Distil Networks Co-founder and Chief Product and Strategy Officer
Rami Essaid has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. His family immigrated to the United States from Syria when he was in second grade. He didn’t speak English so his new elementary school placed him in English as a Second Language courses. None of the other children spoke Arabic so Essaid dropped out of ESL and learned English on his own.
By the time he was in high school, he was working part-time in a sales role for CompUSA. He paid his way through college by selling cell phones. Essaid was quite the salesman. He used his inherent knowledge of technology to successfully sell to consumers.
Essaid was studying computer engineering at North Carolina State University when he decided to drop out to start his first company, ChitChat Communications. Although he was close to attaining his degree, he just couldn’t wait to begin his career and start chasing his dream of having his own technology company.
After selling ChitChat Communications, he went into sales and marketing for a company offering a variety of technology-based solutions for numerous industries. As Essaid talked to his customers, he heard them describe a vexing problem: malicious web bots were bombarding their websites, distorting legitimate metrics and harming real business. At the time there was no commercial solution to this confounding problem, so Essaid began to explore the creation of a new solution. This led to his next venture, Distil Networks, where he remains today.
Distil’s early days were a struggle but Essaid and his co-founders continued to persevere. They knew they had something unique and absolutely necessary in bot mitigation, but they had to educate the market on the damage that malicious bots can do. In 2012, Essaid was accepted into TechStars, an accelerator network for entrepreneurs. He later won the SWSX Interactive HATCH pitch competition, which gave the company the push it needed to thrive.
“The thing that really excites us is solving problems that nobody else is tackling,” says Essaid. “When we started doing bot mitigation, nobody thought about it, nobody wanted to tackle it. Now that we have created awareness of the problem, there are other companies entering this space, but I think we have the best technology out there. My biggest passion is listening to customers and trying to solve their problems.”
Distil Networks is still privately owned and venture-backed. The company has raised $65 million of venture capital from a number of investors. At this writing, Distil has 129 employees and a customer base of over 500 companies and growing.
Essaid served as the company CEO from 2011 until just recently, when he hired a new CEO and shifted into the role of Chief Product and Strategy Officer. This gives him more time to focus on developing partnerships and product strategy. He has retained his position as Chairman of the Board.
Essaid has a passion for philanthropic involvement and he makes a point to give back to his community. He volunteers at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and at the The Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC., where he helps foster leadership among a diverse membership.
Essaid and his wife live near Washington, D.C. They had their first child in September 2017.