Layers of Security
As a soldier in the U.S. Army, Paul Temple spent 21 years on the front lines of intelligence and special operations missions. Today, the counterintelligence expert is putting his street smarts to work as CEO of Advanced Onion in Monterey, Calif. His approximately 100-person company helps clients such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and other federal and state organizations protect themselves from insider threats.
“In the old traditional sense, it’s counter-intelligence work — countering folks who have logical access or physical access to things,” says Temple. Advanced Onion serves as a systems integrator, weaving together complex webs of technology for clients. It also provides program support, does consulting, and sells hardware and software solutions.
In one recent high-profile, $1.8 million project, Advanced Onion built a system the U.S. government launched in November to let victims in the Office of Personnel Management hack find out if their personal data had fallen into the hands of Chinese spies. When OPM mailed information to victims on how to protect themselves and many of the letters bounced back, Advanced Onion created a tool to track the reasons they got returned. The tool also looks for the current addresses of those who were hacked.
Advanced Onion also supports the Department of Defense Insider Threat Program and the Defense Biometric Identification Data System, which uses fingerprints and other means to control who enters military installations.
Temple, now 57, launched the business in 2010, after spending about eight years in private industry. His experience included business development roles at NetApp and SAIC where he helped interpret their technologies, capabilities, and solutions to fit the military’s needs and requirements. “The collection of my past experience led to this being a natural segue into what I would do next,” he says. The name Advanced Onion alludes to the layers of technology the company puts to work for its clients. The company is certified as a Service Disabled-Veteran Owned Small Business.
Using his own funds, Temple scaled the business gradually, as projects justified adding staff. “I didn’t have an appetite for myself or the company being in debt,” says Temple. As the company proved its capabilities on bigger and bigger projects, it went after larger jobs. “The larger we got, the more comfort I had toward targeting larger opportunities,” he says. Today, he adds, “I’m a little bit more risk tolerant.”
Fortunately, those opportunities have been plentiful the past four years. As a December survey by global security firm Niux underlined, many senior leaders are prioritizing the threats the actions of their own teams bring to their companies’ security. Seventy-one percent of C-level executives said their firms now have an insider threat program or policy.
Against this backdrop, the company saw revenue growth of 140% from 2014 to 2015. It brought in about $20 million in revenue in 2015 and was, Temple says, “very” profitable, owing in part to its focus on insider threats, cyber security and unique IT development. “We’re in a niche area that is in high demand,” says Temple.
Small & Nimble
Advanced Onion is smaller than many of the companies vying for the same government contracts, but its customer service has given it an edge. “Because we’re small, we’re nimble,” Temple says. He takes pride in the fact that the company builds highly customized solutions for each client.
“Some of the larger federal systems integrators will create a system for the Air Force, and the Army will want something kind of, sort of like it,” he says. “You see redundancy of programs that don’t necessarily fit.”
Advanced Onion’s client base goes beyond government agencies. The company also partners with major manufacturers of information technology to help them penetrate the federal market space, advising them on marketing and business development strategy. Past clients and partners have included Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, SAIC, and SRA.
“You take most the favorite technology providers, and we represent most of them either informally or through other partners we have,” says Temple.
When Temple wants to relax, he and his wife Nina enjoy ultra-marathoning and hiking. He also enjoys car racing and mountain biking. He also likes spending time with his two grandchildren, ages two and five.
His daughter Mia Medeiros is director of marketing at Advanced Onion, while his son Eliot Temple runs his own startup.
Plenty of Suitors
Given the excitement around Advanced Onion’s niche, perhaps it should be no surprise that many companies have come courting. “I have a lot of people knocking at my door wanting to do a joint venture or asking if I’m interested in being acquired,” says Temple.
With the company hitting its growth goals, Temple expects the interest in Advanced Onion to continue “Moving forward, I see significant growth,” he says. “I see being targeted.”