Emerge From Stealth Mode by Streamlining Your Startup’s Operations

Last Updated on March 9, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Is your business ready to step into the spotlight?

Having successfully launched two startups, Huzefa Olia understood the importance of laying a good foundation for a business. As the chief operating officer at 1Kosmos, a digital identity management company, he built an efficient team and created effective processes to solidify the organization’s operations before coming out of stealth mode, an organization’s temporary state of secretiveness. 

Huzefa Olia is the guest in this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast. He shares with the host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz, his experience about scaling a startup out of stealth mode.

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Show Notes   

[0:26] Intro   

  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz mentions some of the past guests who have been on the show including David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, and Cameron Harold of Alliance.
  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces SweetProcess, a workflow tool that helps businesses to streamline their operations even in life-or-death situations.   
  • SweetProcess offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card. 

[1:49] Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces the guest, Huzefa Olia.

[2:41] What does 1Kosmos do as a business?

  • Pioneers in digital identity, 1Kosmos is a digital identity management company that creates a verified single digital identity for people and authenticates the identity across multiple platforms. 
  • The organization helps online users to maintain security and privacy.

[5:01]  Huzefa talks about the clients of 1Kosmos.

  • The organization services a variety of clients, especially the security groups on the workforce side such as banks.

[5:54]  What’s important in operations when you are coming out of stealth mode?

  • 1Kosmos is Huzefa’s third startup. It came out of stealth mode in January 2021.
  • The organization has increased its revenue five times, increased its customer base three times, and increased its employee base two times.
  • The three most important factors for coming out of stealth mode include hiring the right readers, getting the entire team on the same page, and moving very fast without blind spots.

[9:06]  Huzefa explains the most important operational factors to consider in hiring the right leaders.

  • You need to make sure that the leaders you are hiring understand the mission.
  • You also need to create the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for the incoming leaders.

[10:05] Who should be in charge of hiring team members: the leadership team or the leaders in particular?

  • At 1Kosmos, leaders have full autonomy to make decisions within the department, including hiring people. 
  • The management team should determine the parameters for what the leaders have to be successful.

[10:57] Huzefa talks about the important KPIs worth considering as a new business.

  • Early-stage companies focus more on revenue. But besides revenue, you also need to focus on your brand voice and customer feedback.

[12:08] What is the mission and vision of 1Kosmos?

  • 1Kosmos wants to be the single identity for all online transactions.

[14:00] Huzefa talks about managing too much information in your organization in terms of transparency. 

  • The best partnership with your employees is one built on trust from the beginning.

[15:56] Huzefa shares an experience of having hard conversations with new employees about their jobs.

  • Huzefa made two of his new hires understand that they were filling new positions that weren’t previously existent at the organization.

[18:26] What are other important factors for coming out of stealth mode?

  • Make sure that the organization has a planning exercise and create it ahead of time.
  • People can only perform well when they know what to do.

[19:46] Huzefa gives insights into the “when” and “how” of coming out of stealth mode.

  • 1Kosmos operated in stealth mode for three years.
  • Growth is more organic when you are in stealth mode.
  • Coming out of stealth mode too early could ruin an organization.

[22:05] Dr. Jeremy Weisz directs the audience to visit the 1Kosmos website for more information about the organization’s services. 

[22:23] What attracted Huzefa to 1Kosmos?

  • Huzefa started his career in identity management right after college.
  • He was fascinated with the idea of not being at the forefront of every function but also making sure that the engine is running very well.

[23:47] Outro.

About Huzefa Olia

Huzefa Olia is the chief operating officer at 1Kosmos, a digital identity management company. An expert in identity and security analytics solutions, he’s responsible for developing and managing solution delivery teams.

With many years of experience in identity management under his belt, Huzefa has previously worked with top organizations such as Oracle and Sun Microsystems. He’s passionate about solving problems in the areas of identity and access management and IT risk. 

Huzefa’s specialties include identity and access management, IT risk analytics, security, governance and strategy, data protection, and data security. 

Transcript of this interview

Announcer: Welcome to The Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of The Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations to your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Here with Huzefa Olia of 1Kosmos. And before I introduce him formally, because I like to mention other guests we’ve had on the podcast they should check out. We’ve had David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of The E-Myth, Cameron Harold, and many other amazing COOs, directors of operations. So check more episodes out on Process Breakdown Show. This episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. And if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, it may be the 10th time you spent explaining it, there’s actually a better way. There is a solution. SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I was talking with one of the owners, Owen, not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So I was like, “Owen, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.” You can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your team’s time and your time so you can focus on growing and empowering them. You can sign up for a free 14 day trial, no credit card is required, go to sweetprocess.com. That’s sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T, process.com. I’m excited to introduce today’s guest Huzefa Olia, he has years of experience in running sales, operations, customer service teams, regional business units.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: He’s worked for anywhere from places like Oracle, Sun Microsystems and many more. He’s COO of 1Kosmos. If you haven’t heard of 1Kosmos, which we’ll talk about why, because in this topic we’re actually going to talk about coming out of stealth mode. How do you scale startup coming out of stealth? And 1Kosmos is the world’s only cybersecurity solution that combines indisputable digital identity proofing, advanced biometrics, password list authentication, data encrypt … This is way over my pay grade, Huzefa. Permission blockchain and much more. Thanks for joining me.

