Fireside Chat with a Compliance Founder, Sam Li, of Thoropass

Woman with text that says Cristina’s Compliance Corner Founder Fireside Chat Sam Li

During my first conversation with Sam Li, I began to learn what it meant to be a founder. The passion, the hustle, and the vision required are some of the things that immediately jumped out at me. But it’s so much more; he also made me realize how much thought, planning, and organization go into running a successful business. It’s safe to say that being a founder isn’t for the faint of heart. And, speaking from experience, it is fantastic to see a founder like Sam in action (yes, I am slightly biased).

I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Sam at Thoropass (formerly Laika) over the last three years. Through the years, we often chat about his past and hopes for the future. I always find his dedication to his craft inspiring—so I wanted to share some of his musings and insights with other founders and leaders. 

We sat down for a fireside chat to recap his professional history, discuss how the idea of Thoropass was born, and touch on his vision for the future of a compliance SaaS founder. Below are highlights of our conversation, but as always, you can check out this video to watch the full discussion. 

Entrepreneur in residence

After a successful stint at Harvard Business School, Sam entered the entrepreneurial world and never looked back. He founded his first company, Zinc, an insurance technology company. Throughout those first few years, he learned about the highs and lows of foundership—picking up golden pieces of advice, experience, and learnings along the way. 

While Zinc did not become a successful venture, he learned from the experience. In many ways, Zinc inspired the earliest thoughts of a company in the compliance space. 

“We started a company and were dealing with insurance companies —in our case, large e-commerce retailers. We started getting asked about compliance early on in our journey before we even had a fully functional product. Those questions started to come into play, ‘Can you share your information security policy? How do you handle data? How do you mask PII?’ I had no idea.” Sam said. 

With that learning in his back pocket, Sam began to consider a world with a better way of doing things when it came to protecting sensitive data and facilitating procurement processes. 

How experiencing a challenge helped identify a need in the market 

Sam’s compliance conundrum was one that too many other founders come across:

  1. The team was small, and resources were limited (human and capital)
  2. It was a highly regulated space, making understanding the complexities of compliance and regulations similar to decoding a foreign language
  3. No idea where or how to even begin

When Sam met his future co-founder, Austin Ogilvie, he learned he had a similar experience. Austin had also founded a SaaS startup in a regulated space and struggled when it came to resourcing a compliance program. The final piece of the puzzle seemed to fall into place when Austin and Sam met Eva Pittas,  who would become the third founder of the Thoropass. Eva once had a boutique consulting firm that helped customers through due diligence and risk management processes. 

After Sam, Austin, and Eva identified this unserved need in the market, they put their brains together to solve some core questions:

  • How can we help make this process less painful for customers?
  • Where can we include technology to automate processes?
  • What does adding a consultative service component to a SaaS product look like?

From there, Thoropass was born. Since that day in 2019, Thoropass has grown to help hundreds of technology companies of all sizes and industries to streamline compliance and ensure it doesn’t serve as a blocker to innovation—because that’s what it’s all about!. 

ThisWhile that original philosophy has served as the bedrock of the company stayed mostly the same over the past four years since Thoropass was born, and the team has remained committed to delivering a best-in-class offering for the growing customer base.

Compliance for Thoropass’s customers 

 With increasingly diverse features, deeper automation, and expanding offering and framework support service, Thoropass’s customers have gone from primarily fintech startups to encompassing a wider range of SMBs and industries including IT service and healthcare

“We have gone from exclusively serving early-stage startup community to larger companies because we realized they also have those needs.” 

Sam is very firm in his belief that regardless of who you are, what you do, or how you do it, compliance applies to you. 

 “There’s a different feature set that [different stages of companies] want, but the need to streamline compliance and to streamline audit is the same.” 

At Thoropass’s core, the goal has always been to serve our customers in a way that doesn’t let compliance get in the way of a business’s success trajectory. Instead, the mission is to let compliance serve as a growth mechanism—regardless of size, industry, or business line. 

Cristina's Compliance Corner AcuityMD’s First Year of Compliance with Thoropass
Continued reading
AcuityMD’s first year of compliance with Thoropass

Execution and growth 

“I’m a firm believer that picking the right market and picking the right idea is very important. And in many cases, the execution, of course,” Sam says. “Compliance is an evergreen requirement, and we are only seeing more and more scrutiny around security and privacy in the marketplace today.” 

When it comes to the future of Thoropass, the goal is to continuously work to improve the offerings to meet the needs of current and future customers. Providing features such as due diligence questionnaire automation, vendor risk management, and information security training for employees has allowed us to meet customers where they are in their compliance journey. 

At our core, Thoropass and its founders are always looking for ways to listen, learn, and grow—executing at peak levels at every chance possible. 

Founder feedback

The opportunity to chat like this with a busy founder of a successful startup is a special one. But, it goes to show how deeply involved in the day-to-day our founder and CEO, Sam Li is. This involvement is reflected in how the business is run, has grown, and has improved over the years. 

On a personal note, it is also reflected in my own personal growth and career trajectory. Something I am eternally grateful for. 

If you’re looking for new opportunities, check out our job openings. And if you’re looking for best-in-class expertise in undertaking compliance for the first time or beyond, chat with an expert to learn more about Thoropass and our extensive offering. 

And if you have any questions for Sam, connect with him on LinkedIn and shoot him a message!

Share this post with your network: