Shikhil, Ananda Co-Founder Of ASTRA Talks About Web Security & His Journey

Please tell us something about yourself and how did Astra happen?

I’m Shikhil, Ananda & myself started Astra a few years ago and have helped a few thousand businesses secure their web apps from hackers. The fact that something that we created helps thousands of business owners sleep better at night and secures millions of customers of those businesses, in turn, gives us a lot of satisfaction.

Ananda & I have been hackers (read security enthusiasts) ourselves. We’ve helped some big names like Microsoft, Adobe, Yahoo, Buffer, etc secure their websites by participating in their bug bounty programs. We thought it would be great to do this full time, and that’s how Czar Securities was born.

Astra Security- Receiving Award From PM
Team Astra Security receiving best cybersecurity startup award from Prime Minister of India at Global Conference on Cyber Security

At Czar, we used to find vulnerabilities in the websites of businesses and help them secure those. Now, one common suggestion each time used to be to have a website firewall to which CTO’s used to say – we’ve bought a firewall but it’s too difficult to configure and comes in between the normal functionality of the website. We took that as a challenge and Astra was born – to make web security super simple for businesses!

Your product Astra Security is new but doing well, how you plan to fight the tough WordPress plugins market?

Oh well, Astra has been around a few years now so not that new after all. What separates Astra from other solutions is the fact that it’s a complete ‘suite’. There are only a couple of plugins on the WordPress plugin market that would count as real ‘security’ plugins offering 360° website protection.

With Astra offering website firewall, on-demand malware scanner, website security check, bug bounty management & a security hub with a host of other security tools I think we’re already on a strong path to take on the market. The fact that we tailor security so well to WP and think of our customer first is definitely an edge factor I believe.

Astra Security- Dashboard
Did I tell you that Astra is not *only* a WordPress plugin, it secures all popular technologies like Magento, Prestashop, OpenCart, Drupal, Joomla, Codeigniter, etc? This makes Astra’s market quite wide. We are already the market leader in a number of these CMSs market.

What are some of the challenges you faced while starting Astra?

Just like any business, one of the initial challenges is to educate potential customers and convince them to swipe their card for your solution. In our situation, one early realization helped us come up with a solution. We realized that Astra is a unique solution which is both a painkiller and vitamin.

It’s a painkiller for people who have already been hacked and are looking for a solution that could help them on priority, a vitamin for people who understand the importance of security and want to secure their businesses.

As an early growth hack, we started focusing on customers who are already hacked and did a lot of content marketing around that. This helped us get the initial few hundred customers on-board.

What kind of SEO techniques you are using for these products to rank high on competitive terms like “WordPress Permissions”?

Well, one line for this ‘good content trumps all’. We wrote a lot of good content that provided massive value to readers and in turn, Google rewarded us by ranking on search results. We always made sure that our basics are correct – our website is SEO friendly, website scores well on Google page speed, long-tail keywords leading to the main keyword are mapped well and we invested in the right tools which helped us in devise correct strategy for each keyword.

How did you promote your products among marketers like me? What promotion strategies you applied to your business to make it more visible in online marketing.

We have an amazing affiliate program to start with. This always attracts marketers who are looking to share the gold with their network. To make Astra more visible in the online world, we rely heavily on word of mouth by our customers. This means we believe in giving refreshingly amazing support to our customers and wow them with our product so that they spread the word. We try to reward customers who share the word about Astra. Various review websites help us in building trust too.
Astra Security- Affiliate Marketing

Astra’s Affiliate Program is One of the Best Known Program’s in the Industry

What email management tool should you use on your products sites to capture visitors emails?

I would definitely recommend Mautic, it’s a beast! Though it often requires maintenance as it’s a hosted solution but definitely feature-rich and solid. Apart from that we also use Sumo & Birdseed at places. In the past, we’ve had success with Hubspot too on this front.

What other features Astra is planning to launch later this year? 

We have some really exciting stuff that is going to hit the floor this year! These features include – scan scheduling for our malware scanner, ‘security hub’ which will change the way people use security solutions, monetizing of our security seal which makes the agencies/marketers really happy and much more. We’ll be adding some great stuff to our agency offerings too.

Top 5 features of Astra that are really better than your competitors?

Frankly, we try to do everything we do at least 10x better than others. Often, we don’t follow the competition and carve our own trajectory and understand that sometimes the good work competition does has to be acknowledged. That said, Astra’s top 5 features that are better than competition are:

    1. Our rock-solid firewall
    2. Malware scanner, which customers who have used other products have come to us and told that is better than others
    3. Intuitive dashboard, which makes security super simple for even the non-tech savvy
    4. Support, not a feature but something that we take very seriously and has won us a number of customers
    5. Security Audits. A number of customers have used security audits and uncovered some serious vulnerabilities in their websites

How big Astra team? How do manage positive culture in office?

We’re currently 15+ people on a missing to make the web a secure place & rapidly increasing in number.

I believe culture is one of the top things to keep in mind while building a business. As a founder, I try to make sure that every person knows exactly what their role is in the vision we’re working towards. However, how they go about achieving it is something I try to keep it to them as every person has their own way of executing things – and that’s where the surprise is!

Astra Security- Team
My friend & colleague Ujwal, who was working at Amazon and recently joined Astra plays a huge role in developing culture. He’s seen how Amazon is able to maintain its startup culture yet being a multi-billion dollar company – something that we would like to maintain when are a multi-billion dollar ourselves, so doing it right from day one.

What are your top 3 hiring questions you ask potential employees?

    1. If money didn’t exist, what would you do for a living?
    2. Why did you choose to do what you’re currently doing?
    3. What did you understand we do? (to learn what’s the first impression of a person who visits our website)

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About Aman Jha

Aman Jha is a digital marketing author, speaker, and consultant. He is a sucker for fine words and blogs about digital marketing and startups at maxzob.com. You can reach out to him at: [email protected]

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