Huzefa Olia: Thank you, thanks for having me.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So talk a little bit about 1Kosmos and what you as a company do.

Huzefa Olia: Absolutely. So 1Kosmos, we are pioneers in digital identity. And before we talk about, or I talk about what the company does, just a very relevant problem in the industry today. In the physical world if, Dr. Jeremy if you need to prove who you are, it’s fairly easy. What you need to do is, you take your ID out and, wherever you are, if you’re at a bank or if you’re at a restaurant, you can prove who you are. But in the digital identity world what you have created is a proxy for yourself in the form of a username or password. Because nobody understands who you are.

Huzefa Olia: So what we do at 1Kosmos is we essentially create a single digital identity for you, which is verified, vetted. And then we use that to authenticate you across multiple different services that are present. And in that interaction of yours with those services, we remove the username or password and we replace that with biometrics. And just to make sure, and we ensure that it is you, we actually use real biometrics. Compared to the machine biometrics which are available today.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So it’s a prevent, to be more accurate, and prevent someone hacking someone else’s data and identity?

Huzefa Olia: Absolutely. Right. And with the advent of Web 3.0, where … There are two areas which are plaguing everybody today, one is security and the other is privacy. Security, with the whole hacking question, and the privacy or lack of privacy is more around your information that is being used by services today without your consent, your knowledge, and sold to third parties.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You mean why I get 10 phone calls a day from spammers on my phone?

Huzefa Olia: Absolutely. So the whole concept, and this is where the blockchain comes in is, we are built on the tenants of decentralized identity. Which allows you to possess your digital identity under your control and gives you full transparency as well as control around how your data is shared with third party services.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So who are clients, customers of 1Kosmos, then?

Huzefa Olia: Variety of different services. We work with the security groups on the workforce side, which is most often large banks, for them to ensure the security of their employees and their contractors. And then we have customers like, on the banking side. So one of our largest customers has about 15 million consumers and they use our platform.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. And we’ll talk about how to scale a startup coming out of stealth, and the key factors of that is, you have to make sure all the operations are in place because you are coming out on all cylinders. So talk about what’s important to put into place, as far as operations go, when you’re coming out of stealth mode.

Huzefa Olia: Yeah, it’s interesting because this is my third startup and every time when you come out of … When you’re in a startup mode, you’re all focusing on what my go to market message needs to be. How do I need to secure the next business or the next deal and then move forward? So the vision becomes very small at that point. You’re just more in the present rather than thinking about what you need to do one day or two days from now. So I have found, at least in this iteration of 1Kosmos, that operation plays a very, very pivotal role. It’s actually our one year round of us coming out of stealth. We came out of stealth around January, end of last year, and we have scaled tremendously.

Huzefa Olia: So we have increased our revenue about five times, increased our customer base three times, increased our employees two times. And I would say the most pivotal piece to this is planning. Having a process, having a plan on what you need to do to execute year over year. I would also put it to three important tenants, most often is, how do you make sure that you have the right team in place? So the approach that we took very, very early is that we need to hire leaders into individual department, and then they scale their team, rather than the other way around. Because most startups tend to do that maybe from a cost standpoint or maybe from just a timing standpoint that, let’s hire one person who can do a marketing function or a sales function or a customer success function, but not looking at it holistically.

Huzefa Olia: So I think the most important tenant is hiring the right leaders, making them the CEOs of their individual departments. And then the second I would say is more around, how do you sure that everybody is marching to the same beat? So metrics, measurement is very, very important. I have heard a few your podcasts around why KPIs to measure your business are important so I’m not going to dive more into it. But what is important is all of those individual department KPIs need to roll up into an overall company mission as well as vision. And then the last piece I would put is, a startup always moves very fast. We have to pivot very, very quickly and you need to make sure that when you pivot there are no blind spots across any department, any function. So clear communication, transparency across all of those particular business lines, is extremely important as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to dig into the first one, which is hiring, but really focusing on the hiring leaders. What are some of the operational things you have to put in place to be able to focus and do that effectively?

