Industry Focus: Kaspersky Lab

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Russian-based AV specialist Kaspersky Lab has been enjoying some significant wins in North America. SC caught up with CEO Eugene Kaspersky between meetings.

SC Magazine Last time we met, in December 2006, you were talking about moving into the American market - 16 months on what's the progress report?

Eugene Kaspersky Initially we targeted the SME market because it was the easiest segment to get into, but we always saw this as a stepping stone into the enterprise market. But the SME market grew faster than we thought. Small businesses are quite open to switch solutions. Getting into the consumer space proved harder. When we spoke to Staples, Office Depot and the other big chains, the first question was 'Who are you?', the second 'why do you think you will succeed here?', and the third 'Why should I waste my time talking to you?'

SC But you succeeded?

EK Yes, it was a mission impossible, but we did it. Now we are present in about 9,000 outlets in the US and, by the end of this year, we are going to be in Canada. Overall, we are going to be in about 12,000 outlets in North America.

SC So what is the secret then? How have you been successful in these markets?

EK Three things - work, work and work. Seriously, we put the technology and expertise at the top of the pyramid, not marketing. We also develop partner networks that are allowed to make profit - we don't take a cut. Some of our competitors' partners are now switching to us. So the real three things are expertise, product development and partnership networking. We are growing very fast here - almost 300 per cent year on year, and we have about 60 employees in our Boston office.

SC Is it becoming harder to keep up with malware?

EK It is much more difficult, simply because of the number of attacks and different techniques. We now have to process a million samples a year, and that's terabytes of data.

SC Do you agree with John W Thompson (Symantec's CEO) that business should now focus on becoming information-centric, protecting the data rather than buying utilities and appliances?

EK Yes and no. A vendor announced that it had technology to protect users' passwords. So we had a look at this technology. They just put all the passwords, all the confidential data in one place. That's stupid because it just makes it easier for hackers to steal this piece of data and then crack the encryption, it's not security. It's insecurity.

SC Do you think you might IPO the business?

EK To keep the company private is not a long-term goal. At the moment, we are growing very fast with good profit. The company is very healthy. We are able to go shopping for small fishes without any problems. But it will get to the point where we can't develop the business at this rate, and then we will probably think about some other approaches.

SC So are we talking about a year or longer?

EK Two or three years. We are preparing the company to be ready for that. So when we need it, we can do it quickly. We are making changes to the structure of the business and consolidating our joint ventures. We may appoint a director from outside the company. The business is becoming international, not just Russian. It's nice that analysts are listing us as a European company, because, actually, we are.

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