Norwalk ‘unicorn’ hires dot-com IPO guru

Norwalk ‘unicorn’ hires dot-com IPO guru
Norwalk ‘unicorn’ hires dot-com IPO guru

Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

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Datto CEO Austin McChord in January 2016 at his company’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.

Datto CEO Austin McChord in January 2016 at his company’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.

Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

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Datto headquarters at 101 Merritt 7 in Norwalk, Conn.

Datto headquarters at 101 Merritt 7 in Norwalk, Conn.

Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

NORWALK — Datto installed a new chief financial officer who led one of the most successful initial public offerings of stock during the dot-com boom two decades back, raising the question of whether it is readying its own IPO.

Under founder and CEO Austin McChord, Datto provides data backup and security services sold through other companies that install and manage commercial networks. The company is among the fastest-growing in Connecticut, with its headquarters located at 101 Merritt 7 in Norwalk.

Timothy Weller joins Datto as chief financial officer, following the April departure of former CFO Michelle McCombs to join New York City-based VTS, with McCombs having helped Datto raise funding of $75 million in November 2015 from Technology Crossover Ventures and other investors. At the time, the deal valued Datto in excess of $1 billion, the “unicorn” threshold in investment banking parlance for companies that are candidates to go public.

It has been a leap that McChord himself has said he is still coming to grips with as a first-time CEO right out of college — at RIT’s commencement ceremonies in May, McChord joked when he told an acquaintance of his selection as keynote speaker the response was, “I wonder who canceled?”

Is Datto on the cusp of its own big payday on Wall Street? The company did not make Weller or McChord available immediately in response to a Hearst Connecticut Media query on whether it is planning an IPO. request for an interview with McChord and Weller on the topic. At RIT this past spring, McChord described his experiences starting up Datto and a seminal moment he has told other audiences, in turning down a $100 million offer in 2013 from a would-be acquirer.

“If I had taken the offer, I would have walked away with an enormous check for myself — and those that had put their blood, sweat and tears in, by my side, would have gotten nothing,” McChord said in May. “Afterwards, I made sure that everyone who works for me has shares in the company so that if the opportunity ever comes again, everyone would stand to benefit.”

McChord — a digital tinkerer who created Datto in 2007 shortly after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology — gets a CFO who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and who lists prior experiences as a software developer and video-game designer.

At age 35 in August 1999, Weller joined Akamai Technologies as CFO less than three months in advance of its IPO at the end of October. The company registered what at the time was the fourth-best, single-day gain in U.S. history, its shares gaining some 450 percent to best other Internet-era high fliers to include the 330 percent gain the previous March by Priceline, which is based in Norwalk.

Akamai was created after a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor challenged his students to create a mathematical algorithm that would keep Internet sites up and running if flooded with intense web traffic (echoed loosely in the movie “Good Will Hunting” in a scene in which Matt Damon’s character solves a mathematical conundrum issued by an MIT professor).

Weller left Akamai at the close of 2002 to become an “angel” investor taking stakes in startups, then in 1999 joining Enernoc as CFO, two years after the IPO of the Boston company whose systems help companies take advantage of incentives offered by Connecticut, Massachusetts and other states if they lower their electricity use during periods of peak demand such as heat waves.

Most recently, Weller was interim CEO and, before that, head of finance for Wonga, an online “payday loan” provider based in London.

— Kaitlyn Krasselt contributed to this report.

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