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OPSWAT founder discusses move to Tampa, plans for IPO

Brian Hartz



OPSWAT founder and CEO Benny Czarny recently moved the company's headquarters from San Francisco to Tampa.

Cybsersecurity firm OPSWAT entered the Tampa Bay market with a splash in late 2019, acquiring Impulse, a company that, among other services, protects the data of clients that have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy in which employees can access their companies’ information using personal devices.

Then OPSWAT, which was founded in 2002 by Benny Czarny, the firm’s current CEO, doubled down on Tampa, moving its corporate headquarters, which had been located in San Francisco, to the city. Since the move was announced in January, the company has been on a growth tear, Czarny said, doubling its workforce from 20 to 40, with plans to hire at least 25 more this year. And although the firm is privately held, Czarny predicted that an IPO is on the horizon — “a couple of years away,” he told the Catalyst.

Czarny said he always had a long-term vision for OPSWAT, which specializes in protecting mission-critical data infrastructure and networks from malware and other cyberattacks by toughening up the processes by which devices transfer data back and forth. As you might expect from a tech company that’s been in business for nearly 20 years, OPSWAT has gone through several iterations and evolutions over the years.

“We weren’t a product company for the first three years,” Czarny said. “It was more professional services to help fund the first product, which was multi-cybersecurity language; it wasn’t critical infrastructure.”

OPSWAT’s office in San Francisco. The company recently moved its corporate headquarters to Tampa. 

The breakthrough came when OPSWAT — which, at the time, was providing solutions that made it easier for firewalls and VPNs to communicate, thereby making networks more secure — landed big players like Cisco and Hewlett-Packard as customers. But about a decade ago, Czarny said, he set his sights on turning OPSWAT into an enterprise company. “We wanted to solve bigger problems, bigger challenges, and we wanted to generate more revenue and deal with customers directly.”

To help accomplish that goal, OPSWAT developed the two main products that it sells today: MetaDefender and MetaAccess. The former prevents and detects threats to data networks across multiple channels, including web traffic, email and removeable media, such as thumb drives. The latter is geared more toward providing secure access for devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, that connect to cloud services and data centers.

“One of the big challenges in critical infrastructure is how do you transfer files and devices securely to and from critical infrastructure?” he said, citing the example of a third-party contractor who visits a mission-critical facility, such as a nuclear power plant, and needs to use his or her laptop to access files. “What do you do? In many cases, they have no process.”

OPSWAT, Czarny said, now competes with some of the titans of the cybersecurity world, such as Symantec and Honeywell. And the company’s success has led to multiple acquisition attempts over the years.

“The goal here,” he said, “is not an acquisition. I really want to build something that lasts long term, something that is going to make a difference and leave a legacy.”

Part of that legacy is OPSWAT Academy, a workforce development program that offers complimentary critical infrastructure protection training for IT professionals who want to transition into the cybersecurity field. It also offers advanced training courses geared toward OPSWAT customers who want to improve their management of OPSWAT products. Without giving anything away, Czarny said to watch for additional expansion of the program in the near future. “The academy is something we are very much investing in,” he said.

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