Sourcefire seeks new leader after death of CEO


Martin Roesch, acting chief executive of SourceFire. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)
November 4, 2012

Following the death of its chief executive, Columbia-based cybersecurity business Sourcefire has started a search for a new leader.

In the meantime, Martin F. Roesch, the company’s founder and its chief technology officer, has taken over as interim CEO. John C. Burris, who died of cancer last month, shortly after announcing he would take medical leave, had been chief since 2008.

Roesch founded the company in early 2001 based on his open-source technology Snort, meant to detect and prevent cyber intrusions. Sourcefire has since expanded and now does work with both commercial businesses as well as U.S. and foreign governments.

Capital Business recently sat down with Roesch. What follows are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Where are you in the search process for a new chief executive?

We’re still in the early stages. We’ve engaged an executive recruiter, Chartwell Partners, and we’re working closely with them and evaluating candidates for the role.

John Burris led Sourcefire through a lot of growth. Where do you go from here?

When [John] came in, he didn’t really make a lot of changes. He didn’t cut a bunch of heads and bring in a new management team. He took the team that we had and focused on the things that were really important. Quite frankly, things have been working very well. In terms of what we think would be interesting in a candidate, it would be somebody who can maybe take the company to greater heights. We think there’s a lot of runway left in this company because we’re just scratching the surface of the market that we’re in.

Will government budget cuts take a toll?

It’s too early to say. We’re baked into a lot of projects that are already in place, so I wouldn’t say that it necessarily bodes ill for us, but it is very early to predict.

As more companies seem focused on cyber, are you seeing increasing competition?

Playing this game is fairly tough. The barrier to entry isn’t just the technologies you’ve got to create, but it’s being able to scale. The investment required to be competitive in the area we’re in is actually fairly substantial. The number of people out there who are qualified to do it — not just do all the engineering, not just provide the raw capabilities but also to build the research arm required to keep this thing fed with the information that it needs to keep it relevant — that is not an easy thing. The new entrants into the field are relatively few and far between.

Where are the growth areas in the commercial market? Some point to industries like critical infrastructure and banking.

They have the most to lose in a lot of cases, so usually those guys seem to be the earliest adopters of these types of technologies. But in terms of which verticals buy Sourcefire [products], it’s all verticals. It’s not so much a vertical game for us as it is where we’re selling in the world geographically.

What are the geographic trends?

[International is] our fastest growing sector. If you look at our distribution of people and where we’ve invested, we still have most of our people in North America. Over time, we expect there’s going to be a lot more upside opportunity in international markets.

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