What is Boston’s strong suit in tech? Ask Veracode

Veracode chief executive Bob Brennan (courtesy of the company).
Veracode chief executive Bob Brennan (courtesy of the company).

In some ways, Boston’s tech community—while highly active and growing—seems like it’s playing in the minor leagues. And yet the potential is there to play in the majors, provided that more companies succeed at growing large and staying independently owned over the long term (becoming major hirers and acquirers along the way).

Scott Kirsner’s great piece on the topic has gotten me thinking harder about the question: What are the common threads among Boston’s contenders for “pillar companies”?

Put another way, what is Boston truly the strongest at when it comes to tech?

One answer I think many would agree with: Boston’s tech sector is at its best in the realm of behind-the-scenes technology that enables all industries to innovate more quickly.

That’s a descriptor that can apply to many of Boston’s tech IPO candidates—such as Actifio, Acquia, Applause, and of course, HubSpot—who are contenders for becoming the sort of pillar companies that the region needs to reach the major leagues.

Another prime example is Veracode, a cybersecurity company in Burlington that removes some of the hardest roadblocks that companies face when trying to innovate.

That’s the sort of stuff that Boston—with its DNA for business-to-business tech, as well as its willingness to tackle hard problems over the long term—is most likely to make its name on in technology.

Hyper-connected world

The explosion of new software for businesses in recent years, along with the emergence of a hyper-connected world overall, has led to previously unheard-of opportunities to innovate for companies.

But the new software has also spawned huge security risks, since many cyber attacks take place through applications. The new cyber risk “doesn’t know borders. It’s more ephemeral than risk has historically been understood in the security profession,” Veracode chief executive Bob Brennan told me recently.

Veracode’s software-as-a-service allows companies to quickly clear new applications for use, and “get innovations to market faster,” Brennan said. Specifically, Veracode does so by scanning the applications for vulnerabilities without the need for highly-sensitive source code.

With that model, Veracode has built a “highly predictable business” in serving the world’s largest companies, Brennan said (customer names aren’t disclosed). Revenue surpassed $45 million last year, and is expected to grow by 50 percent for 2014.

The company also employs more than 300, and is looking at an initial public offering of stock in the next year—a key next step to becoming a pillar company in Boston. “There’s an opportunity to create enduring value, and part of that process would be at some point going public,” Brennan said.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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