Huzefa Olia: Yeah. I think just making sure that the leaders who are coming on board understand what the mission/vision is as well as creating the KPIs for them. As a department function, they mature, so if a function is there in operation for two or three years in business, they get very good at defining what their metrics are. But what you need to put as a first foundation squarely comes on the plate the operations team and the CEO. So I would say that is the most important, after making sure that you hired the right team in place.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. And then, when that happens, you hire the leader, is then do you want that leader to be in charge of high hiring the team? Or is it still the leadership team that helps with hiring the team of that, I guess, particular department?

Huzefa Olia: See, what we have believed in at 1Kosmos is that if you’re a leader, you have full autonomy of taking decisions with the department. That includes anybody you need to hire as well. Everybody else is available in a consultative way. Found it best that, if you hire the right people, you get out of their way, let them do their job. You define the parameters of what they have to be successful for. That has been very, very useful and successful for us.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’d love for you to dig in a little bit on the KPI standpoint. And you could talk about your company, or just overall, just important KPI people should be considering. And maybe it’s yours or maybe it’s ones where you worked at with other companies.

Huzefa Olia: Yeah. So early stage companies, they tend to focus a lot on the revenue side. And of course, rightly so, you want to get that market share. But we have found that, apart from the revenue, what is more important is two aspects. Your brand, so share of voice that you get in the market, and the second is what your CSAT tells you. So even your customer base may be small to begin with, but are you listening to your customers? And do you have that feedback loop not just once in a year, but are you constantly listening to them? And you are making your teams accountable to making sure that your customers are successful as well. I mean, those things tend to come in place down the line, but what I want to emphasize is you having that in day one, when you’re rolling out the function itself.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And then going back to, you said everything should roll up to the mission and vision. Do you want to talk a little bit about the mission vision of 1Kosmos?

Huzefa Olia: Yeah. We want to be that single identity. So if you’re logging into your social media site, if you’re logging into your bank, and if you’re looking to log into any application, today you log in with multiple different providers like Google or Facebook. We hope that tomorrow that can be 1Kosmos. And so, the experience of you logging in at that point should not be a username or password, but you take your phone, the phone takes a selfie of you, then automatically authenticates you.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. It’s kind of like, on a broader scale, when Apple came out with the iPod. They’re like, a thousand songs in your pocket. It’s more like the end result, what you want to accomplish, than more of the features.

Huzefa Olia: Absolutely. Right, yeah. I mean, that’s the overall mission and vision but what we to do is we break it down into much more manageable pieces and what we can accomplish year over year.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah, totally. And then, from the transparency piece, at what point … And I know I’ve talked to a lot of different business leaders and they have varying thoughts on transparency in a company. And when is information too much in information? And I guess I go back to thinking of, pretend you’re on a first date. You don’t want to share all of your baggage because it’s going to scare the person off. Eventually you’ll share it, but maybe not on the first date or you’ll scare the person off. So that’s what I think of when I think of transparency. When is information too much information? How do you know how much to share and when to share it within a company?

Huzefa Olia: Yeah that’s a very interesting perspective that you laid out. But there is, always you want to balance and see what information to share. And I would say, especially when somebody is starting their relationship, and the relationship over here is any new person that you bring on board. How do you make sure that you’re not going to be scaring them away? But I have often realized that the best partnerships that you have with your employees is, you tell them before they come in, “This is a startup. There’s going to be a lot of noise. There’s going to be chaos. Are you ready for it?” Because it’s better to be honest about that rather than them realizing it down the line. And I have found that that builds trust. We’ve lost a lot of good people as well, don’t get me wrong. But at least the people who’ve joined, you build trust from day zero. And when you build that particular trust, it’s much more easier to communicate down the line. Even if that is bad news.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And that’s part of the process, and like you were saying, when you put these steps in place, we’re hiring someone, make sure you say X, Y, Z. It’s a tough conversation, we’d rather have it now than they find out after four months, and then they’re not happy, and then et cetera. So I don’t know if there’s one you could think of that is in the process of like, “Hey, we tell people upfront X, Y, Z.” What’s a tough conversation that you … I mean, it’s not even a tough conversation, but it’s just more being transparent upfront. What can you think of that you tell the team or the staff that, maybe other companies may not tell them. Be like, “Oh, we’ll wait for them to figure it out in six months,” and then it may backfire on them.

