Exclusive: Ex-GE Tech Chief Joins Unicorn Cybersecurity Startup

February 25, 2016, 1:49 PM UTC
Courtesy of Zscaler.

Larry Biagini, former vice president and chief technology officer at General Electric, has a new gig.

The recently retired GE (GE) exec has joined Zscaler, a privately held San Jose, Calif.-based cybersecurity firm that was last valued at around $1 billion after a recent fundraising round. He has been named Zscaler’s chief technology evangelist, a role that primarily consists of engaging with the firm’s current and potential customers in order to facilitate sales.

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During Biagini’s 26-year tenure at GE, he helped the company transition to cloud infrastructure and adopted Zscaler’s technology to protect it from cyberattacks. In his new role, he has been tasked with sharing his firsthand experience with large organizations that are considering new cloud security options.

“It made sense for us to have someone who can evangelize the message,” says Jay Chaudhry, Zscaler’s founder, chief exec, and chairman, on a call with Fortune. “Quite often a (chief information officer) will say, I like what you’re saying but I’m nervous about moving to the cloud. It’s a major change and the whole business depends on it.”

Chaudhry says he met Biagini four years ago while courting GE and that the two got along well. Now Biagini has been enlisted to help steer Zscaler’s marketing and product strategy, Chaudhry says.

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Biagini tells Fortune that he decided to join the company because they share the same vision. “One thing about being retired is that you get to pick and choose the things you do,” he says. “The way that Zscaler looks at the world is exactly the way I look at the world. We don’t have to argue about where we’re going.”

Zscaler aims to win over customers with its appliance-less approach to cybersecurity. Instead of selling cumbersome boxes, which businesses have historically placed on the perimeters of their corporate networks to secure them, the company scrutinizes and scrubs customers’ Internet traffic at its more than 100 data centers around the world.

Zscaler says it has more than 5,000 customers, including four of the world’s top 10 banks. The company competes with other cybersecurity firms such as Checkpoint (CHKP), Websense, Palo Alto Networks (PANW), and Blue Coat.

Zscaler’s latest round of financing, which closed in September included investors Google (GOOG) Capital, TPG Growth, EMC (EMC), and Lightspeed Ventures, and boosted the company into the ranks of Silicon Valley’s coveted (albeit decreasingly exclusive) unicorn club (startups valued at $1 billion or more).

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