Exclusive: IPO-Bound Tanium Hires DreamWorks Veteran
Tanium has just hired a number two executive: Fazal Merchant, a veteran of DreamWorks and DirecTV.
The cybersecurity and IT systems management firm, which is based in Emeryville, Calif. and last privately valued at $3.5 billion, has brought Merchant on board to fill the dual role of chief operating and chief financial officer.
Though Merchant has extensive experience helping to orchestrate sales of media businesses to telecom giants—see AT&T’s (T) nearly $50 billion acquisition of DirecTV in 2014, and Comcast’s (CMCSA)‘s nearly $4 billion purchase of DreamWorks last year—he will be focused on taking Tanium public in time to come, Tanium CEO and co-founder Orion Hindawi told Fortune on a phone call.
Merchant was most recently an advisor to WndrCo, an investment firm with $600 million in backing that was founded earlier this year by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film studio exec and former CEO of DreamWorks. (“When Fazal joined DreamWorks, we didn’t just get a great CFO, we got an outstanding business executive and many of us got the added benefit of a new friend,” Katzenberg said in an email statement to Fortune. “In the successful formation of WndrCo, his advice and counsel have been invaluable and we’re excited to see him partner with Orion and the Tanium team in this next chapter of his career.”)
Merchant caught wind of the Tanium job posting through Sujay Jaswa, another founding officer of WndrCo, the former CFO of Dropbox, and a friend of Hindawi’s. Merchant said he began to seriously entertain and pursue the gig after Maggie Wilderotter, former CEO of Frontier Communications and a close colleague when she served as a DreamWorks board member, joined Tanium’s board in February. She reached out and eventually Merchant got in touch with Hindawi.
“From the first conversation, we just clicked,” Merchant said.
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Tanium is one of the hot tech properties in Silicon Valley, a so-called unicorn startup that has received lavish rounds of funding from the likes of investors Andreessen Horowitz, TPG, IVP, Geodesic Capital, and Franklin Templeton Investments. The firm counts half the Fortune 100 as customers, according to Hindawi, including retailers like Amazon and Target, all ten of the top U.S. banks, as well as many federal agencies and much of the Department of Defense.
Even as Tanium doubles its revenues year over year (Hindawi told the Financial Times in October that the firm was on track to make $270 million last year, an 80% increase over the year prior), a number of departures by top execs in recent months have led some to question what’s been going on inside the company. Last month, Eric Brown, the company’s then-CFO and COO, abruptly left. Prior to that, Jennifer Johnson, the company’s chief marketing officer, exited in August, while Michael Carpenter, Tanium’s top sales exec left in September, joining CrowdStrike, a competitor, a few months later.
“In general, the person perfect for role in 50-person company is probably not the perfect person in a 500-person company unless they do a lot of personal growth in the transition,” Hindawi told Fortune, providing some reasoning for the leadership shakeup. He said he believed that Merchant could “instill that sense of mission into teams as they get bigger an bigger over time—it’s a rare skill.”
Hindawi said he had interviewed 57 people—”all the usual suspects in tech”—for the dual CFO-COO role. He said he found the right culture fit in Merchant, a belief that solidified after their families met and spent an afternoon brunching in Napa Valley this year.
“I’m confident my skills will complement Orion and the rest of the team,” Merchant said.
Hindawi previously worked at the IT systems management firm BigFix, founded by his father David—Tanium’s co-founder and now the executive chairman—in 1997. IBM purchased BigFix for $400 million in 2010.
Hindawi said he is still keen on an IPO, especially given the performance of recently listed tech companies, such as Snap (SNAP) and Okta (OKTA). “The markets right now are very receptive,” he said.