Francisco Partners, a leading technology-focused private equity firm, announced that it has acquired a majority stake in Comodo’s certificate authority business (Comodo CA Limited). The investment by Francisco Partners will help support the company’s accelerated growth, which is fueled by an increased need for the protection of digital information, network traffic encryption, and demand for enhanced trust in websites. Terms of the transaction were not announced.
“Comodo has long been a valued, trusted and innovative leader in the digital certificate space,” said Francisco Partners Founding Partner and CEO Dipanjan (DJ) Deb. “This is demonstrated by 15 years of consecutive growth that was only made possible by leadership and product teams that keenly understand the market and their customers. We’re truly excited to welcome Comodo CA to the Francisco Partners family.”
Comodo CA, the largest certificate authority by number of issued SSL certificates, protects more than 200,000 customers worldwide. Comodo CA has been a trusted security partner to businesses for almost 20 years and provides Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates and comprehensive certificate management that are critical to a customer’s online presence.
SSL certificates ensure that the online traffic between a website and a user is encrypted and that the website’s identity is verified as authentic. As the internet continues to permeate all parts of business and consumer lives, and the security risks associated with the massive growth in online and Internet of Things (IoT) traffic evolves, SSL certificates become further entrenched in organizations’ security protocols.
“The growth of online services, along with the associated security risks, have made SSL certificates an entrenched and critical piece of most organizations’ security framework,” said Garrett Bekker, Principal Security Analyst at 451 Research. “However, the ongoing adoption of cloud and mobile computing, and most recently the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, has led to an exponential increase in the number and variety of devices that are at risk and need to be secured. As such, the market for digital certificates and certificate management services will likely benefit from continued strong growth for the foreseeable future.”
In connection with the transaction, Comodo CA has hired Bill Holtz to join the company as Chief Executive Officer. Bill Holtz has over 30 years of experience in the internet and security industries. Previously, Holtz was the COO of Entrust, an identity-based data security solutions provider. Prior to Entrust, Holtz was the CIO of Expedia, where he had responsibility of all Expedia properties, including Hotels.com, Hotwire, TripAdvisor and Expedia Corporate travel.
“The alignment of the Comodo CA acquisition with the current market demand for trusted certificates and certificate lifecycle management signals a monumental opportunity for all parties,” said Holtz. “The need to responsibly provide the required verification, oversight and operational management to encrypt network traffic and identify websites will only grow. Trusted digital certificates will remain a fundamental requirement of today’s network security infrastructure for eCommerce and new evolving IoT networks. Francisco Partners has a sound, smart and aggressive strategy for Comodo CA and I’m delighted to join the team to execute their vision.”
“We are extremely excited about our renewed exclusive partnership with Comodo. Comodo has shown a continued commitment to secure the Internet through innovation, product development, partnerships and a best in class customer experience,” said Mitch Haber, SVP, Global Partnerships, Endurance International Group.
Bill Conner will serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors, and brings more than 30 years of experience in the networking and security industries. He currently serves as President and CEO of SonicWall, a provider of security appliances and software and a Francisco Partner portfolio company. Previously, Conner was the CEO of Entrust and has a strong track record of operating results and financial performance.
“This is a fantastic acquisition that represents a strong blend of technology, innovation, and execution,” said Conner. “With the oversight of Francisco Partners, and Bill Holtz at the helm, Comodo CA will continue to be agile and proactive in helping strengthen trust across web security and communication.”
“Bill Holtz and Bill Conner are very accomplished executives within the enterprise security market and we are thrilled to have them join Comodo CA,” said Brian Decker, head of security investing at Francisco Partners. “Their years of experience in the SSL and digital certificate business is invaluable for Francisco Partners in this investment as Comodo CA grows and expands its leadership from SSL certificates to IoT.”
The investment by Francisco Partners marks a transition in ownership from the Comodo organization, founded in 1998 and which grew as Comodo CA became an industry leader with more than 200,000 customers across 150 countries. Melih Abdulhayoglu, who is also a founding member of the CA/Browser Forum, will retain an ownership stake and remain a Board Observer of Comodo CA.
“Comodo CA was the first business of the Comodo brand, which has since then expanded into many other areas of security,” said Abdulhayoglu. “However, now is the time to focus attention on the CA business given the significant opportunity in the market. This next chapter for both Comodo CA and Francisco Partners will positively impact the digital certificate market and accelerate the company’s business objectives.”
To date, Comodo CA has achieved several key business and technology milestones:
- Founded in 1998 and issued first digital certificate product in 2001
- Market share leader by number of certificates with more than 55 million certificates issued globally in 2017
- Consistent double-digit revenue growth for the past several years
- Initiated the founding of the CA/Browser Forum to establish identity validation standards that helped create the Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate standard
- Expanded portfolio of digital certificates to include EV, PKI, UC and EV code-signing certificates
- Developed Comodo Certificate Manager (CCM), a cloud-based software platform that helps numerous Fortune 500 companies efficiently and securely manage large volumes of digital certificates within their networks