Transparency is key: the more you show transparency to your investors, customers, and fellow management, the more committed they’ll be to the company and its journey. When your fellow visionaries trust you completely, they will better understand you and will stick with you the entire way.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Moshe Shlisel.
Moshe Shlisel is the CEO and co-founder of GuardKnox, the automotive industry’s first Cybertech Tier supplier of high-performance, flexible, and cost-effective solutions for the next generation of connected vehicles. A veteran of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), Moshe served as the Deputy Commander of Special Operations and oversaw the development and application of advanced defense aviation technology. He brings with him over 15 years of successful managerial experience, having held executive positions at multiple technology companies throughout his career.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you for the invitation to participate. I come from a special operations unit in the Israeli Air Force, where “thinking outside of the box” doesn’t exist as we simply don’t accept the existence of a “box.” We saw no limits and no boundaries when figuring out how to develop the next best thing.
After my military service, I took on a series of executive roles at large tech companies in Israel, trying to find the right fit. I learned so much from defense aviation so the question always spinning in my mind was how to apply these skills to my career.
That’s when it clicked — I’ve always been obsessed with cars, particularly 4×4 vehicles. Yet when I looked at the industry as a whole, I saw an industry that was facing a new reality: a huge paradigm shift was changing the very definition of vehicles. I thought, “How can we deliver the innovation required for the future of mobility?”
This “Eureka moment” inspired me and my co-founders, Dionis Teshler and Idan Nadav, to found and lead GuardKnox. We realized that we could partner with automakers and suppliers to usher in the next generation of software-defined and service-oriented vehicles. My own experience in the Israeli Air Force special forces gave me the skill set to push the boundaries of what could be achieved in the automotive industry.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
At GuardKnox, we disrupted the entire 100-year old automotive supply chain through the establishment of the Cybertech Tier, a new category designed to complement OEMs and traditional tier suppliers with innovative products and solutions that usher in the next generation of software-defined and service-oriented vehicles.
The need for an entirely new tier in the supply chain didn’t materialize out of nowhere. As technology continues to evolve and consumer demands rapidly change, the automotive industry was facing a paradigm shift and had to evolve quickly. In this new era of on-demand shopping, banking, and entertainment where consumers expect everything at their fingertips, automakers are re-envisioning the “in-vehicle experience” to make it more immersive.
While many car manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge, none can fully guarantee the application-oriented platforms that support integration and updates of new apps and services, let alone these customizable in-vehicle experiences that drivers are demanding. More critically perhaps, none can ensure full cybersecurity protection. For this new reality to be met, traditional tier suppliers and automakers alone must collaborate with technology-driven partners.
That’s where the Cybertech Tier comes in. It’s designed to help the automotive industry embrace new technologies that power high-performance, secure-by-design vehicles and to open new revenue channels for vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders across the industry.
As the first Cybertech Tier supplier, GuardKnox is disrupting the industry with a suite of products designed to serve as the foundation for added connectivity, infotainment, add-on applications, amenities, and vehicle customization, while simultaneously protecting vehicles against unauthorized access or manipulation. Our solutions are empowering the automotive industry with the freedom to evolve to meet the changing needs of customers and connected vehicles, safely and securely.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, there are many memories I could share. One that stands out, in particular, happened during a talk at Web Summit. I realized that my nose was bleeding everywhere, but I knew that this talk was much too important to our company to stop to fix the issue. So I kept talking through it — delivering everything I came there to say — even while a panelist looked at me completely horrified. I learned that it’s important to persist and finish what you came to do even during extremely public, uncomfortable moments.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Dr. Yossi Bolless, a member of GuardKnox’s Board of Advisors, has been a great mentor of mine. I was eager to start my own company after I got out of the Israeli Air Force. Yossi thankfully slowed me down and helped me prioritize logic over unfiltered ambition. He told me that in order to lead a company without making huge mistakes, I should spend some time in the corporate arena. He knew that there was a huge difference between conglomerates and smaller companies and that I should have experience in both so I could be prepared for “rainy days.” This was some of the wisest advice I’ve received in business. Looking back, I am convinced that this advice helped prepare me for the “rainy days” the automotive industry is now facing due to the global pandemic. Because we were prepared, GuardKnox has been able to prosper despite the setbacks faced by automakers and Tier 1 suppliers.
