Omar Hussain is the president and CEO of Imprivata. Before joining Imprivata, Omar was the founder and CEO of Anchorsilk, an e-commerce software company spun out of Compuware, where he was GM of its Windows Tools and Testing business. Serving in senior executive leadership roles, Omar has led the marketing, product, and business development efforts for various start-ups, including NuMega, at which he facilitated the acquisition by Compuware, and Open Environment Corporation, where he led the company through a successful public offering and subsequent acquisition by Borland.
Sramana: Omar, let’s start with your personal story. What is the background behind your entrepreneurial career? Where did you grow up?
Omar Hussain: I am originally from Karachi, Pakistan. I went to college here in the United States. I graduated from small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania called Allegheny [College]. It seems that all parents on the subcontinent want their kids to be bankers, lawyers or doctors. I, however, had other plans. In the late 1980s I became enthralled with technology, so after I graduated I decided to move to Boston to work for a small startup. The company was Access International, and they developed enterprise software for nonprofits.
Our software managed accounting and fundraising. I started as the gopher and seven years later I was the VP of sales. The company was doing a million dollars a year when I joined, and we reached around $7 million in sales. That was the beginning of my journey. I was there from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. I think I left there in early 1992.
Sramana: Let’s do a quick run-through on your various career stops before we jump into the Imprivata story. What came after Access International?
Omar Hussain: After I left Access I took a brief detour because I was not sure I wanted to stay in technology. I teamed up with some friends, and we bought a small cosmetics company in Hawaii. In the next 18 months we proceeded to lose all of our money trying to sell sun-tanning products over direct mail. It was quite a good experience.
I then ended up at a hot startup in the pre-Internet environment space called Open Environment Corporation. I started there in 1993, and the company was still pre-revenue. I was the VP of marketing and business development. The company was in the middleware space. We pioneered the notion of three-tiered computing. There was no Internet at the time. We had a phenomenal run all the way to $30 million before they went public. In those days companies with that kind of growth could go public. We went public in 1995 selling distributed computing, only to watch the Internet, which is the ultimate in distributed computing, come into the marketplace.
Overnight, we hit a wall. Just nine months after we went public, we ran face to face with the Internet. We sold equipment that could have been the backbone of a private Internet. We had to figure out how to reinvent ourselves. We tried to purchase some companies that would allow us to expand our product set. When that did not work out, we were purchased by Borland.