Rami Essaid, Engin Akyol and Andrew Stein turned their educations at N.C. State into fast-growing tech security startup Distil Networks but left North Carolina to launch the venture-backed firm. Their focus is offering security applications and services that target “malicious bots” through the cloud.

Essaid saw what he perceived to be an opportunity in the booming cloud market and decided to start his own company, quitting another job. He recruited Akyol and Stein, who were already friends.

Now they are returning to Wolfpack country by opening an office in Raleigh, hoping to cash in on a wealth of local engineering talent.

And they are hiring.

Plus, they are raising more funding.

Backed by IDEA Fund Partners in Durham (twice, by the way), Distil launched in Virginia but also received some expert tutoring at the TechStars program in Austin, Texas. Up to 23 employees, the company won’t be moving its headquarters to Raleigh. But executives expect the office to grow quickly.

Akyol is chief technology officer and Stein is chief scientist. But there’s even a bigger NCSU connection. Other Wolfpackers include Mark Malek, Courtney Cleaves and Mike Freenor.

Essaid, the CEO of Distil, talks with WRAL TechWire about the company’s growth and its decision to expand to Raleigh.

  • Why decide to expand to Raleigh?

Raleigh has so many great engineers, many more than we were finding in our price range in DC. Also, we grew up and went to school in Raleigh and found that those candidates are one degree of separation away from us making them easier to reach.

  • How many people will be based here?

We have already hired four, and will scale up to 10 this year. By the end of next year we will have a total of 15-20.

  • Will you be hiring and if so in what areas?

Engineering is our primary hiring focus in Raleigh. In DC and San Fran we are also hiring sales and marketing.

  • How much money have you raised to date, are you seeking more and if so how much?

We have raised $3.5 million to date. We are in the final process of closing a much larger round of financing.

  • What’s your secret sauce?

We were the first to help companies identify and stop malicious bots, and are still the best at doing so. Being ahead of the pack has helped us get very large brand names to pick us as their vendor. Those reference customers then drive the confidence of other customers.

  • What factor(s) are driving growth?

The biggest factor in our success to date has been the amazing team we have.

  • Has the Heartbleed helped business and/or awareness? Please explain.

Heartbleed impacted a different avenue of security, so it didnt directly help Distil. However, in the long run it helps further prop up the need for more security services and I believe a rising tide will raise all ships.

  • How has participation in TechStars cloud accelerator helped you as a business?

It allowed us to take what would have been a year in our company’s life and compress that into 3 months. Worth every second.