Ondrej Vlcek, the cyber security tycoon who led Avast into the major leagues


In the early 1990s, as a teenager, Ondrej Vlcek broke into owning his first computer.

This young programming enthusiast grew up in the Czech Republic. He found a game in the window of a shop in Prague. Anyone tried to challenge through the powerful security system of one of the PCs.

The equipment itself is the reward. “A few weeks later, I brought that computer to my home,” Vlcek recalled. An interview last year.

Since then, the 44-year-old has firmly established his career on the other side of cyber warfare. As the CEO of Avast, a network security and antivirus software group, his mission is to help consumers protect their increasingly digital lives from shameless intruders and the growing number of hacker tools.

As the pandemic has increased demand for Avast’s cybercrime combat services, NortonLifeLock, a larger US competitor, announced this week that it has agreed to acquire the London-listed group in a consumer security transaction of more than $8 billion.

For Vlcek, this acquisition marks the culmination of the company’s internship from Avast’s early startup 25 years ago to the helm of one of Europe’s largest blue-chip technology stocks. According to the terms of the transaction, he will join Norton, a company with a market value of more than $15 billion, and become the president and board member of the global Internet giant.

“He spends time working on his own ladder,” said Kelby Barton, who served as general counsel at Avast’s Prague headquarters until last month when he moved to work for the American technology group Quiq.

Button described Vlcek as an “entrepreneur” leader with tenacious determination. “He is very committed to this cause… and he won’t tolerate fools who don’t.”

An actor and TV news anchor born in communist Czechoslovakia in 1977, as the Velvet Revolution brought democracy and capitalism to Prague, and the Internet era began to dominate, the young Vlcek mastered the art of computing.

At the age of 18, he joined Avast-known as Alwil at the time-along with six other employees. Since then, he has been loyal to the company and accumulated a deep technical understanding of its anti-virus software sold through the “freemium” business model, and later served as chief technology officer and chief operating officer.

“Avast has always been a product and customer-led company – and Ondrej is the core of the product,” said Siddharth Patel, a partner at CVC Capital, who was the main investor in Avast’s last round of private equity financing in 2014. Served as a member of Avast’s board of directors from 2014 to 2018, describing his work style as a “calm ability.”

However, Avast’s former chief of staff Alan Rassaby (Alan Rassaby) stated that it was the guidance of Vlcek’s late mentor and boss Vince Steckler, who served as chief from 2009 to 2019. Executive officer, increased Avast’s revenue from about 20 million U.S. dollars to about 800 million U.S. dollars-helping him prepare for leadership.

“Ondrej found Vince, and Vince found Ondrej,” Rassaby said. “Ondrej brings great strategic skills. He is a great thinker and has won the respect of the Czech staff. Vince really immediately recognized this candidate as Ondrej.”

Vlcek was appointed as the CEO in mid-2019, when the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange, making it one of the largest technology-listed companies in London’s history.

As a leader, employees portray Ondrej as a person who listens—whether to his employees or his customers—with a welcome open policy in the office. An employee said that in his new position, he quickly found time to go to Avast’s global offices to meet his employees in person.

His other statement was to give up his £1 a year salary and donate his $100,000 director’s fee to charity. “I think all of us want to work for a company whose main goal is not just to generate revenue,” he said. An interview then. “If the CEO sends this very strong signal, it shows that I do this job not just for salary, but for a variety of reasons-I think it’s very powerful.”

But his tenure has not been smooth sailing.While advocating consumer privacy, Vlcek was forced to block Avast’s own privacy issues. Investigative news report It was discovered that the company was collecting Internet browsing data of users who downloaded its antivirus program, and then sold it to advertisers through a subsidiary called Jumpshot.

Wilcek release Apologies, saying that he felt “personally responsible” for this episode and immediately closed the Jumpshot business because it did not meet the company’s “Polaris”. At that time, the stock fell by more than 20%.

Behind the “spyware” scandal, Vlcek sought to expand as a buyer. According to Norton CEO Vincent Pilette, Ondrej proposed that they have breakfast when they travel to the Bay Area at the end of 2019, and the two talked about the evolution of the online consumer market.

Both companies are developing from antivirus software to identity theft protection and online privacy services, and expanding from computers to mobile and smart home devices.

“At some point, it was obvious that although we were in the same field, the strengths of the two companies were different,” Pilette said, citing the “technology and IP related” advantages of well-known brands from Avast and Norton.

“None of us are about’our work’, we are more about mission… So we said,’Hey, why don’t we try to unite our forces?'” he added.

Although cooperation may be painful in the short term-Pillette has Indicated He plans to lay off 1,000 employees from the combined group-this will allow the company to gain greater influence in an increasingly crowded space, as large technology groups such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple are increasingly directly in their operating systems. Establish more safety protection measures.

Experts say that the fate of consumer cybersecurity depends largely on marketing and persuading unsuspecting citizens to pay for services traditionally only sought by companies. However, for his advocates, Vlcek’s success may not end in cybersecurity.

“He will reinvent himself again. When talking to him before, he had been hesitating’What will Ondrej Vlcek 2nd edition be?'” Rassaby said. “He has a great career in front of him, and he has another 20 years to leave his mark.”


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