Huzefa Olia: Oh, the last one year, I’ve had two full-time jobs. One is running the whole operations and the other is recruiter for the company. And the tough conversations are always around, we don’t have any of these things that you’re doing today in place. And most often, eight out of 10 times, it’s like, “Oh, really? That’s going to be very, very tough.” I mean, I’ll tell you, in my finance function, I’ll give you an example, it took me four months to hire someone. Primarily because I just told them that all of finance, everything, we have it in different places. And we had to bring all of that together. And they’re like, “You don’t have this tool? You don’t have that? You don’t have this?” And that scares a lot of people away, but it’s important just to be patient and communicating it the right way. And at least that helps in the long run as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I mean, the right person, they’ll get excited about that. The right person will be like, “Oh, I get to create what I think is going to be built from scratch in the foundation and pulling these things?” And the wrong is like, “This is not for me.” So you’re going to repel probably the wrong people anyways, in that scenario.

Huzefa Olia: Yeah. Yeah, it’s important because you have to strike that balance. Because you are telling them all of these things, but at the same time you’re giving them … You have to put all of these things in place and the whole company’s running on goals and KPIs. You have to attain those particular KPIs as well. So the conversation is, how do you balance that? So you want to make sure that the people coming in, they will put the right foundation, but at the same time, you are measuring them for success and making sure that they’re successful as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Yeah. From an operational perspective, is there anything else operationally that is important when you come out of stealth mode? Which is, you talked about hiring leaders, organizing the metrics around the mission/vision, which backs into KPIs. And the transparency piece. So, anything else that you thought was really essential and important when coming out of stealth mode?

Huzefa Olia: Yeah. I would say that, again, just coming back to making sure that the whole organization has a planning exercise that has been done. So I’ve learned, at least in past jobs, what your annual operating plan can help you with. And that exercise is extremely important. And don’t do that in your month one, of your new year, but do it two months before you begin. Again, it goes back to the whole tenants of communication, making sure everybody knows their job. If you’re a fan of football and Coach Bill Belichick, do your job, kind of a philosophy. And you can you expect everyone to do their function well if they know what they have to do. So that operating plan is extremely important as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Talk about the stealth piece. How you decide when you’re going to come out of stealth. If you come out of stealth, like, “Hey, we’re flying under everyone else’s radar, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re growing like crazy.” Why even come out of stealth mode? Or how do you make that decision to, when, and how to do that?

Huzefa Olia: Great question. So we operated in stealth for about, I would say, three years. So typically, if you compare to companies or startups, it’s a longer average cycle. Staying in stealth and coming out of it. But I would say, and at least let me describe why we stayed in stealth for a very long time. And what was very important for us was, of course, the product side of it, the go to market message. We had base customers, we proved it out with them, and then when we were ready, we said we want to come out and hit the market.

Huzefa Olia: But the main reasons why we came out of stealth was, your growth is often organic when you are in stealth. And when you, essentially when you believe in the company, when you believe in what your product is, you want to hit that accelerated growth. And that’s only possible if you announce yourself, and announcing yourself in the right way, which is making sure that your customers are your partners and backing you. Making sure that you have a good brand, or you have a good message and a good brand as well, that is tied to you coming out of stealth.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: [crosstalk 00:21:20].

Huzefa Olia: I would just say that, I’m not saying that this is template, that everybody has to stay three years and come out of stealth, but it’s important to time it. Some companies do it too early. And I’ve seen a lot, in the past as well, where companies looking to invest in their particular product but it crashes and burns because just the timing was a little bit early. So to each their own, but make sure you time it right. If you know that you’ve proven the product, you have the go to market message ready, then hit the accelerator hard.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The last question I want to ask, because first I want to point people towards … You can check out 1Kosmos.com, learn more. It’s the number one, K-O-S-M-O-S.com. What attracted you to 1Kosmos? And you had a previous relationship with the CEO.

Huzefa Olia: Yes. So I have been fortunate enough to be in identity management for a long time. And my first job out of college, I was a computer science major, and I said, “Let me go and figure out where I can build the next software program.” And I landed up in identity management. But got excited about the space, I got excited about what it stood for, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do multiple different jobs. My career started in implementing identity management, and then went to customer success, then I went into sales operations. And then that led to managing P & L for a business unit. And of course, when we started 1Kosmos, back then I had the relationship with the founder-CEO. But I said, “I’ve done everything which is there, in the whole gamut.” But what’s important is, how do you make sure that all of these functions operate really well? And that’s where I decided to take on more of the operations mantle. The idea being that you’re not more in the forefront of every function, but making sure that the engine is running very well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Love it. Well, first of all, thank you for your time and your expertise. Everyone, check out 1Kosmos.com, check out The Process Breakdown Podcast, and check out SweetProcess. And thanks everyone.

Huzefa Olia: Thank you.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Process Breakdown Podcast. Before you go, quick question, do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/or policies for your company? So that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to sweetprocess.com, sweet like candy, and process like process.com. Go now to sweetprocess.com and sign up for your risk free 14 day trial.

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