Carbon Black CTO: “Right Time” For IPO; So Far, Wall Street Agrees

[Updated 5/4/18, 4:34 pm. See below.] Timing is everything in business. For private companies aiming to go public, it’s impossible to know the ideal moment to make a stock market debut. But Carbon Black chief technology officer Mike Viscuso is feeling good today, after his cybersecurity company’s stock performed well on its first day of trading on the Nasdaq exchange.

“We just felt like now is the right time,” Viscuso said in a phone interview early Friday afternoon, a few hours after he and other Carbon Black leaders rang the opening bell at the Manhattan exchange. (Viscuso is standing near the center in the above picture, wearing a blue sport coat.) “We felt like our business is predictable. It was the right time for the branding moment of being a public company.”

It’s early, but Wall Street is looking favorably on the decision. Shares of Carbon Black (NASDAQ: CBLK) closed at $23.94 apiece on Friday, 26 percent higher than the IPO price of $19 per share. That gives the company a market cap of nearly $1.6 billion. [Updated with closing share price and market cap—Eds.]

Waltham, MA-based Carbon Black has been seen as an IPO candidate for several years. Viscuso said he and CEO Patrick Morley have spoken a lot about the prospect since 2014, when Viscuso joined the company (then known as Bit9) after it acquired his startup, San Antonio, TX-based Carbon Black. (The merged company adopted that name in 2016.)

“Patrick and I have always been preparing the company to be a public company,” Viscuso said. “We knew we had a lot of work to get there.”

Bit9 got started in 2002 and was primarily focused on server and endpoint protection, positioning itself as a replacement for the antivirus programs of the previous era in cybersecurity. It acquired Carbon Black—founded in 2010 and incubated at Virginia-based security firm Kyrus—to beef up its threat detection and response capabilities.

Viscuso, who spent time as an offensive hacker for the NSA and the CIA, wishes he could say he predicted the impact mobile devices and cloud computing would have on security infrastructures. But he was confident that as threats evolved and multiplied, successful security approaches would encompass the “full cycle” of “prevention, detection, response, and, ultimately, prediction”—with data analytics at the core of it all, he said.

“That constant evolution of prevention, detection, response, and prediction is one that, I think, it’s been a long time coming as a security industry,” said Viscuso, who served as CEO of Carbon Black (the Texas startup).

One of the priorities for Carbon Black (the public company) in the coming months will be expanding its international sales, Viscuso said. The company has been investing in and seeing sales growth in markets like Japan and Europe, he said. But international sales currently account for just 13 percent of Carbon Black’s revenues, which totaled $162 million last year, up from $116.2 million the year before. The company is unprofitable.

When asked if Carbon Black will make more acquisitions, Viscuso said it’s a possibility, but he wouldn’t say what specific types of security technologies or services the company might target. (Carbon Black’s recent purchases include Confer Technologies in 2016.)

“We’ve certainly been acquisitive in the past and been very successful,” Viscuso said.

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

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