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Interview with Cleve Adams, Hightower Software

Every so often, we run into companies which have been around for awhile, haven't done much, but have suddenly taken on a new management team or direction as the investors have decided to change things around. Aliso Viejo-based Hightower Software (www.high-tower.com) is one of them. The firm was originally founded in 2000 as a spin off of NASA technology, but has recently restarted with a new management team and focus. To get the story on the new directions the company is looking to move towards, and how it might get there, we spoke with Cleve Adams, the firm's President and CEO. Adams is a former VP at Websense, and spoke with Ben Kuo.

Where does High Tower fit into the security market?

Cleve Adams: As you know, the security market is a really fast growing marketplace. What we do is we produce software that aggregates the output of computer systems and devices on a network, and applies an event correlation algorithm that determines what security breaches and policy violations have occurred, and provide detail around the incidents. We tell you want's going on with your network security appliances. We have an appliance that provides services, that tells you if you are in compliance with your security monitoring, regulations like Sarbanes Oxley, PCI, HIPPA, and all those sorts of things. It's information security and event management.

Who are the types of customers who purchase your products, and why?

Cleve Adams: The market for our products is in the enterprise. Our customers consist of Coca Cola, Verizon, Microsoft, local and state governments, and also the Federal government and the U.S. Army, and so on.

There seems to continue to be significant fragmentation and competition in the security market, how do you stand out from the rest of the security world?

Cleve Adams: The security information management market is growing. Gartner has it going from $200M now to 1.5 billion in 2010. So, this marketplace, plus when you add compliance, which is federally mandated, is going to grow significantly. We're playing in a niche which is growing significantly. All companies need to have this type of product, from SMBs to large businesses, because everyone needs to aggregate output of security devices into one device. That enables them to get reports, find out if there are any problems, and with threat analysis. We also allow them to get reports on compliance related information.

How is the company funded and backed, and where is the company in its life cycle?

Cleve Adams: The company actually started in 2000, as a startup company with great technology originally developed at NASA. This is a new company--the new High Tower, are we're now in the security space. We launched our new product in 2006, and since late 2006 and 2007 we have been in the security information and event management space. The company has been around, but has morphed into a security company. It's a restart or if you will turnaround. We were brought in to grow the company.

When did you join?

Cleve Adams: I've been on board since April, for six months. We've completely restructured the company for a restart in the security space. I brought in about twelve people, all former Websense employees. Websense was a company I helped start in 1997, and it's a great success story, and a great technology success. We went public in March of 2000, and were one of the top five software IPOs that year. Still today, it has a $1 billion market cap. Since then, I've had a couple of security companies after Websense, including Puresight, which I sold to BCGI, a wireless company out of Boston. After Puresight, we came to High Tower to get this thing started and grow the company in the security space.

What drew you to High Tower, and how did you get involved?

Cleve Adams: I'm a security market veteran, and have been in this market for twelve years. I was recruited into the company by owners of the firm, private equity firms in New York City. They had purchased the company, and recruited me as a startup and turnaround expert.

I hadn't heard the firm had been acquired. When did that happen?

Cleve Adams: It came in 2000/2001.

What are the biggest things you are doing with this restart?

Cleve Adams: We're re-architecting the product, we are going to make the product the best security product information and event information product in the market. We are going to not only be the best event correlation management tool, but also the best information management tool. Security information and event management is a fast growing market, and we are going to dominate that market. We're re-architecting the product, building up our sales force, and retooling our marketing.

How would you compare this restart versus your prior experiences with startups. Aren't they a bit different?

Cleve Adams: It seems like all companies are in startup mode, where you are trying to grow them to make your revenue targets. They kind of restart and turn themselves around every year. It's a good feeling, a good marketplace, and a fast growing company. It's well funded by private equity. We have a great chance of making significant damage in the security space. In terms of it being a restart, it feels good to come into a company and know all the players in the security space personally, and to be able to bring them in--we've got new engineering talent, new sales talent, new marketing talent, and new financial talent.


 

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