Leaving Carbonite, Mohamad Ali Joins IDG to Make It a Tech Company
Mohamad Ali’s departure from Carbonite’s corner office didn’t follow the usual tech executive roadmap to which even his earlier career had hewn. Ali’s career ran through posts building technology tools at IBM and Hewlett-Packard prior to joining Carbonite in 2014, so the move to head up International Data Group, a technology media, events, and research company, left many with questions.
In an interview, Ali says the career move isn’t as clear a jump from tech to media as some people see it. In fact, he says one of the main reason’s he’s joining IDG is to complete its transition already underway into a technology company.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to take a great company and turn it into a great tech company,” he tells Xconomy. “There’s this tremendous business to be built on these assets.”
His plan is to boost the targeted marketing and demand generation side of the business that serves tech buyers and vendors with software that can turn the business into a marketing automation company.
“It is a media company, but it has transformed major elements into a tech company, providing many of these assets through technology,” Ali says. “I don’t think the world thinks of it as a tech company, and I think they’ve already started and proven certain elements of it. I think I can come in and build on the good work they’ve started.”
He adds: “The lines are blurring these days” between tech and media companies. “Is Facebook a media company or a tech company? I think we have the opportunity at that transition.”
In addition to targeted marketing, IDG is an event company, a market research and intelligence business, a venture investor, and the publisher of titles such as Macworld, CIO, CSO, Computerworld, and PCWorld. The company was founded in 1964 by MIT grad Patrick McGovern, himself a technologist who chose to write about tech rather than build it. After his death in 2014, IDG was sold to China Oceanwide Holdings Group in a deal that closed in 2017.
Ali says the first order of business when he starts at IDG Aug. 1 is to get his bearings. “I have a bunch of learning to do,” he says. But he knows—and has orders from the board—to wield a tool he’s been using his whole career to accelerate the company’s transition to a technology company: M&A.
“We are going to be looking for assets and we are going to be acquiring things,” Ali says. “One of the nice things about the company is it has no debt and it has a fair amount of cash. … We will be earnestly starting the search. If people want to be selling their companies, they should be calling us.”
Looking back on his time at Carbonite (NASDAQ: CARB), Ali says the company has come through to the other side of its share of challenges and it’s now in good hands with interim CEO Steve Munford, who joined the company’s board not long before Ali was hired.
Ali, who was brought aboard to replace Carbonite co-founder David Friend, recalls the days surrounding his start as chief executive in 2014 were consumed by an attempted hostile takeover of the company by J2 Global. Ali oversaw Carbonite’s transition from a consumer-oriented storage and backup company to an enterprise-focused business with data security services.
Following yesterday’s news of Ali’s departure and the company’s lowering of its financial performance estimates for 2019, Carbonite’s stock dipped to $18 a share from the $23 to $24 a share it was trading at prior to the announcements. Ali expects the company will again find its footing.
“There will be bumps in the business, but I’m confident the company will get to a good spot,” Ali says.
In a conference call yesterday, Munford said Ali’s decision to leave was his own, and outlined what Carbonite is looking for in a new CEO, the search for whom is starting in earnest.
“We will be looking for someone who has led at scale and has experience in security or infrastructure software,” Munford said. “It may be a public company person or someone who has done it at scale for a private company.”