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Company Goes From 1,400 Employees to Pseudo Startup

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Government contractors can't afford to lose any business with federal budgets being as shaky as they are. So when a French company wanted to buy SafeNet Assured Technologies (potentially making customers nervous about working with a contractor owned by a foreign entity) president Kirk Spring knew he had to do something.

Company Goes From 1,400 Employees to Pseudo Startup

SafeNet Inc. had been selling products to federal agencies to secure their networks and data since 1983. The Belcamp, MD-based company has built up a healthy list of customers like DOD, DHS and VA. (And many more that can’t be mentioned.) But when Gemalto, a French company specializing in banking and authentication products, started talking to execs about acquiring the firm, Kirk knew even a friendly French company could spook customers.

Company Goes From 1,400 Employees to Pseudo Startup

Kirk, who’s worked for SafeNet the last 14 years, knew it would have to get the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investments to approve the acquisition. It was risky given SafeNet’s work on classified contracts. So Kirk and senior colleagues started a strategy for spinning out SafeNet Assured Technologies as a subsidiary of Gemalto, while operating on its own and still selling to federal agencies. A core group of 60 federal sales and operations people were asked to join the new company, while the rest of SafeNet’s 1,400 employees, who work on the commercial side of the business, joined Gemalto. 

Company Goes From 1,400 Employees to Pseudo Startup

The acquisition closed a few weeks ago and SafeNet AT, established last October, is operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gemalto. Kirk says it feels a bit like a pseudo startup. Aside from going from 1,400 employees and 15% federal work to 60 employees focused 100% on federal work, one big change is that the company can now bid on small business set-aside contracts, depending on the agency definition of a small business. He plans to add several more employees this year and expand its reach in a market in hot demand by agencies.