Multibillion-dollar security start-up Tanium snares a CTO from Facebook

Key Points
  • Tanium, last valued at $3.5 billion, has hired Chris Bream, director of product security at Facebook, as its chief technology officer.
  • Bream steps into the shoes of co-founder and founding CTO Orion Hindawi, who remains CEO.
  • Hindawi says an IPO is the "right thing for our company to do" but it has not filed yet.

Tanium, a cybersecurity start-up last valued at $3.5 billion and expected to go public this year, has snagged a new chief technology officer: Chris Bream, a director of product security at Facebook.

Bream takes the reins from Orion Hindawi, co-founder and founding CTO, who remains CEO — a position he claimed from his co-founder and father, David Hindawi, in 2016.

Tanium was founded in 2007 and specializes in endpoint security, meaning that companies and government organizations use it to monitor PCs and virtual machines for evidence of cyberattacks, malware infections and other software problems.

The company has more recently diversified into PC management, so customers can push out software updates and patches, bringing it into competition with giants like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM — which bought the Hindawis' previous start-up, BigFix, in 2010.

The company, which has raised more than $300 million from venture investors, claims to have large enterprise customers, including all of the top 10 banks, as well as some major government organizations. Orion Hindawi told CNBC that the company manages one network in the Department of Defense with more than 1.5 million endpoints.

The hiring of Bream comes a month after an explosive story from Bloomberg, which reported that Hindawi's brash leadership style has, among other things, led to an exodus of top talent.

Bream told CNBC he was intrigued with Tanium because it's able to scale to "hundreds of thousands of endpoints, and give you an answer in seconds." Although he's the CTO, he'll be taking on a major operational role as well, helping the 500-person company's engineering team stay organized while it grows rapidly.

He also joked that the famed motto at Facebook, "move fast and break things" had been revised to "move fast on a stable infrastructure. Ultimately the idea with breaking things is less about causing things to break, more about challenging traditional paradigms."

IPO plans still on track, but hasn't filed yet

Hindawi told CNBC that the company is still planning to go public but hasn't filed yet.

"We realize we're at the growth rate and profitability and heft of revenue where it would be foolish not to be deeply considering this on a constant basis," he said. "I think an IPO is the right thing for our company to do."

Tanium is cash-flow positive with $300 million in the bank, so it doesn't need to raise funds, but wants to go public as a way to reward early shareholders, including employees. "I don't have to go public, I get to go public."

But he added that the M&A market in tech could also be "really interesting" if Congress passes tax repatriation reform, which would encourage big tech companies to bring home some of the cash they're holding overseas.

Hindawi also said that the WannaCry ransomware attack last week was a huge wake-up call for customers, who could've avoided it by patching their computers — an area that Tanium emphasizes, in contrast with what Hindawi calls the "really esoteric approaches" to security taken by many competitors.

"We've seen a pretty dramatic increase in large production environments in the last couple of weeks," Hindawi said.

Correction: Tanium's CEO says the company has $300 million in the bank.