Idit Levine is the founder and CEO of Solo.io. She is a vastly experienced cloud, infrastructure and open source professional, with almost 30 years of experience in the sector.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I am originally from Israel and before I embarked on my career in technology, I played basketball professionally for Elitzur-Holon. I juggled this alongside Israel’s mandatory military service and then my studies in computer science and biology, before choosing to pursue a career in computer science.
Having settled in the USA, I worked as a software engineer for several start-ups and large companies, such as Dynamic Ops and EMC Dell. These experiences provided me with a lot of perspective and enabled me to pursue my ultimate goal of founding my own company, Solo.io.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
When I started seriously thinking about founding Solo.io, there were clear changes occurring as companies moved from the traditional, monolithic architectures and began their adoption of cloud computing. As applications became more advanced and capable, they were being dissected into smaller pieces called microservices and thus, the number of independent applications in any organisation was growing. Companies were struggling to manage the communications between services, enforce security, ensure reliability, and empower collaboration between the teams creating the apps.
To overcome many of the challenges and help businesses deliver new applications and services faster and safer, we created the Gloo Application Networking Platform. This product ensures the connectivity, security and reliability of application communications and is built on open source technologies like Envoy Proxy and Istio.
How did you achieve awareness?
We started by developing open source software and talking at conferences. This created a virtuous circle as people realised we were delivering a ton of value in our open source projects, they invited us to speak at more conferences because of our expertise. Today, we still develop open source software, but we also publish lots of technical content and deliver community education on API gateways, service mesh, Istio and Envoy. In fact, our Solo Academy is the top destination for people looking for developer focused, hands-on education for Istio.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
When I founded Solo.io, it wasn’t feasible to build a company on service mesh alone since the concept was in its infancy. So, I focused my efforts on creating an API gateway to assist businesses in managing, securing and observing traffic at the edge. I knew that this would pique the interest of investors and the team I wanted to build while we waited for developments in service mesh.
We have secured $171.5 million in venture financing to date. I’m incredibly proud to say that Solo.io is now valued at $1 billion!
What are the key successes?
In 2021, we tripled our revenues and we’re expecting 5x to 6x growth in 2022. On top of this, we have a 100% renewal rate and some of the world’s biggest data centres and cloud services as customers, in addition to the likes of T-Mobile, Pega, ADP, BMW, American Express and Booking.com.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The first challenge when starting a company is raising money; once you’ve achieved that comes the realisation that nobody wants to work for a one-person company. However, passion is contagious, when a leader displays such passion for their company or product it attracts the right people.
My journey as a female founder has also come with its challenges; we often have to be ready to work harder than many of our male counterparts. This reality isn’t fair and wouldn’t be the case in an ideal world, but as more and more women become leaders the prospect of a new equilibrium grows.
Challenges can be difficult to overcome, but with determination and time I have been able to build a team of world class talent and attract investors that believe in me and my vision for Solo.io.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I would describe myself as employee and customer obsessed, so right now there is nothing more important to me than that. I want employees to be happy and to enable them. When you hire incredible people, and empower them with the right resources, they can then use that foundation to delight customers. These customers then come back with great ideas on how we can improve our products and services. Today, with all these amazing people in one company combined with our amazing customers, we’re only at the beginning of what we can achieve!
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Just as it was for me, if it is your dream to start a company, you should! What I think is most important is to review your experiences and find a unique, differentiated place in whichever market you are pursuing. Know there is a lot of validity in building upon your past successes and learnings, but also from your experiences where you were left wanting or felt there was a gap. If you have a true passion for what you are building and a strong sense of determination, people will inherently sense that, and it will bring the right people to you.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions, seek help, introduce yourself, offer your perspective. You never know what nugget of information you might find to help you on your way, and it never hurts to get your name or yourself out there in business.
Where I am from, we are known for our direct speaking style. I’ve never hesitated to be inquisitive or speak my mind. Sometimes that catches people by surprise, but it never fails to get the right people engaged in conversation.
Who is one person who inspires you?
Shimon Peres, former Israeli president known as the founding father of Israel for his seven decades of dedication to Israeli politics. He also jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for brokering the historic Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinian leadership.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“I’m not going to continue knocking that old door that doesn’t open for me. I’m going to create my own door and walk through that.”
– Ava DuVernay
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”
– Mary Kay Ash
“If my mind can conceive it, if my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.”
– Muhammad Ali
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?