Quid Pro . . . Whoa!
George Kurtz has struck it rich with CrowdStrike— despite a trumped-up allegation about his cybersecurity company from the 45th president.
George Kurtz has gotten rich with CrowdStrike, despite some Trumped-up allegation.
Ayear ago, the world didn’t really know much about CrowdStrike, and George Kurtz, the cybersecurity firm’s cofounder, was perfectly happy with that. This all changed in September when a redacted transcript of President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky became public. In it, the two men discussed CrowdStrike, which had been hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate Russian hacking during the 2016 election, and Trump pushed Zelensky to investigate the firm, claiming it had stashed a DNC server in Ukraine.
“I didn’t think when we started a company, we’d be mentioned by two heads of state,” sighs Kurtz, 49, who says his company did nothing wrong—and never set up a server in Ukraine. “The best thing for us is to keep our heads down and focus on stopping breaches. The rest of it is kind of noise.”
When clients like the DNC hire CrowdStrike, the Sunnyvale, California, company deploys its cloud-based breach-detection software, called Falcon, to scan for hackers. This can be a lucrative endeavor. CrowdStrike can be hired for one-off, bespoke investigations—as with the DNC—but a 4,000-company client roster that includes Amazon and Credit Suisse pay a monthly $6.99 per computer to keep Falcon monitoring their systems. All this work should amount to $465 million in revenue during CrowdStrike’s
latest fiscal year (ending on January 31, 2020), a roughly 86% gain from a year earlier. Shares are about flat since its June IPO, but they’re still enough for Kurtz’s 10% stake to be worth nearly $1.1 billion.
After getting a business degree from Seton Hall University and spending years as an ITand security-consulting drone, Kurtz launched his own software security startup, Foundstone, in 1999. He sold that company to McAfee and later became the bigger firm’s chief technology officer. The idea for CrowdStrike’s simpler, faster, cloud-based software came from watching a guy seated next to him on a flight in 2011 spend a good 15 minutes scanning his laptop with McAfee. “I’m just sitting there going, ‘Oh, my
God, this is terrible.’ ”
He quit McAfee that same year to start CrowdStrike. Five years later, it had roughly
$50 million in revenue, a figure that more than doubled the following year. Now CrowdStrike is focused on current global boiling points such as Iran; it’s likely increasing its reach in Europe, where potential users will face many of the same threats as CrowdStrike’s stable of American customers. Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy theory, meanwhile, isn’t hurting business. In fact, Kurtz says, it has raised “our visibility as a world leader in cybersecurity.”