Eric Pulaski ventured into IT security nearly two decades ago, took his company, BindView, public and sold it to Symantec for $209 million in cash.
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Three years later, Pulaski's building a different kind of security system - an online storage vault for accountants and bookkeepers to share QuickBooks documents with their clients.
He introduced SmartVault last May and the product has already won a handful of industry awards, including being named a "Product to Watch" in Accounting Technology's Year Ahead issue and an "Awesome QuickBooks Add-on" by the Sleeter Group.
Intuit also granted SmartVault Gold Developer status, which requires going through an independent testing company to ensure the product meets compliance standards and seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks.
Pulaski's looking to team with ProAdvisors and consultants to sell and recommend SmartVault to their clients, and has launched different affiliate programs to entice them to use it themselves.
Your degree is in humanities and physics. How did you decide to transition to technology?
I never saw college as a stepping stone to a career. The beginning of every semester I would just look through the book and find a bunch of classes that looked cool and fun. I started in engineering, then physics. Humanities was the only way I could get a degree because you had to have a third of your credits outside liberal arts. I had a friend who worked in an antique gallery and wanted to put their business on computer. I started this little software company and wrote software on how to run an antique gallery. I did it for one gallery and then I sold it to another. My software did everything for the business-inventory, A/R, A/P, printed catalogs for the auction. The problem was if one person was using it, no one else could work. So I got interested in computer networks, and when I got out of college I went to work for a systems integrations firm in Houston and got into the guts of computers.
I found for people that had 20 to 100 grand or more to spend you could get a pretty good system, but for the small business, I was pretty underwhelmed with the competition (SmartVault ranges from $19 to $40 per month). I didn't want to have to market to all the SMBs in the country. QuickBooks has this great group of ProAdvisors we think we know how to get to. We've got an Affiliate Program and another program we're launching with bookkeepers (this month). We can show them a way to enhance their business and make more money.
For the rest of this year, we're just going to be 100 percent focused on the QuickBooks market. Once we build our success in QuickBooks, we'll look at jumping into other accounting platforms (like Peachtree). We want to document-enable the applications people already use, like Outlook (down the road), using our toolbar.
Talk about the state of IT security when you started BindView.
We came up with an auditing tool (at my former company) that scanned the entire Novell network and found all settings that were not configured to policy. IT security in 1990 was pretty much the mainframe. PCs were turning from personal productivity tools to something with serious company assets where you really had to worry about security. As computer networks became more important, security issues became not just physical security - someone walking off with a computer - but cyber security, going in over a network and trying to steal data from a desktop or server.
Describe the experience of taking BindView public. Why did you sell it?
We brought on venture capital in September 1997, we went public in June 1998. We had a very successful IPO and it was a wonderful experience. Then it was getting tougher to sell into IT. The CEO of Symantec walked up to me at a conference, put his arm around me and said, 'We want to buy you guys.' He made a decent offer at a high premium over what the company was trading at the time and I thought it made sense. What used to be called BindView is now the core of Symantec's Enterprise Security & Policy Compliance products. I never regretted it for a minute.
What other technologies interest you?
I'm fascinated by social networking. Part of some of our ideas for SmartVault we got from this new generation. We have an invitation model similar to Facebook or LinkedIn where you could invite other people to share your documents. I'm also fascinated with Internet-based technologies. We've got an architecture similar to Facebook behind SmartVault which makes its scalable to hundreds of users.
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