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Thursday, Feb 9, 2023

Corporate Fix-It man:

Symark International grew from approximately $14 million in annual revenue in 2005 to $20.3 million in 2006 and $27.5 million in 2007. Then the Agoura Hills-based technology firm launched two new products and business took a turn for the worse. Revenues dropped to $26.7 million in 2008. About 70 percent of Symark’s resources were dedicated to the new offerings, which were not selling in the marketplace. And the company took its eyes off its core products. In November 2008, Insight Venture Partners, owners of Symark, solicited the help of technology industry veteran John Mutch to get the company back on the fast-growth track. “They said, ‘We have a difficult situation that we need help with,’” said Mutch, who Insight brought on as CEO of Symark. After accepting the position, “I quickly realized the new products were not working,” he added. Over the past year, Mutch has taken aggressive steps to reverse Symark’s declining revenues. And now, he and Insight Venture Partners have their eyes on taking the company public by the end of next calendar year. The fix-it man Mutch isn’t the stereotypical entrepreneur who obsessively launches new businesses and pursues them to the bitter end, whether that end is a complete financial disaster or success. “I’m more like a suit,” said Mutch, “the guy they bring in at a certain stage of a company’s growth.” His specialty is working with high-growth companies and repairing companies that have gone financially astray. He got his start in the tech industry in the early 1980s. With an undergraduate degree in economics he took a job selling college textbooks for Prentice Hall. Within a year, he was part of a group that launched the company’s first electronic publishing division. Simon & Schuster eventually purchased Prentice Hall. Mutch joined Datacopi in 1984, a tech start-up that sold computer time to small- and mid-market banks. He was there from the get-go as the company grew from $12 million in annual revenues to $80 million and was acquired in 1986 by NCR. “The whole technology business was moving very fast; it was on fire at the time,” said Mutch. He then worked with Microsoft from 1986 to 1994, building the software giant’s corporate account sales force for the East Coast, heading a district office, and working at Microsoft’s headquarters as director of enterprise development and marketing. After Mutch took time off to complete business school, HNC Software hired him in 1997 to run its strategy and marketing. Through a series of acquisitions he and other company principals grew the company from $80 million to $250 million in revenues. He was hired as CEO in 1999 and proceeded to break HNC into parts, take one of the parts public, and sell off the remainder to Fair Isaac. The move resulted in a substantial return for investors, he said. Another one of Mutch’s milestones is helping rebuild scandal-ridden Peregrine Systems. One of the bankruptcy courts appointed him to Perigrine’s board of directors in 2003 and he became CEO shortly thereafter. He helped reorganize the company, get it out of bankruptcy, and sell it to Hewlett-Packard in 2005. “It was a highly unusual experience and I got very interested in the whole corporate governance thing,” said Mutch, who went on to form an activist hedge fund that targeted small- and mid-cap publicly traded tech companies that were undervalued and exhibiting poor corporate governance. Re-tooling Symark Shortly after joining Symark, Mutch shut down the new products that weren’t selling and sent them back to be re-engineered. He refocused energy on the company’s core products and services. He also analyzed the business strategy and realized the company needed to branch out of strictly offering privileged identity and access management solutions for Unix/Linux systems and include solutions for Microsoft Windows-based systems. So last August, Symark purchased Boston-based BeyondTrust for $24 million. It also formally changed its name to BeyondTrust as part of the transaction. “This provided us with faster growth opportunity,” said Mutch, adding BeyondTrust is now one of the only providers that give privileged access across Unix/Linux and Windows. Strengthening the management team has also been a key part of Mutch’s strategy. Most recently, BeyondTrust hired Brian T. Anderson as the company’s first ever chief marketing officer. He will lead all aspects of corporate brand development. Symark re-launched two of its re-engineered products and is focused on broadening its product line and strategic value, said Mutch. The company hasn’t ruled out the possibility of more acquisitions and hopes to go public by the end of next calendar year. Revenues for year-end 2009 are expected to increase approximately 20 percent from year-end 2008.

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