Distil Network, Interview with CEO Rami Essaid

Rami headshot 12_15Distil Network is already considered the global leader in bot detection and mitigation. Its just raised $21m Series B funding round will give the Arlington-based company new resources to continue to expand operations. In conjunction with the announcement, CEO Rami Essaid answered our questions about the company and future plans.

FinSMEs: Hi Rami, Can you tell as a bit about you?
Rami: To start, I was born in Syria, and raised in a small suburb of North Carolina – two very different ends of the spectrum. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, starting businesses in my youth and building on ideas to turn them into realities. At 23 years old I had my first successful exit from the first company I founded, then spent a few years working in enterprise security. I then co-founded Distil Networks, where I’ve served as CEO for over four years. I’m constantly traveling the globe (a great perk of the job), speaking at different conferences, meeting new partners or proposing deals.

FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Distil. Which opportunity did you find in the market? Which problem do you solve?
Rami: In my previous job, I noticed a need in the market for a scraping prevention service that no one seemed to provide. When I posed the problem to Engin Akyol and Andrew Stein – Distil’s two other co-founders and my good friends from grade school – we sat down and developed a way to fix it. Andrew came from a background of bot creation, so we figured out the best way to protect against them was to break them down from the get-go. That initial anti-scraping technology evolved into a full-fledged bot-blocking solution that not only can thwart scraping, but any type of bot. The technology can also differentiate the malicious bots from the good, as well as identify human users.

FinSMEs: How does Distil works?
Rami: From a basic level, Distil sits in line with the web traffic and filters all incoming requests. We use a unique fingerprinting technique to establish the identity of bots and what they do on a particular website.
This system allows us to inform users which bots are good or from search engines, and which are in fact bad bots. We pride ourselves on a 99.9% performance rate of blocking bots, while still allowing the good traffic

FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
Rami: It’s really an exciting time for Distil. We’ve just hired our 58th employee; this time last year we had only 16 people, all in our flagship office in Arlington, VA. We’ve since opened our San Francisco and Raleigh offices and are quickly growing out of them, and we are currently figuring out growth plans for even more expansion. We have over 300 customers, and dozens of the top Fortune 500 companies. We’ve seen a consistent 400% growth each year, and June just wrapped up the highest revenue month Distil has ever seen.

FinSMEs: You just closed your Series B round. How are you using the funds?
Rami: We’re spending much of it on our teams; we want to really expand all of our departments so hiring is our number one priority right now. We also plan on growing our engineering resources, in addition to increasing our marketing spend. We’ll also be opening a new UK office in the fall as a start to international expansion. We’ll continue doing what we have been, just at a larger, faster-paced scale.

FinSMEs: Future Plans?
Rami: The Distil team wants to look back at this moment and really see it being the catalyst of a lot of major events. The excitement that has been shown in bot-blocking technology and security solutions has us really looking forward to what’s to come. We are excited for future growth I’m confident we have the right people in place to get us to the next phase.

FinSMEs: You are based in Arlington VA. I Know a vibrant startup community is growing over there. What can you tell us?
Rami: The Washington DC/Northern VA community of startups is really a tight-knit group. Arlington is full of dedicated employees who want to be successful and part of a unique, impactful company. The DC Metro is also a great place to recruit for cyber security professionals.
Hopefully, other entrepreneurs will see the area as we saw it, so it continues to grow and thrive.



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