Ex-Imprivata CEO Takes Helm at Placester, Upping IPO Stakes

[Updated 3/14/18, 5:35 pm. See below.] It’s a common tale in the startup world: A founding CEO builds the company, and eventually a more seasoned executive is brought in to lead the business to (ideally) new heights.

That’s the play Placester is making. The Boston-based real estate software company announced Wednesday that it hired Omar Hussain—who previously led healthcare IT security company Imprivata for more than a decade—as its new CEO. Placester co-founder Matt Barba has shifted from chief executive to chief technology officer, according to a press release.

The leadership change is notable for a couple of reasons. First, the addition of Hussain (pictured above) puts Placester firmly in the conversation about tech IPO candidates in the Boston area. Placester has raised $100 million in venture capital, making it one of the biggest venture-backed technology bets in New England, and one of the best-funded alums of the Techstars Boston startup accelerator program. Hussain knows the public markets well—he took Imprivata public in 2014, raising about $66.3 million in the IPO. He also has experience with large acquisitions. Two years after Imprivata’s IPO, Hussain sold the Lexington, MA-based company to private equity firm Thoma Bravo for $544 million.

The other interesting thing about Hussain’s hiring is his background. Bringing in an executive who has spent most of his career in the healthcare IT security software sector might not seem like an obvious choice for a real estate tech company. It appears the thinking behind the move is that Hussain has experience accelerating business growth and selling software in industries that have been slow to adopt digital products.

“Omar is a product-focused CEO with a proven track record of scaling fast-growing businesses,” Barba (pictured left) said in the press release. “His experience bringing innovative technologies to the healthcare sector to drive productivity correlates precisely with the digital transformation consumers are expecting of real estate today.”

Barba, a former real estate agent, started Placester in 2009 with Fred Townes, the former chief technology officer of Mashable. The startup went through the Techstars Boston accelerator in 2011. Its other backers include New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Romulus Capital.

Placester sells several products to real estate professionals, including software that handles things like website building, sales lead management, e-mail marketing, marketing automation, and data analytics. The company says more than 550,000 real estate brokers and agents use its products.

“I’m excited to join the team at Placester,” Hussain said in the press release. “Placester represents a unique opportunity in an industry that is undergoing massive technological transformation.”

In an e-mailed statement to Xconomy, Hussain shared more about the parallels he sees between his last company and his new one. [Following comments added.—Eds.]

“The markets are very similar,” Hussain said. “In healthcare, providers don’t want to spend their time worrying about technology: they want to take care of patients. And in real estate, [agents] and brokers want to help their clients efficiently buy and sell homes without the struggles of managing technology.” Just as Imprivata has made it easier for caregivers to securely access patient information, Placester’s products can “streamline” the way real estate agents and brokers help consumers buy homes, he added.

In the e-mail, Barba said his new role gives him the chance to focus on something he’s passionate about: designing and engineering “powerful and simple” products. “Being the CTO is where I know I can add the most value,” he said.

Asked about IPO prospects, Barba said the company isn’t focusing on it.

“We aren’t talking about IPO at this point; our plan is to put our energy into our product R&D,” Barba said.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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