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Executive Spotlight: An Interview with Patrick Sweeney of Area 1 Security

Patrick Sweeney, President & CEO of Area 1 Security, brings nearly three decades of experience building and bringing to market extraordinary companies with exceptional results. Prior to Area 1 Security, Patrick served as CEO of Talari (acquired by Oracle) and held senior executive roles at Dell and SonicWALL.

We caught up with Patrick right as Cloudflare announced its intent to acquire Area 1 Security.

Patrick, congratulations on the acquisition! How do you feel?

Thank you. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point — in building out the impact and success of Area 1 together with its visionary co-founders Oren Falkowitz, Phil Syme, and Blake Darche. Right now, I think we’re all just excited to be able to announce the news to the world.

Our next steps will be to keep up the momentum as we continue the mission of Area 1, which is achieve what we call Inbox.Clean™ — a safer email experience that preemptively stops Business Email Compromise, malware, ransomware, and targeted phishing attacks — for even more users and customers worldwide. We’re looking forward to dramatically accelerating our growth and expanding our impact with Cloudflare.

So what will Cloudflare and Area 1 Security achieve together for your customers and our industry at large?

As the world’s largest cloud-based network, Cloudflare’s fundamental goal is to build a faster and more secure Internet. Since Area 1 is all about solving the problem of phishing — which causes 95% of all breaches — the two go hand in hand. You cannot have a clean Internet unless you have Inbox.Clean™.

I’m excited by what we’ll achieve together because our two companies are so well aligned — in our vision and goals, how we’re cloud-native in our approaches, and in what we want to deliver to our customers with our core strategy and adjacencies. Unlike other acquisitions where the startup and its product lines would be more of a tuck-in without making much impact, this situation is very different. Email is a major vector of attack that has the highest visibility from the CEO and leadership team to every employee at an organization. Cloudflare sees email security as a huge leverage point — a key part of their expansion strategy and net recurring metrics, and a critical component of their long-term vision to build a better Internet.

We’re especially focused on ensuring customers will benefit from our combined approach, helping existing customers make the transition and enjoy additional capabilities while educating the market on what we can now jointly offer. On top of our product line, Cloudflare is unbelievably excited to work with our deep bench of sophisticated customers across financial services, healthcare, retail/CPG, and more. Meanwhile, we’re ecstatic about the global scale we’ll achieve together on day 1. By joining Cloudflare, Area 1 Security instantaneously has a presence in 250+ cities globally, with 24/7 support infrastructure in the local language of every country you can imagine. Growth will also continue through our channel partners. When Cloudflare first approached us, they saw the foundation and infrastructure we had laid out and liked the programs and knowledgebase we were building. They would like to meld these together to augment their marketplace.

I love Cloudflare’s motto “Do no harm, do good”. Together we’ll bring more security, more resources, more support, more everything — to bring about a cleaner, faster Internet that everyone can rely on.

Less than two years ago, you became Area 1’s President and CEO — joining its co-founders to usher in major acceleration and growth. This includes attracting some of the most advanced customers across industries, building a successful channel program, and gaining support from a syndicate of leading investors. How did you introduce such transformative change, so quickly?

When I started, it was evident that Oren, Phil, and Blake were already well on their way in delivering on their vision and mission for Area 1. They had built an excellent product that worked brilliantly with a set of exceptional customers and needed the go to market motions to succeed.

The first thing I did was bring on board great people like Steve Pataky and Dawn Ringstaff, to join our existing talent and build. I introduced a clear and specific plan with a vision and the journey, with all the steps and what I believed we needed to accomplish. People definitely understood and were united around that vision, which was all about building on our product strengths, technical capabilities, and early customer success to achieve growth, traction, and scale.

What advice would you give to other founders and entrepreneurs?

It’s not all about product versus people versus your go to market strategy: it’s about all three. They are interdependent and must be equally weighted to succeed. With all the demands of building and scaling a company, it’s easy to think those might be sequential or are more like levers to pull at different times. Don’t ignore how you lay any of those foundations or focus on one at the expense of the others.

Secondly, I’d say never underestimate the power of your investors in helping you build your company. An influx of strategic capital is of course vital to your business stage to stage, but I’ve also really appreciated our partnership with Forgepoint for example. Alberto, MJ, Leo and Mercy have all been like an extension of our team, providing just the right support and critical guidance — on a regular basis and during key moments of our journey.

Over the course of your career, you’ve helped build and scale new technology at organizations large and small. How do you compare and contrast your experiences? What does this acquisition mean for your day to day and how you’ll lead?

Going into a big company from a startup entails a dramatic change in your scope and workload.

In a small company, you really have to “lead from the trenches” as they say. You must become really knowledgeable and involved in every aspect of the business day to day. At Area 1, there hasn’t been a marketing, roadmap, sales, or finance meeting that I haven’t been involved in. When you’re small, you have to know everything that’s going on in the company because you have to get them all working together in unison. That is hugely important.

In joining a large company, your goal suddenly becomes more about making sure your team, product, and solution are not lost — that your people land well, that you have an “unfair share of mind time”, and the proper visibility, and that the integration is smooth for everyone involved, including customers and partners.

How will you celebrate this moment?

You know, I always celebrate things after — I won’t even bring myself to have even a sip of champagne until after the close date. To me, the world can change on a dime. Things happen, nations invade other nations, and the unexpected can derail the expected. Plus there’s so much ahead, with integration planning, bringing employees on board, and ensuring that we integrate successfully. I will continue to be very, very busy running the company for Cloudflare.

Although I guess it has been quite the experience, with negotiations, due diligence, reaching the definitive agreement, working out the announcement, and then some — not quite a crescendo that then peaks but more of an ongoing build. Now that I can peer into my rearview mirror, it has been a wonderful experience. Perhaps I will take a moment to celebrate, over a glass of red wine and nice steak — and then it’s on to the next task.

For more information about the announcement, visit the Cloudflare blog and the Area 1 Security blog.

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Forgepoint Capital is a multi-stage venture capital firm that invests in companies protecting the digital future.

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Forgepoint Capital

Forgepoint Capital

Forgepoint Capital is a multi-stage venture capital firm that invests in companies protecting the digital future.

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