Burt Podbere on How to Run a Successful IPO

CrowdStrike CFO Burt Podbere shares the process that led the cybersecurity company to the largest IPO in industry history

Modern cybersecurity is a dangerous business, one that companies have to keep up with to stay ahead of the curve. This is a principle that CrowdStrike CFO Burt Podbere understands more than anyone. “Our adversaries don’t sleep, and they don’t eat,” he says. “We’ve got to stay ahead of that.”

Thanks to that mind-set, and the success of the company’s recent IPO in June 2019, CrowdStrike has built a substantial leadership role in the cloud-based cybersecurity industry.

Burt Podbere Crowdstrike
Burt Podbere, CrowdstrikePhoto: Patrick James Miller Photography

When Podbere joined CrowdStrike in 2015, he already had more than twenty years of domestic and international experience in managing and scaling global tech companies, having worked previously at tech titans like Symantec and OpenDNS (which was eventually acquired by Cisco). Working at other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) firms like OpenDNS taught him how to go to market, and he grew an appreciation for what it takes to lead a sales organization.

What attracted him to CrowdStrike was more than the chance to continue his passion for innovating and disrupting the industry. It was the prospect of working with CrowdStrike founder and CEO George Kurtz. “George could create a board that would propel the company into rare air,” Podbere says.

When they first met in 2015, Kurtz sold Podbere on the virtues of a subscription-based model of cybersecurity and CrowdStrike’s potential to provide that for a world in desperate need of it. Adversaries were becoming more pervasive and sophisticated, and CrowdStrike’s cloud-based platform was created to solve these “real customer pain points,” Podbere notes.

As such, CrowdStrike works to “stop the breach” for customers looking for strong endpoint protection platforms (EPP) for their cybersecurity. With a skilled, experienced team of security experts and a cloud-native EPP, CrowdStrike works to strike a balance between innovating technology and providing accessible go-to-market platforms. Customers can also use the cloud-based CrowdStrike Store to discover new products, try them out, and seamlessly purchase tech from trusted partners.

The first few years of operation saw tremendous growth, but Podbere knew that the company would need to enhance its global branding awareness. “As a private company, we simply weren’t known in all four corners of the Earth,” he explains. “It was important for us to get our brand more worldwide support.”

“As a private company, we simply weren’t known in all four corners of the Earth. It was important for us to get our brand more worldwide support.”

So, he began the long process to facilitate CrowdStrike’s public option, leading numerous funding rounds in 2017 and 2018 resulting in more than $300 million. To build relationships with investors, he attended as many banking conferences as possible, as well as investment meetings and non-deal roadshows.

This was a critical early stage of the process. “It helped us understand what investors wanted to see from us as a public company,” the CFO explains.

From there, Podbere went through the arduous process of selecting the right advisors—lawyers, accountants, bankers—to create and execute an IPO readiness checklist “as thick as a redwood tree trunk.” It was here that he had to become an expert in project management while on the job, learning the ins and outs of finance, sales, HR, operations, and more. “It’s a big ask, but that’s where the pre-planning and analysis helped,” Podbere says.

After a ten-day roadshow with investors, CrowdStrike debuted to a $612 million IPO, one of the largest-ever for a cybersecurity firm. “We’re very pleased with our success,” Podbere says. “Many banks have said we actually rewrote the book on how to run an effective IPO process.”

Toppan Merrill’s Darryl Grant also notes Podbere’s success with the IPO. “Burt’s impressive business acumen, leadership, and fair-minded practices accelerated the IPO while creating shareholder value,” the senior vice president says. “Uniquely, when choosing among the top two financial printers he focused on the business metrics, value, and execution.”

Luckily, Podbere’s approach to the IPO dovetails nicely with one of the central mantras in CrowdStrike’s corporate culture: “remove friction.” As CFO, Podbere works to keep the company efficient, driving costs down while maintaining growth. That necessitates keeping departmental and team relationships smooth and frictionless.

For instance, Podbere has built a strong relationship with president of global sales Michael Carpenter. The two “challenge each other in ways other executives don’t,” Podbere explains. Between sharing sales calls and meeting customers and board members, Podbere and Carpenter help each other with a close connection to each other’s roles in the company.

“After our debut, many banks have said we actually rewrote the book on how to run an effective IPO process.”

Off the back of their successful IPO, CrowdStrike has plans to maintain that momentum with further innovations in the cybersecurity space. Chief among these is Falcon, CrowdStrike’s cloud-native endpoint protection platform that provides comprehensive security without the need to force compatibility with other platforms.

“Buying different technologies and slapping them together in one agent doesn’t work,” Podbere explains. So, Falcon consolidates eleven integrated modules into a lightweight agent that works in tandem with their CrowdStrike Store.

Even after this triumph, Podbere is constantly looking for ways to stay excited as CFO. “The work of protecting our customers and stopping the breach is never truly done. I continue to find passion in our mission and innovation day in and out,” he notes. Central to that sense of momentum is his continued collaboration with Kurtz. “It’s the most enriching professional experience I’ve ever had,” Podbere raves.

As CrowdStrike continues to disrupt and innovate, the company’s status at the top of the cybersecurity game seems assured.