Barney's Rubble

GFI Puts on Sunbelt

I like most Windows third-party companies. These are the folks that take the risks and come up with the ideas, both of which add value to Microsoft products and -- in many cases -- make sure those products work properly.

Two of my favorite third-party vendors are GFI and Sunbelt Software. Both have guts and personality, and now they have double of both as GFI is buying Sunbelt.

There are two major personalities involved here. The CEO of Sunbelt is an old pal of mine, Alex Eckelberry, whom I first met when he ran a !2@%6!! hot graphics company in the old Amiga market. Eckelberry doesn't just have huge technical and business chops, he's also about the nicest person you'll ever meet. Under his leadership, Sunbelt has made a huge name in security software, nabbing loads of Symantec and McAfee customers with Vipre, a lean, high-performance security tool.

Eckelberry's counterpart at GFI is Walter Scott. I only met Scott once when he treated me to lunch. Scott's an entrepreneur through and through, and unlike some, he enjoys the fruits of his labors. Over salmon rolls and miso soup he explained that he spends about 10 percent of his earnings on toys, such as his Bourget's chopper. As someone with 15 motorcycles, six cars, three snowmobiles, two boats and nearly 50 bicycles, he's my kind of guy.

Walking out, I spotted a monster truck. Most monster trucks take a basic pickup and add about 3 feet of suspension and gargantuan tractor tires. This one was different. The truck itself was huge, more like a tractor-trailer turned into a pickup. "Look at that beauty," I said to Scott. "You like it? Want to go for a ride?"

It, of course, was Scott's. Ford has the F-150, F-250 and F-350. This was an F-650 -- a diesel with two massive fuel tanks and a huge built-in cooler between the driver and passenger seat.

At the time, Scott ran Acronis (another cool third party that's growing fast), but now he's driving GFI, which he runs from Malta.

I usually don't like it when independent third parties get swallowed, but in this case, GFI is an excellent buyer.

The only real downside is that it appears that the Sunbelt name will be going away. One the plus side, Eckelberry tells me that GFI is "going out of their way to respect the Sunbelt culture, and to keep all the key people here. I am here, as is my entire team."

GFI is also investing in Sunbelt with a hiring spree and new phone system. According to Eckelberry, "It's not the 'end of Sunbelt.' It's the next chapter of the company that really needed to occur in order for us to get to scale."

Are you going to miss the Sunbelt brand or will it be better off under GFI's leadership? You tell me -- I'm at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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