As a collegiate athlete rowing crew at Georgetown University, John Wood learned and appreciated the importance of teamwork, resilience, and fortitude. Years later these lessons served him well when Wood took on the CEO role at Telos Corporation.
Prior to 1994, the company had floundered with a lack of a consistent and coherent strategy. Senior management turn-over defined the organization, as five chief executives had come (and gone) in the five years proceeding Wood’s appointment.
A company in distress requires bold decision-making. Wood quickly proved himself to be up to the task.
“The business needed a start-over and to find a growth-oriented segment of the market to focus on,” Wood explained during a presentation last month to a group of corporate executives, bankers, and merger and acquisitions advisors at a networking event hosted by ACG National Capital at the Tower Club in McLean, Virginia.
“One of our areas of expertise was cybersecurity,” Wood continued. “With the increasing threats to government agencies and businesses, it was apparent there was going to be a customer need.”
Telos’ pivot to cyber paid dividends as the company was awarded a pair of 10-year, multi-billion-dollar contracts to help the U.S. Department of Defense with identity assurance as part of the Common Access Card program. Solutions in the area of identity-as-a-service for on-premise requirements has proven to be a unique and high value niche for Telos.
“We were an early mover in this market and that provided a strong foundation for the business,” Wood said. That foundation produced the resources Telos required for sustained investments in cyber-related product research and development. The company introduced “Telos Ghost,” a solution that allows defense and law enforcement personnel to operate online without leaving a footprint.
This momentum then led the company to the public markets. In November 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Telos raised $254M in an initial public offering. This was followed in April 2021 with a secondary offering that infused additional capital into the business.
“All of our interaction with bankers and investors was done virtually,” Wood said. “It presented some challenges, but we were able to tell the Telos story and it appealed to investors looking for value.”
As the company now moves forward, Wood explained that a strong focus on cybersecurity and a commitment to a family-friendly culture will continue to define Telos. “The average tenure of our employees is more than nine years,” Wood said. “That is rare in cybersecurity. It is something we are proud of.”