The company may have just celebrated its twentieth birthday, but Absolute Software’s (TSX:ABT) interim CEO Errol Olsen says the Vancouver-based security player is looking ahead, not back.
“We’re better positioned and more relevant than we have ever been,” says Olsen. “Over the past 20 years we have focused on two aspects of technology; mobility and security. Today, the two biggest things in IT are mobility and security.”
Absolute, of course, will be tackling those burgeoning trends without its long time CEO John Livingston, who recently left the company. In a short note accompanying his resignation, Livingston said “…the time is right for a new perspective and new leadership.” Olsen says the seeming suddenness of the news belied the fact that Livingston had been thinking about the move for some time. He says the board will take its time in the search for his replacement, but will target someone who has experience moving companies from the $100-million mark to the quarter-billion dollar level.
Olsen says the new Absolute boss will be inheriting a company that has become the de facto standard in at least one vertical and thinks it has the opportunity to do the same in others, including corporate and healthcare, where the company has made recent inroads.
“We have established ourselves as the standard in the education market,” says Olsen, who estimates that the company’s penetration rate in the space is about 20%. He notes that the education space is one of the few in which protecting the physical device is at least as important as protecting the data on it. Securing data has fast become Absolute’s wheelhouse, as the price of mobile devices has fallen and the Bring Your Own Device movement has meant more people accessing more sensitive data in ways that are increasingly unsecure.
Absolute’s persistence technology, which is embedded into the firmware of devices during the manufacturing process, gives users the ability to remotely lock or wipe a laptop, smartphone or tablet and tell the company’s IT department if any files have been accessed. Olsen points to recent breaches at Coca-Cola and at the Alberta Ministry of Health, where a stolen laptop exposed the personal health information of more than 600,000 people.
“It’s almost always a laptop.” says Olsen, who says you have to separate the kind of targeted attacks suffered recently by U.S. retail giant Target from the every day breaches that happen because of simple human error. Absolute’s business, he says, has evolved to adapt to the kind of scenarios that are most common. “It’s not just about wiping hard drives, it’s about alerting the IT department that a user name has changed, for instance,” he says.
The next market Absolute will look to tackle is decidedly more about protecting data than the education space. “We think there is a significant opportunity in healthcare,” says Olsen. “Healthcare is a highly regulated industry, but change is finally beginning to happen.” Olsen says the education market spends about a billion on devices annually, while healthcare is slightly larger, at about $1.4-billion.
Olsen says there is also an opportunity down the line for Absolute in the financial services space, but believes the company should first focus on expanding its geographical footprint. About 85% of the company’s business currently comes from North America, but the interim CEO points to developing markets as a place where the company could expand, citing a recent deal with PC Smart to expand throughout the Latin American markets.
Fresh off another profitable quarter, Absolute doesn’t fit the classic example of a company in need of a shakeup. Olsen says a new CEO wouldn’t necessarily be looked at to do that. “It’s not about changing the way we do everything,” he says. “It’s about building on the momentum we already have.”