New CEO of Ottawa’s Titus seeing opportunity in data protection demands

Barkdoll
Titus CEO Jim Barkdoll. Photo provided.

Ottawa-based Titus has a new chief executive at the helm, poised to lead the data protection firm’s growth in an increasingly cyber-worried world.

Recent privacy breaches at Equifax and Facebook have been answered, in part, by stricter and sweeping rules such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations, which came into effect late last month. The demands for security and protection, therefore, weigh more heavily today on any cybersecurity firm – and that’s just the way Titus’s new CEO Jim Barkdoll wants it.

“I would think taking the reins of Titus would be attractive for anybody,” he tells OBJ.

Titus provides enterprise and government customers – Canada’s federal government and the multinational defence outfit North Atlantic Treaty Organization are notable ones – with software to classify and protect sensitive information across emails and internal files.

The firm has its roots in the basement of founder Tim Upton’s basement, where he and his wife began a security tech consulting firm in 1994. Titus currently has 150 employees in Ottawa, with roughly 50 more worldwide.

Barkdoll will take over the chief executive role from Upton after four years as Titus’s chief revenue officer. Though the new CEO will remain based in Chicago, he says he’s no stranger to Ottawa, having spent multiple years working for various companies in the city.

“I’ve had quite a bit of experience in Ottawa, and it’s like a second home,” he says.

Data demand

The new chief says there’s been a great deal of opportunity for Titus as of late, with privacy concerns top of mind for organizations worldwide. Whether companies are looking to avoid GDPR penalties or just ensure their policies are kept up-to-date to protect sensitive information, no one wants to be the subject of the next privacy mishap headline.

“There’s been a run to the doors for people looking for, well, ‘How do I make sure I’m GDPR compliant and avoid a fine?’” Barkdoll says.

Titus represents the first step in data protection, Barkdoll explains: classification. Before companies attempt to secure or even encrypt their information, they have to identify what’s sensitive and, just as importantly, what’s not.

Titus was completely bootstrapped until this past December, when the firm sold off a majority stake to U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group LP. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but media reports pegged the investment at a value of $100 million.

In a statement at the time, Blackstone pointed to the world’s growing cybersecurity concerns as a prime opportunity for Titus.

“With data breaches at an all-time high, each day brings another example of the importance of protecting information,” said Viral Patel, managing director at Blackstone Tactical Opportunities.

“It was important for us at that time, as the market was changing, to get some market validation,” Barkdoll says of the decision to take on Blackstone’s investment.

The new CEO says his priority is maintaining the momentum Titus has generated in the past few months with investments in new technologies and offerings. The development of machine learning applications, for example, could allow Titus to leverage the data it’s been protecting for more than a decade into new insights for its customers.

“That’s a solution where we really believe we can build upon and make a huge change in the security space for every company,” he says. “It is an important mission that we’re on here.”