Sourcefire’s risky bet to re-spark its M&A program

Contact: Brenon Daly

As deals go, Sourcefire’s first acquisition hardly set the world on fire (if you will). Back in August 2007, the open source security vendor picked up the open source ClamAV project. The deal only set Sourcefire back $3.5m, but not much has been heard from the project since the acquisition. Undeterred, Sourcefire stepped back into the M&A market on Wednesday with an even larger – and (potentially) much more significant – transaction.

Sourcefire is paying $17m in cash for Immunet, a cloud-based anti-malware provider. (Immunet could also pocket a $4m earnout, which depends on the company hitting some product milestones, as well as a smidge of Sourcefire equity.) It’s still early days for Immunet, which raised just one round of funding and only started generating revenue last year. (The company claims some 750,000 users, but we suspect that the vast majority of those would be using Immunet Protect, which is available for free.)

There’s always a risk when a company reaches for an early-stage startup like Immunet, which has yet to really prove itself commercially. That risk is somewhat mitigated, however, by the fact that the two companies had worked together for almost a year, and all of the Immunet employees, including the founders, will be joining Sourcefire.

But, as my colleague Andrew Hay notes in his report, the deal brings a much bigger risk: Can Sourcefire, which is primarily focused on network security with its well-known Snort product, step into the endpoint security market without a stumble? How will it fare in selling antivirus against giant rivals that generate more revenue each quarter than Sourcefire has in its entire history? Sourcefire has fought through some tough setbacks in its history, including a broken sale to Check Point Software and breaking issue in its IPO. Now, with Immunet, it needs to show that it can actually pull off an acquisition.