Forbes

Quid Pro . . . Whoa!

George Kurtz has struck it rich with CrowdStrik­e— despite a trumped-up allegation about his cybersecur­ity company from the 45th president.

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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.”

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