Hotmail co-founder to lead Proximex

Jack Smith: The security industry is ‘similar to what IT was like 10-to-15 years ago’
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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Jack Smith has a pretty good resume. He and his partner sold Hotmail to Microsoft for $400 million, sure. But he’s also worked with Apple, designed integrated circuits, and invented the first Web server accelerator card.
Now he’s set his sights on the physical security industry as chief executive officer of Proximex, a relatively recent entrant in the PSIM (search “PSIM” at www.securitysystemsnews.com) category, having first released its software offering, Surveillint, in 2006.
“If you’d asked me three or four years ago what I’d be doing now, I don’t think I would have guessed this, to be honest,” Smith said. “The physical security industry wasn’t something I’d paid a lot of attention to. But what’s characterized my career up to this point is that everything I’ve done so far has been something I’ve never done before. So now I’m on to physical security, particularly the convergence of physical security and IT ... I’m excited. It’s similar to what IT was like 10-to-15 years ago.”
In those days, Smith was busy inventing and commercializing the concept of Web-based email, and who now doesn’t have some form of Web-based email address? Do you think Hotmail didn’t have security problems? “Every single day at Hotmail,” Smith said, “real people were trying to bring down the site.” Where IT and physical security converge, philosophically, is in the realm of exceptions. “In both situations,” Smith reasoned, “exceptions are created by humans, whether it’s a human hacking or jumping a fence. In both cases, as well, a machine should be involved in sorting out and characterizing the exception, and even correlating the exception with other exceptions to which it may be related.”
Does your spam filter ask for your assistance every time a piece of spam comes along? Of course not. It’s automated to deal with those exceptions. Proximex, said Smith, isn’t quite the same level of automation, but presents exceptions in such a way as to make decisions for end users relatively easy, incorporating information from all of the disparate pieces of their security systems. He thinks Proximex can relieve a number of “pain points” for end users.
Smith said Proximex began with the airport and transportation vertical because their pain is real—people actually are out to get them—and if Proximex can succeed in such an environment, it can likely help people in other arenas as well. While he said the security channel structure is still one he’s getting used to, “we build relationships with integrators; we train them and help them understand the product, and teach them the differentiators and encourage them to bid us in a project. And that’s been reasonably easy in many cases. A lot of integrators really like us, having worked with some of the competing players.”