Another mentor I want to mention is Dr. Juergen Hambrecht, former BASF chairman. Juergen gave GuardKnox a lot of credibility by introducing us to a group of investors who eventually became our partners. He’s an invaluable sounding board — he shows me all the pros and cons of my ideas and guides me to the right strategic decision every time.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
We, as humans, love patterns. However, if you’re not questioning why the existing paradigm is right and if you’re not willing to work against it when necessary, then you are — according to the Pink Floyd song — “comfortably numb.” Being disruptive helps us find smarter and less costly ways to cover more needs of the customer.
Disruption to me is mostly positive. Look at smartphones. They went from analog to digital and basically eliminated the need for landlines. Suddenly, we were connecting more to people and less to numbers. For once, people themselves — as opposed to industry leaders as it had been in the past — were the driving forces behind a major disruption. That’s just as true in the automotive industry, where consumers are driving the demands and the industry is following their lead — instead of vehicle-centric technology, we are moving towards driver-centric technology.
Of course, it’s worth noting that disruptiveness can go too far when ethical issues get mixed in. One of my favorite TV shows, Madam Secretary, provides an example of exactly where disruptive technology can take a wrong turn. In one episode, the characters had to decide whether they would turn all soldiers into robots — the issue here is that decision-making power would be given to machines. When ethics are compromised, then technology needs to be driven to the right place.
In automotive, we’re beginning to face ethical concerns when it comes to Level 5 autonomous vehicles. People are extremely uncomfortable with the possibility of an AV making a moral decision — such as deciding where and what to crash into if a collision is unavoidable. Governments, automakers, and technology companies will need to face these issues together and decide if AVs are worth pursuing.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
For one, being a CEO is a lonely road. Ultimately, making decisions from the top can be isolating. That’s why it’s so important to recruit dynamic people better than you that are willing to challenge the status quo and keep you on your toes. Having a team that helps you see the fuller picture makes this path feel much less lonely.
Second, transparency is key: the more you show transparency to your investors, customers, and fellow management, the more committed they’ll be to the company and its journey. When your fellow visionaries trust you completely, they will better understand you and will stick with you the entire way.
Finally, there are no limits — so dream big. GuardKnox started out as a small automotive cybersecurity company and we have expanded globally, while defining an entirely new technology-driven supply chain tier that provides the new automotive architecture needed for the next-generation of vehicles. There is no goal too large.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
At GuardKnox, we believe in designing and building our technology with the “freedom to evolve.” We plan to continue producing better, faster, and customizable experiences for our customers, drivers, and passengers.
Drivers and passengers especially are looking for the transformation of their vehicles into something more: they are wanting an immersive in-vehicle experience that enables them to better use their time, rather than simply the ability to drive from point A to point B. We’re helping to bring about theiPhone-ization of vehicles, where the same technology that we use on our phones is now readily available at a driver’s fingertips in a car. Vehicles will be the app stores of tomorrow.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The Phantom Major by Virginia Cowles has greatly impacted me. The book tells the story of David Sterling, the father of the British Special Air Service (SAS), in North Africa during World War II. It’s a story of leadership and overcoming resistance to ideas that might seem crazy at first.
Sterling’s slogan for his unit was “he who dares, wins.” I really believe that. People who are hardworking and creative can achieve those “crazy” ideas, just as we have done at GuardKnox.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The coldest hour in the day is the one before the sun rises.” This phrase has taught me to never ever give up, even in the face of adversity. Even when you think life and situations are too tough to handle, you will get through it. Perseverance is key.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I would spearhead a movement, it would be a movement that would bring global leaders to be honest people. I would want to make sure that the people they serve are their priority, and that leaders could bring nations to a better place without focusing on their own political power first. I strongly believe that all men and women are created equal and that we are all born good. Societies and governments should be built as an instrument of good to protect us. Governments must do more to show they care about our well-being.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can visit guardknox.com to read what our company is up to on our blog. They can also connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!