Rex Guo

  • CEO & Co-founder of Culminate



When a company receives a security alert, it kicks off an intense process of investigation: is it a false alarm or a real attack? Has a breach actually occurred and if so, what is its nature? How  can a Chief Information Security Officer and his team best respond?

But not only are such investigations expensive — in terms of both money and man-hours — most companies simply receive more alerts than they can humanly handle, meaning that sometimes bad actors will inevitably triumph. Note the phrase “humanly possible.” Rex Guo, who earned his Ph.D. from Tandon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is leveraging AI to lift some of that burden from the cybersecurity pros on the frontline of their company defenses.

Culminate, a startup he recently launched, provides an AI Security Operations Center (SOC) analyst able to investigate like an expert tier-1 professional at machine speed. It does the labor-intensive part of an investigation, freeing and assisting personnel in focusing on more-intricate and higher-tier tasks

Guo — who earned his undergraduate degree at Tianjin University, in his native China, before arriving in Brooklyn for his doctoral studies — credits his time at NYU Tandon for setting him on a career path that has so seamlessly combined his longtime interests in cybersecurity and entrepreneurship. 

“Professor Nasir Memon helped pioneer cybersecurity as an area of academic study, and Professor Ramesh Karri was becoming known as one of the first researchers ever to focus on hardware security, so NYU Tandon, which was then known as Brooklyn Poly, was an exciting place to be,” Guo recalls. “I found a tight-knit community of people who shared my focus, and I spent many productive hours doing hands-on work in the Offensive Security, Incident Response, and Internet Security (OSIRIS) Lab, which was run solely by students.” 

Guo graduated from Tandon intent upon making a broad impact in the world of cybersecurity — something he believed he could accomplish best by concentrating on research initially. He began his career as a senior security researcher at Intel, where he gained experience and networked with other security professionals. (His talent at networking was honed, he stresses, by co-founding a student chapter of Toastmasters, an international nonprofit that aims to help its members improve their public speaking skills.)

With those experiences under his belt, Guo felt ready for a new chapter and dove into San Francisco’s start-up ecosystem, first at Tetration, a cybersecurity start-up later acquired by Cisco, then as the head of research at Confluera, which was soon acquired by XM Cyber. He then worked in a variety of capacities at Lacework, where he filed more than a dozen patents and worked on a project called “Exposure Polygraph,” which was envisioned as a Google Maps for enterprise security.

Guo, who is still based in the Bay Area, started Culminate in late 2023 — auspicious timing given increased awareness of the monetary and reputational cost of breaches on the part of companies, along with a steadily growing fascination with the possibilities of AI. “Thinking of ideas is easy, but gaining the experience and skills to actually execute them is another matter,” Guo says. Along with that experience and skills, he now has the support of an impressive array of backers, including Sarah Guo (of Conviction VC), Glenn Chisholm (President of Obsidian Security), Jeff Dean (Google Chief Scientist), Vijay Bolina (Google Deepmind CISO), Christina Cacioppo (CEO of Vanta), Michele Catasta (VP of AI Replit), and Amjad Masad (CEO of Replit)

As a cybersecurity professional, Guo understands the need to keep a calm and level head, and in early May he had a chance to prove it, when he attended the RSA Conference, one of the premier IT security events of the year, and was chosen as just one of three start-ups, out of hundreds that had applied, to pitch at the RSAC Launch Pad, a high-pressure Shark Tank-style chance to prove your idea’s appeal and value. 

Guo, who says that attending Tandon turned out to be a very wise first step on his journey, has made it a point to give back to the school whenever he can; he served, for example, as a judge for CSAW (CyberSecurity Awareness Week) and ensured that Intel and Cisco sponsored the annual event, which is the most comprehensive student-run set of cybersecurity competitions in the world. He is now looking forward to the day when Culminate also appears on CSAW’s list of supporters.

“Rex exemplifies the innovative spirit and technical know-how we want in our graduates,” Karri says. “We expect great things from him and Culminate.”