California-based technology firm VMWare plans to buy fast-growing Sandy Springs-based mobile technology and security company AirWatch in a deal valued at more than $1.5 billion, the companies announced Wednesday.
AirWatch has become a rockstar in the world of securing mobile devices with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. AirWatch has announced aggressive expansions that have added hundreds of jobs in Georgia and across the globe in the past year.
“When we started AirWatch, we set out to help businesses succeed in the mobile explosion that was set to come. Now there are more than 2 billion smart phones and tablets in the world and more than half of those devices touch an enterprise,” Alan Dabbiere, co-founder and chairman of AirWatch said in a news release. “By joining a proven innovator like VMware, we now have an opportunity to bring our leading-edge solutions to an even broader set of customers and partners to help them optimize for the mobile-cloud world.”
The companies stated the Atlanta-area site is expected to expand, with the acquiring company’s mobile operations to be based here.
AirWatch, launched in 2003, specializes in helping companies manage and secure mobile devices. It’s a booming segment in digital security as more businesses adopt mobile products and as more companies allow their workers to use their personal smartphones, tablets and computers for work. In October, the company said it had about 9,000 clients.
Given metro Atlanta’s low cost of living, its bustling airport and the region’s concentration of technology security and mobility companies and workforce talent, it’s not a surprise that VMWare would keep the core of AirWatch’s operations here and expand on them.
AirWatch made waves in early 2013 when it said it would create 800 new jobs at its Sandy Springs headquarters. But the company hit major headlines again at the end of last year when it announced plans to hire 350 more over the next two years.
State and metro economic development officials have pivoted some of their recruitment efforts to cultivating startup companies and jobs that lead to new technologies. Though corporate relocation recruitment is still very much in the playbook, recruiters say cultivating locally grown companies and innovation will be a key growth source for the state’s economy.
The VMWare transaction follows a $200 million investment last year in AirWatch from a group led by Insight Venture Partners. That investment was seen as a major jolt for venture investing in Georgia, a state long-starved for capital to help upstart companies.
AirWatch also is not Dabbiere’s first fast-growing tech company. He founded Manhattan Associates in California in 1990. He moved the logistics software firm to metro Atlanta and later took the company public.