BlackBerry hires former McAfee president to lead cybersecurity business

 BlackBerry has hired former McAfee president John Giamatteo as president of its cyber security business unit.

Starting October 4th he will responsible for business unit, engineering and go to market strategy, the company said Wednesday as it announced BlackBerry’s Q2 financial results.

photo of John Giamatteo
John Giamatteo

The cybersecurity unit includes the BlackBerry Spark endpoint and unified endpoint management suite.

During his time with McAfee, BlackBerry said pointedly in its news release, Giamatteo “delivered strong double-digit growth across its enterprise, SMB and consumer businesses as well as significant margin expansion across the portfolio.”

During a conference call for industry analysts announcing the appointment and the financial results, CEO John Chen said he is “dying to hear his experience of growth [at McAfee] because he was able to grow both the consumer and enterprise business … I’m sure he will make some changes. I’m doubtful that everything will remain exactly the same. On the other hand the investments we made in channel, [sales] pipelines, partners, engineering, and in hiring more sales staff, and a couple of quarters ago we hired a pretty good head of professional services, I’m sure he will take full advantage of those.”

In addition to working at McAfee, Giamatteo has also been chief operating officer of AVG Technologies and held leadership positions with Solera Holdings, RealNetworks, Inc. and Nortel Networks.

The hiring of Giamatteo follows the hiring in April of Mattias Eriksson as president and general manager of BlackBerry’s newly-formed IoT business unit. That unit includes the QNX operating system, found in cars and industrial equipment.

Earlier this year BlackBerry said that the company will be split into the cybersecurity and IoT divisions. Starting next year, each will separately report its revenues.

As for its quarterly financial results, the cybersecurity division pulled in $120 million in revenue (all figures in US dollars), while the IoT unit earned $40 million. Total revenue in the quarter was $175 million.

Overall BlackBerry posted a $141 million loss in the quarter under generally accepted accounting (GAAP) rules. That was primarily, the company said, due to a non-cash $67 million accounting adjustment to the fair value of convertible debentures it holds.

The company still has over $770 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Chen made it clear posting losses isn’t necessarily a problem. “I’ve been here for seven years,” he said in response to a question, “and I’ve always been focused on making money and running a profitable business. On the other hand, in the last year I recognized the business needs investment to step on the gas – and we have done that in the last three quarters. So for the time being I’m not going to be so focused on loss versus profit, as far as it’s manageable, meaning [if] it’s not going to be outrageous and it’s not going to burn a lot of my cash we are going to step on the gas and continue hiring.

“The idea is since we now have the products and we can generate the [sales] pipeline, if we can close the pipeline with more feet on the street and more channel partners and so forth, it will help me grow the business and help me grow the profit to offset a very profitable source of revenue, which was licensing” of its intellectual property.

BlackBerry has been negotiating with an unnamed company since December to sell some of its mobile patents. If and when that deal closes – and Chen estimated there’s an 80 per cent chance it will in this quarter – the money will be used to “step on the gas and invest in the cyber business,” as well as on the IoT division’s BlackBerry Ivy platform for sharing vehicle sensor data.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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