’re born into but it’s one of the few things you can control.

Adam Tervort:
Yeah.

Dave Pearah:
And I think, then no more true than this role at SpiderOak, where it’s hard, we’re a small business. There’s nothing easy about making explicitly secure software for a world that largely doesn’t care that much, to be honest, there’s a large part. I don’t want to say no one cares but people care to a degree. So, when you’re the best at something that people are okay with mediocre, it’s a tough business. And we are always trying to find, can we make the products better? Can we improve the messaging? What do we call the things that we do? How do we bring in the best people? I mean, a lot of what we do every day, Adam, as you know, is just being persistent and then maybe a little luck and timing and a little bit of smarts will get us there.

Dave Pearah:
But really I wake up thinking about, how can we increase our chances of success? And I go to bed thinking about that. And that’s the quote that kind of keeps me going. Especially in those days when our hit percentage isn’t as high as I want it to be because it’s the one thing you can’t control and it gives me the feeling that we can control it.

Adam Tervort:
That’s great, thank you. You’ve redeemed Calvin Coolidge just a little bit for me.

Dave Pearah:
Was he terrible at everything else? I’m just curious to see [crosstalk 00:19:30] president ever.

Adam Tervort:
Pretty much, bottom five.

Dave Pearah:
Oh, okay.

Adam Tervort:
I think Franklin Pierce was probably worse but not someone you generally study for presidential wisdom.

Dave Pearah:
Did he cause the great depression?

Adam Tervort:
He certainly helped it along.

Dave Pearah:
Oh, okay, great.

Adam Tervort:
Yeah. All right, well, with that fun transition, thanks again, Dave, for being with us today and for talking with us.

Dave Pearah:
Oh, thank you. And this is your baby and your idea, in terms of doing this. So, I’m interested to see the folks from the community that had come on board and have many more interesting things to say. So, thanks for putting this together.

Adam Tervort:
And with that, we’ll have new episodes coming out soon with other members of the community, so I hope you look forward to that.

Adam Tervort:
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Adam Tervort:
Thanks again for listening to our very first episode. For all of us here at SpiderOak, I’m Adam Tervort, we hope you enjoyed this. Subscribe to hear more episodes, wherever it is that you procure your podcasts from. If you’re interested in joining us as a guest on Spider Bites, send me an email at podcast@spideroak-inc.com. Special thanks today go to our lawyers, Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, the staff weekend excursion planner, Deepak Toomuch, and our anger management coach, Kristen Hollered. Of course, to the immortal clicking clack and their extensive staff. Thanks everyone.

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