Raja Mukerji ’98 co-founded ExtraHop, a cybersecurity company, which he recently sold to Bain Capital for $900 million. How did he get here? It all started in 2007 when Mukerji and his business partner Jesse Rothstein asked themselves, “What if…”.
“We realized the biggest problem with the internet and cybersecurity is the lack of actionable data. There is not a greater understanding of the environment. So, we asked ourselves, ‘what can we do to simplify the problem? What if we started our own company? What if we could…’ and a series of more what if questions until we decided to take the plunge and create ExtraHop.”
Mukerji and Rothstein left their former company, F5 Networks, and created ExtraHop. ExtraHop provides cloud-native cybersecurity solutions to help enterprises detect and respond to advanced threats before they compromise businesses.
“Cyber attackers can attack an unlimited number of times at unprecedented times. Cybersecurity defenders have to be successful every time. Unfortunately, the good guys are losing while the amateur attackers are gaining. That’s why we created our company. We wanted to build a solution synonymous with keeping people safe and have the best practice in the industry. ExtraHop uses machine learning and AI to identify attacks as they occur to give security practitioners the upper hand.”
When they started the company, they had no idea ExtraHop would be the success it is today.
“To be honest, we couldn’t have picked a worse time to start a company,” laughed Mukerji. “We launched our first project during the financial crisis, we weathered a recession, we continue to navigate the pandemic and everything in between. Our success is a result of the tenacity and grit of our team. We bet on our team and each other. It’s all about people working together with perseverance through trying times.”
Today ExtraHop is comprised of more than 600 employees and has a presence in over 10 countries. For Mukerji, the most rewarding aspect has been building a culture and helping keep companies safe.
“Being a key part of shaping a culture, building an organization that spans multiple countries and helps countless families is what it’s all about. It’s been fun and there’s more to come!”
With the $900 million acquisition from Bain Capital, Mukerji and Rothstein plan to reinvest in the acquired entity and stay with the company to grow it to a larger outcome.
“We never did this for the money—we did it for the experience. While it is a lifechanging amount of money, it’s not mission accomplished. There is still more work to be done. We protect children’s hospitals, financial institutions, health care systems and more, we can’t afford to take our eyes away for a minute to ensure their assets are safe. Our mission is incredibly gratifying, and we’re just getting started.”
Mukerji was born and raised in the United Kingdom. His family moved back to India when he was in high school, and he proceeded to attend Manipal Institute of Technology in southern India, which has a transfer program with MSOE. Mukerji transferred to MSOE his junior year for computer engineering.
“Back then, if you wanted to major in computer science or computer engineering, you had to go to the U.S. What was interesting about MSOE’s programs was that they provided a holistic program focusing on how hardware and software work together, which was fairly unique.”
Mukerji gives his parents all the credit for his love for computer engineering.
“It was Christmas 1983. While all my friends were getting the newest gaming devices, my parents got me a computer that had very few games and was all about programming. I started programming at eight years old and I really enjoyed it.”
Mukerji pours that love he found at eight years old into his work each day. And as if being a talented chief customer officer of a huge corporation isn’t enough, Mukerji also adds “musician” to his resume. In his free time, he can be found playing keyboard and guitar at dive bars around Seattle. He also has three young daughters who keep him busy.
For individuals looking to start their own business adventures, Mukerji’s advice is simple: “Don’t put it off. Don’t wait for the magical idea to appear. The best way to find that big idea is to get out there and start building your vision.”