Jim Finnerty, recent Darden School of Business graduate and one of three founders of Myriad Data Solutions, seems to enjoy leaving his conversation partners with a new bit of trivia, an eye-opening piece of data, or an iconic quote that you’ll undoubtedly add to your own conversational repertoire moving forward. His recent conversation with me about Myriad Data Solutions, at once enlightening and entertaining, was certainly no exception, but underneath his affable personality is a methodical mind well suited for the serious and complex nature of corporate data security. Inspired by Finnerty, who sprinkled in a few well-placed and illuminating quotes from a bevy of famous names, I’d like to throw one into the mix as well:
Whether in academic, personal, or business spheres, Jim seems to be consistently drawn to situations in which “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (we can thank Aristotle for that one). This philosophy pervades our conversation from a number of angles – from his thoughts on business school (he wanted to exit Darden applying what he learned in every subject, rather than focusing on just one subject of expertise) to the very crux of his venture’s value proposition. In their own words, the Myriad Data team “uses unique data configurations on cloud platforms to achieve greater security, improved availability, and vendor control for business critical data in the cloud.” Finnerty, along with co-founders Ruben Aghayan (SEAS '16) and Matt Shandy (Law '16), knows that this description might be difficult for a non-techie to grasp for now, but in our increasingly tech-dependent world, it will soon be at the forefront of the public’s consciousness.
“In 2014 – there were something like 1.5 million ransomware issues; in 2015 – 2.5 million; in 2016 – 167 million, and there are expected to be around 400 million this year,” he tells me, allowing those startling statistics to sink in. While he’s always harbored entrepreneurial ambitions for some undetermined career point in the future, Finnerty entered into Darden expecting to take a path familiar to many MBAs – securing a job in consulting for a couple of years. But then, after spending his business school summer exploring the typical internship route that many of his classmates embraced, he realized that the urge to devote his time and energy only to projects in which he has real, direct ownership couldn’t wait. When he serendipitously encountered Aghayan and his extremely timely idea, he thought – he quotes Winston Churchill by way of explanation – “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
According to Finnerty, “the number one prevention technique in ransomware is having reliable backup,” which allows flexibility for counteraction such as wiping and restoring when one’s data is under attack. Myriad allows companies, especially those in sensitive sectors such as financial services, to feel more comfortable harnessing the cloud for data storage and computing. When utilizing Myriad, which offers data sharding and dispersion to ensure that no singular cloud storage option (i.e. Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, or others) contains a company’s full data set, Myriad clients are protected from having sensitive information accessed in the event of a security breach. Ultimately, with Myriad, the sum of a company’s data “parts” reveal nothing without Myriad making the data whole.
It may seem that each action Finnerty takes has been arrived at by careful calculation, but the Myriad team came together largely as a result of fortuitous coincidences. Finnerty initially connected with Aghayan because the latter had written a blurb to Darden’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital club looking for a partner to compete with him in UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup. He met with Ruben at Crozet Pizza, where they broke (cheesy, tomato-y) bread, drank a beer, and excitedly discussed the potential inherent in Aghayan’s idea, which stemmed from a paper Aghayan had written at the School of Engineering. “He’s a really good communicator,” Finnerty tells me – “he already knew what he thought the benefits would be.” They decided to join forces and did, in fact, compete in the “E-Cup” as a way of testing the waters. When the team, with the important addition of third co-founder Shandy – the “legal mind” and a new graduate of UVA’s law school (who they also brought on board over food and libations), took a prize, they knew they might have something promising on their hands. So they did what any effectual team would do and began cold-calling, to see if they could bring in interested parties to work with them as they developed the product.
The CEO of Virginia National Bank proved to be the perfect partner with whom to develop this technology. Finnerty recalls the attributes of this partnership that felt completely in line with Myriad’s targets and mission – “he’s founded his own business, he’s got a tech background as he was formerly a network engineer, and now he’s the CEO of the perfect demographic for Myriad. He got it immediately.”
By way of one last memorable quote, Finnerty now calls on Isaac Newton’s famous words as he tells me that he considers Myriad to be “standing on the shoulders of giants,” creating something that involves and builds upon the major, trusted players already in the market. Additionally, by not relying on any one individual cloud service within the market, they’re diversifying against the risk of being too beholden to any singular option. As Myriad gears up to launch their prototype with VNB this summer, Finnerty is excited for the possibilities inherent in the startup’s continued growth. With the right mix of methodology and serendipity, and a few wise words from generations past, those possibilities are truly greater than one could ever try to sum up.