Airwatch’s Alan Dabbiere says Atlanta is a great place to grow companies

By Maria Saporta

Even though he doesn’t live here, Alan Dabbiere has become one of Atlanta’s biggest cheerleaders.

Dabbiere has run two successful technology companies in Atlanta — Manhattan Associates and AirWatch.

“This has been such a tremendous city to do business in,” Dabbiere said at the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Monday. “We can build meaningful long term businesses here in Atlanta.”

Dabbiere explained that Atlanta has a solid base of skilled employees who have enabled his companies to grow. Unlike Silicon Valley and other well-recognized technology cities, Dabbiere said that there is little continuity in the workforce because employees are offered many opportunities to hop from one company to another.

Having a stable workforce is especially important for AirWatch, which specializes in mobile security and mobile device management. The company is experiencing incrdible growth as more and more communications and transactions are being conducted on mobile devices.

Dabbiere said the company currently has about 1,500 employees. It should have 2,000 by the end of the year; 4,000 by the end of 2014; and could have between 6,000 and 8,000 employees the following year.

The company also received a $200 million infusion of outside capital  from Insight Venture Partners earlier this year.

Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia who introduced Dabbiere, said that was the largest private equity offering of an enterprise this year, and that one deal could help change Georgia’s reputation among venture capitalists.

Dabbiere jokingly said during his talk that if an outside investor offers you $200 million for a 15 percent stake in your company, “you take it.”

Most of Dabbiere’s Rotary talk, however, centered on all the lapses in security that now exists as more and more people are doing business on their mobile devices, including their smart phones.

No longer can companies or individuals feel that their information is protected if it’s behind a firewall. No longer are security breaches the massive viruses that would shut down computer systems.

“That’s not the way cyber crime is happening anymore,” Dabbiere said. “Now it’s happening in little bursts, in targeted attacks. The world has changed so dramatically. The world of mobility has hit so fast. The old world of protecting your firewall is gone. The old security products don’t work anymore.”

What that means is that AirWatch will have unlimited business potential in providing security for mobile devices for years to come. And Dabbiere is convinced that “these devices are going to get better and better and better: and they are going to become “much safer.”

Meanwhile AirWatch has located one of its two development centers in Atlanta (employing about 250 people) where it tests its latest products and security systems.

“The rate of change is so fast,” Dabbiere said. “Kudos to Atlanta for having great cyber skills and great people.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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