George Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, was at a meeting Wednesday morning when his email inbox was suddenly bombarded with news alerts.
"I'm like 'what, what? What's going on?'" Kurtz told CNBC in an afternoon interview in San Francisco. "I had no idea."
Kurtz's inbox was blowing up and he got bombarded with text messages from friends after CrowdStrike's name appeared in the summary of a July call between President Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine. The White House released the summary amid pressure from House Democrats, who have placed Trump's conversation with Zelensky at the center of an impeachment inquiry.
"It was unintelligible, to be honest," Kurtz said of Trump's comments. "But it was a bit of a shock this morning."
CrowdStrike's name was likely invoked by Trump because the company assisted the Democratic National Committee in investigating a 2016 hack by Russian operatives. Trump has previously suggested that the DNC should have turned over the email servers to the FBI instead of having CrowdStrike investigate, implying that the lack of cooperation should cast doubt on findings that the Russians helped him win the election.
CrowdStrike responded on Wednesday by saying in a statement that it "provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI," and that "we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US intelligence community."
Kurtz told CNBC that government work makes up a significant amount of the company's revenue, though he said it doesn't break out the numbers. He said CrowdStrike works with governments on the local, state and federal level, both in the U.S. and abroad. And he emphasized that the company is "nonpartisan."
"We protect both Democrats and Republicans," he said.
CrowdStrike shares fell less than 1% on Wednesday to $62.02 after dropping as much as 4% earlier in the day. The stock is up 82% from its debut price in June, when CrowdStrike raised $612 million in its IPO. In its prospectus, CrowdStrike identified expansion within the U.S. federal government as one of the seven parts of its growth strategy.
Kurtz was meeting with CNBC ahead of a trip that he's taking to Singapore and Australia this weekend to meet with current and prospective customers as part of a 100-day campaign. He'll be traveling with Mike Carpenter, CrowdStrike's president for global sales and field operations.
While he wasn't expecting to have to address comments made by the president, Kurtz said election interference remains a big issue heading into the 2020 election.
"We have to be concerned about intelligence gathering between both parties, which is what we saw in 2016 — intelligence gathering by other actors but against both parties," he said. "It's probably going to get worse before it gets better."
Here's what President Trump said about CrowdStrike in his call with Zelensky:
"I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it."
-- CNBC's Ari Levy contributed to this report.