Making Sense of Websense’s Acquisitions Strategy

2/13/09Follow @bvbigelow

When Websense (NASDAQ: WBSN) announced a couple of weeks ago it had acquired Defensio, a Canadian spam filtering Web service, I realized the San Diego software developer had morphed into something bigger and more robust than I remembered.

“A lot has changed in the last three or four years,” David Meizlik, a Websense product marketing manager, told me yesterday when I stopped by to catch up on the company. Meizlik attributes part of the change to the arrival of former McAfee president Gene Hodges, who was named CEO three years ago. Shifting customer requirements also prompted changes, Meizlik explained, as their info security needs expanded from defending a network like a fortress, with firewalls and intruder alarms, to an approach focused more specifically on content—on the potential threats on web sites and in e-mail traffic.

When it was founded in 1994, Websense specialized in providing software that companies used to block their employees from using their desktop computer to view Internet porn, visit online gambling dens, and idly surf the Web. When Websense went public in 2000, its filtering software was generating $8.6 million in sales a year.

The change in direction became more apparent after Hodges was hired in January 2006 to succeed John Carrington, who had served as Websense CEO for seven years. At McAfee, Hodges had overseen technology development and strategy, as well as sales and marketing, for McAfee’s worldwide business. By then, Websense was already expanding the scope of its content filtering capabilities to identify and block computer viruses and malicious software code, but since … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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