Tufin CEO and Co-founder Ruvi Kitov has dual citizenship for both Israel and the United States. After he completed his required military service in Israel, he moved to the U.S. to be close to his family, and to attend the University of Maryland at College Park. That’s where he was exposed to computer security for the first time.
“I was a computer science major, and the two classes I liked the most were networking and security. So, when I graduated I thought those would be interesting things for me to focus on,” says Kitov.
He decided to move back to Israel after graduation, and he quickly got a job with Check Point Software. This was in early 1998, before cybersecurity was all the rage. “I was a developer on the encryption team and learned all sorts of things in my five-plus years with Check Point,” says Kitov. “I really got into the space, learned how firewalls work, and how companies worked with Check Point. Check Point was a pioneer in the firewall space and was – still is – a super successful company.”
Many of Israel’s entrepreneurs got a start at Check Point Software. “It has really been an incubator for a lot of current security startups,” says Kitov. “It’s cool that a lot of the people that I worked with at Check Point are now CEOs or founders of all sorts of companies. There’s a great pool of talent and a lot of really smart people who work there. It was a great experience for me, and I really cherish the time I spent at Check Point.”
Kitov counts himself as well as his business partner, Reuven Harrison, as technology entrepreneurs that Check Point helped birth. “After more than five years there, I decided to start something on my own, though I didn’t know exactly what, yet. Reuven Harrison, who became my business partner, also worked at Check Point on other things, and he, too, wanted to start his own business. We got together and started thinking of ideas of what we would focus on,” says Kitov. “After we both left Check Point, we did some consulting in the beginning, until we came up with the idea to build SecureTrack, our first product. It’s a security policy management system. We found a few potential customers, we explained the concept to them, and some of them found it interesting. That told us we were on the right track.”
Kitov and Harrison bootstrap-financed their company, Tufin, for the first four years, taking no outside funding in all that time. “We were just doing it ourselves with a couple of employees, and we were able to build something compelling yet simple enough that a small team of people could write it in under a year,” says Kitov. “By the end of 2004, we sold SecureTrack to enough customers to help us fund the next level of growth, so we were able to hire more people and develop some channel partners. We continued from there. That’s kind of the story of the beginning of this exciting journey.”
Though Tufin eventually did accept financing from venture capital funds, Kitov is very proud of being able to get his company off the ground and cash-flow-positive with no outside help. “There was a lot of very hard work, and we had to be super diligent and careful with spending and managing growth,” he says. “It was great because I didn’t actually go to business school, I never got my MBA, but we learned the hard way by doing things ourselves from scratch. If we fast-forward a few years, here we are today and it’s a much bigger business.”
Kitov recently moved his family to the Boston area, where Tufin just opened a new U.S. headquarters. Tufin’s development remains in Israel, but the business arm of the company is now located in the U.S. “We do about 60 percent of our business in the United States, so it makes sense to have our go-to-market team headquartered here,” says Kitov.
Tufin keeps him extremely busy, so Kitov doesn’t have much spare time for hobbies or other activities. He does enjoy spending time with his kids, reading, skiing and running. “Running is great exercise and it helps me clear my head,” he says. “Now that I’ve moved to Boston, I don’t run as much as I’d like to. The weather here is not always the most inviting weather for running. Israel is like Miami—you can run all year round, although it actually gets too hot sometimes. We’ll see how the winter will treat us here.” Fortunately for Kitov, when the winter months arrive in New England, he can put away his running shoes and pull out his ski boots.