Even after all the work of identifying an acquisition target, the arduous process of negotiating the specific terms of a deal and the final closing of a transaction, substantial challenges remain before a merger or acquisition can truly be considered a success.
This is because the successful integration of two companies presents its own challenges. The two companies have to navigate bringing disparate cultures together, integrate service offerings and ultimately, demonstrate growth that justifies the transaction.
Michael Madon, who was CEO of Ataata, which was acquired by Mimecast last year and is now Mimecast’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for Security Awareness and Threat Intelligence Products, knows the challenges that come with an integration firsthand. And he has demonstrated that he knows how to navigate them successfully, winning the combined company a Deal of the Year Award at this year’s ACG Corporate Growth Awards.
“It’s been an exercise in collaboration, trust and compromise. So far, it’s working well,” he told us when we sat down to talk about the Ataata-Mimecast transaction and integration and see hat best practices he gleaned from it.
Here is what he had to say:
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS):Tell Tell us about Ataata. How did the company get its start? What unique services does it offer to its clients?
Michael Madon: The company known as Ataata, now serves as the foundation for Mimecast’s Awareness Training product. It offers groundbreaking security awareness training, some of the most engaging in the industry, training that changes employee cyber security reflexes for the better, and lowers organizational risk.
I had a background in cyber security that started in military intelligence in the Army and culminated in my role as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Treasury Department where I worked with an incredible team developing strategies to help the department identify and mitigate cyber risks and vulnerabilities within both the department and financial sector.
In these roles, I saw first-hand how damaging human error can be in the workplace. I also observed that in spite of knowing how important good training was, I hated what was presented. It was boring, dull and pedantic. Everyone did their best to avoid or ignore it. It was just terrible.
Fast forward a few years to when I joined the private sector with a company that offered insights into identifying malicious employees – less than 5% of known causes of breaches. Important work, but when 95% of all security breaches involve basic human error, I knew there was an opportunity to address a bigger challenge. And that challenge was to get employees to pay attention to security. To change the narrative from security being about compliance – to that of commitment; so employees now understand why security is important not just to their company – but critical to their professional success and personal lives. And this needs to be coupled with real world data that helps identify a company’s riskiest employees. And so Ataata was born.
CGCS: Many of Ataata’s services revolve around cybersecurity training. Why is this so important in organizations today? What types of threats can training help mitigate?
Michael Madon: As I mentioned, 95% of breaches involve some form of human error and the average breach of scale, meaning 10K records or more compromised, costs upwards of 3.8M to remediate. And guess what? Companies have a 28% chance of having a major breach this year and that risk is increasing every year. Good training can help users stop, think and verify that what they are about to do isn’t going to get them in trouble. That reflex, in and of itself, can save an organization from breaches large and small, saving the company millions in losses – both time and treasure.
CGCS: Mimecast’s acquisition of Ataata won a Deal of the Year Award at this year’s ACG Corporate Growth Awards. Why was Ataata an acquisition target for Mimecast? Why did acquiring Ataata make sense for Mimecast’s business today and into the future?
Michael Madon: Mimecast is in the business of cyber security – specifically we have roots in email security and are building towards a security work surface – a cyber resilience approach – that encompasses email and web security, sync and recover and archive services as well as training. We were a strong complement to their “sweet suite” if you will.
CGCS: Why was Mimecast a good acquirer for Ataata? What made Mimecast the right fit? What about their company and the deal convinced you that an acquisition by Mimecast was the right move for you and Ataata at that time?
Michael Madon: Peter Bauer, CEO, and Christina Van Houten, Chief Strategy Officer, have a very clear vision of where the company is going and are both intensely smart and passionate about ensuring bad things don’t happen to good companies. They have built and are building an incredible team to execute this mission. It was a team I thought could take our product and multiply its impact across Mimecast’s 35k+ customer base. A year later, I can confidently say, on this point, I was spot on.
CGCS: We know that any good acquisition or merger will fail without a solid, well-executed integration plan. As two separate companies with two different cultures and product offerings, what were some of the challenges that you and the Mimecast management team faced during the integration? How did you overcome them?
Michael Madon: When you have a team of 15 or so, change and momentum is super quick – but also much less complicated. So, at Mimecast, we had to re-orient from steering a small speedboat to joining a powerful team aboard an aircraft carrier that spans the globe. Our approach has been to listen carefully to our counterparts and colleagues at Mimecast. We knew Awareness Training, and they knew Mimecast, the customer base, and the path to success within the organization. Through collaboration and trust it has been incredibly successful.
CGCS: It has now been a year since Mimecast announced that it had acquired Ataata. Are there any lessons learned and best practices from the integration that you can share with our readers?
Michael Madon: Listen to the seasoned folks at the acquiring company while continuing to advocate for your customers. Remember they bought you because of what you bring to the table. In our case, we were very fortunate that Mimecast was especially mindful of not losing that.