Dave DeWalt would rather fight than switch. The ballyhooed security industry leader could have gone out on top after resuscitating McAfee.
Instead, he acknowledged the need for a radically new approach in the war on cybercrime and vowed to fight on by becoming chairman and CEO of FireEye Inc., a rising star in the cybersecurity industry.
“I took the job because I love what I do,” DeWalt says. “Not only did I want the experience of taking a company public, I was captivated by the idea of taking a $100 million piece of clay like FireEye and molding it into something.”
In many respects, DeWalt’s timing couldn’t have been better. The latest survey of cybercrime trends confirms the need for change with this grim finding: Companies are losing more battles than they are winning in the war on cybercrime.
However, FireEye’s IPO would bring additional risk and pressure since the fledgling company has yet to turn a profit. Consequently, anxious shareholders are bird-dogging customer growth to gauge success. Investors have been on a roller coaster ride since the company raised $300 million on the first day of trading.
And while FireEye had garnered more than 400 clients and accolades from tech reviewers since its founding, many companies were reluctant to embrace its unique threat prevention platform that’s intended to complement, not replace, traditional defense tools.
DeWalt needed to quickly enhance FireEye’s offerings to court new clients. A challenge he calls “building the plane while you’re flying it.” “Startups often have a great product but they have a difficult time expanding their market,” DeWalt says. “We needed a world-changing vision to become a public company because we’d been pretty secretive about our technology and how it works.”
DeWalt has managed to turn FireEye into the fastest-growing cybersecurity firm in the space since taking the helm in 2012. The company posted $99.2 million in billings in the recent quarter as it progresses toward DeWalt’s initial annual goal of $500 million.
Here’s a look at the winning strategies he uses to lead FireEye, which now has more than 2,200 customers across more than 60 countries, including some 130 of the Fortune 500.