Explore the remarkable trajectory of Almir Menezes, co-founder of Qriar and Qriar Labs, as he evolves from a childhood fascination with computers to building an award-winning IT company, all while sharing entrepreneurial insights.
Almir Menezes, co-founder of Qriar, a cybersecurity company within the 2Future portfolio, has always held a deep passion for computers. During his adolescence in the 1980s, his family purchased their very first personal computer, a TK95. What truly fascinated Almir about that computer wasn’t its games or simple applications but how the machine worked its magic behind the screen. “My greatest curiosity was to understand how that machine worked,” he says.
Almir was born in Brasília, where he spent his childhood and adolescence. At 17, he moved to João Pessoa to study civil engineering but soon realized that the engineering discipline was not his true calling. Thus, he returned to Brasília to study computer science.
In 1992, Almir had his first professional encounter with the Information Technology (IT) field when he was hired as an intern to maintain a bank’s IT systems. Using his first salary, he and his older brother bought another computer, whose details he still recalls: “It was great—a Dx2 66 that boasted 33GB of memory. And we paid for it in 48 installments!”
Subsequently, Almir joined Xerox, where he spent five years before moving to Oracle. Between 1998 and 2016, he made several career stops at Oracle and its affiliated partners, always working on system implementation, data processing and analysis, later evolving into management where he reached C-level positions.
Given his interactions with diverse clients and teams during this period, Almir learned valuable lessons.
“I dealt with individuals more concerned about the business than the system itself. As someone who worked with systems, I acquired a business-oriented perspective, as my role entailed demonstrating how technology solutions could drive these businesses forward.”
The transition from a technical role to a commercial one happened seamlessly. “The ‘human’ side of computing greatly appealed to me. I relished interacting with people, grasping their IT challenges, and translating these into viable business solutions.”
This period also sparked contemplation. “At times, I questioned why we were doing things in a certain way, as it didn't always seem to be the best approach. I aspired to do things the right way, not just because it was the prescribed path." Hence, the desire to become an entrepreneur was born.”
During one of his stints at Oracle, Almir crossed paths with his future wife. At her family gatherings, he frequently encountered one of her brothers, Luis Felipe, an entrepreneur in the real estate sector. Luís Felipe often discussed his wish to start an IT company with Almir.
In 2015, while Almir was working as a commercial director at an IT firm, Oracle called him back. Just one day after giving the green light to the new employer, he received a call from Luís Felipe: “Let’s open our company?” This time, it was for real! However, Almir had already committed to the American multinational, but at the same time, he didn't want to miss out on this other opportunity.
Joined by a third partner, they finally launched the company in 2016. But what would they call this new venture? “We wanted to create a distinct business identity. Thus, the name 'Qriar' emerged (in Portuguese, ‘criar’ means ‘to create’)—and with a ‘Q’, so the name would be equally distinct.”
Their objective was to find a niche with long-term growth potential, leading them to focus on corporate cybersecurity. The initial strategy involved implementing solutions through products provided by partner companies, with a future vision of developing proprietary solutions.
For a year, Almir juggled dual roles, working at Oracle during the day and at Qriar in the evenings and weekends. In February 2017, he resigned from the multinational, committing himself exclusively to the new business. “As someone who had never ventured into entrepreneurship before, the initial stages were slightly daunting—no more fixed salary and the responsibility of other people depending on you.” Nevertheless, he was happy to finally be doing things the way he always believed and wanted.
The year 2017 also marked the closing of their first big business deal, prompting the team’s expansion to accommodate the growing number of projects. One of the critical factors behind Qriar's success, as per Almir, was their decision from the outset to build a team comprising individuals who shared their vision for the company's growth, people who were eager to innovate and approach challenges differently.
He adds that cybersecurity is a business that relies 100% on trust. Therefore, in addition to fostering an engaged team, it needed to comprise recognized professionals in the field. He recalls a time when the company's payroll surpassed its revenue, all in pursuit of securing the best talents and establishing a reputable presence in the market.
While they were actively implementing projects using solutions from a partner company, an unforeseen turn of events unfolded: the acquisition of their partner company by another corporation, a move that froze the operations of the acquired company worldwide. “We had several projects reliant on their products, and quite literally, overnight, we found ourselves unable to deliver anything, as the company ceased to exist.”
The solution was to seek a new partnership, one that they found with IBM. What initially started as an emergency measure eventually solidified into a strong alliance. Within 14 months, Qriar earned the IBM Business Unit Excellence 2020 award for Outstanding Growth in the Security category. This accolade placed them among an elite trio of IBM’s top cybersecurity partners worldwide, alongside industry giants such as Deloitte and Optiv. Additionally, they were honored with the Next Generation Ecosystem Award, a testament to their global prowess in pre-sales, sales, and service delivery.
These awards not only elevated their stature but also opened doors to a new market: the United States (US). After conducting comprehensive market research to better understand the dynamics of the local clients and the IT sector, Qriar officially embarked on its American journey in 2023, establishing its office in South Florida.
Simultaneously, Almir and his business partner, Luis Felipe, decided to put their original dream to work. Thus, Qriar Labs was created, a spin-off venture primarily focused on designing and developing new integration solutions.
After accumulating a wealth of experience, what advice does Almir have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“If you want to become an entrepreneur, take the plunge. However, before doing so, assess whether you have the right temperament.”
He emphasizes that many individuals may be unwilling to relinquish the stability of a fixed salary and benefits or commit to the demands of a proprietary business 24/7. “These things should not become daily burdens; thus, it's crucial to have self-awareness and determine if you can live with it. Besides, having the right partners in and outside the home will guarantee you can bear the worst days—and they will surely come.”
Almir underscores the invaluable role his family played throughout his journey. “They are my inspiration. My father has always been a hard worker, often working double shifts to ensure my brother and I received a quality education.” Similarly, his mother is an entrepreneur, running a sewing atelier. He says she still works on weekends, when needed, and derives immense joy from her craft.
He also mentions his brother as a role model. “He has been a constant source of guidance and support. When I was preparing for the college entrance exam, he had already graduated, yet he took the exam alongside me, just to give me a boost—and he passed! Again!” His brother also works in the field of IT.
And Almir’s wife is a true life partner. “She always believes in me and goes on board with any of my crazy ideas.”
Even amidst numerous accomplishments, Almir remains firmly committed to pursuing ambitious new targets. “Identity is security perimeter. So, our goal is for Qriar to be globally recognized as the premier integrator of identity and access solutions” (Identity and Access Management, or IAM, refers to the guarantee that the correct person—Identification—will have their permission access granted to the right system or application—Authentication—for the correct reason—Authorization).
Currently, he divides his time between Brazil and the US. Once again, he highlights the importance of trust in the IT field. “When we started the company in Brazil, we were an unknown brand, but people knew us and knew our team. In the US, despite our robust investment and partnership with big vendors, it's an entirely new market with new clients—everything is new. Therefore, we must build trust from the ground up again.”
Regardless of the challenges, Almir harbors confidence.
“In less than a year, the US market started to believe in us, and the first customers started to come. We are also introducing Qriar Labs, which will scale our potential a hundred times. This gives me confidence that we have chosen the right paths.”