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Tampa cybersecurity company ReliaQuest hits $1 billion ‘unicorn’ status

It’s a milestone not only for the company, but for Tampa Bay’s tech industry.
Tampa's ReliaQuest will relocate its headquarters to the new Thousand and One office building in Tampa in 2022.
Tampa's ReliaQuest will relocate its headquarters to the new Thousand and One office building in Tampa in 2022. [ Seamus Payne, Courtesy of Strategic Property Partners ]
Published Dec. 3, 2021|Updated Dec. 3, 2021

On the day his company announced it had officially reached a $1 billion valuation, Brian Murphy walked through the office tossing out stuffed unicorns. Each wore a T-shirt bearing the ReliaQuest logo.

“It was like a sporting event, throwing them out to the crowd,” said Murphy, ReliaQuest’s founder and CEO.

Hitting that $1 billion benchmark — making ReliaQuest what’s known in startup fundraising circles as a unicorn — was never the end goal for the Tampa cybersecurity company. But Murphy still didn’t want the moment to pass unacknowledged.

“It’s something I’m learning to do over time, is to celebrate more,” he said. “You realize how much something like this means not only to our people, but their families and the community.”

Few Tampa Bay startups have hit unicorn status; the last to do so was Clearwater’s KnowBe4 in 2019. But a recent round of fundraising led by investment firms KKR, Ten Eleven Ventures, FTV Capital and Murphy himself pushed ReliaQuest — and Tampa Bay’s emerging tech scene — into a new echelon.

Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest.
Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest.
Related: Newly public Clearwater company KnowBe4's IPO pulls in $175 million

“It is one of the few measures of a privately held company where you can show scale,” Murphy said. “It is a chance to show our scale, show that we’re a well-run business, that we’re on an extreme growth trajectory. Public companies, you can look at every day. Private companies, the only thing you can do is look on LinkedIn at how many employees somebody has.”

That number, too, is growing. Founded in 2007, ReliaQuest has about 700 employees worldwide, including more than 300 locally, with plans to reach 1,500 in 12 to 15 months. In August, the company announced plans to lease more than 120,000 square feet across six floors at Thousand and One, a new office tower in the $3.5 billion Water Street Tampa development. Last week, the company announced it was opening its eighth global office in Salt Lake City.

Related: Cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest moving HQ to Water Street Tampa

The latest fundraising followed a $300 million round in 2020 that was also led by KKR, Ten Eleven and Murphy. Hitting unicorn status wasn’t the goal of this new round, Murphy said, but more of a “byproduct” of the need to scale up in Tampa and around the world.

The company has explored going public and will continue to do so, but Murphy said he doesn’t see the billion-dollar valuation as a prerequisite to launch an initial public offering. That’ll depend on timing and the strength of the market, he said.

“To me, it’s about, we’re here to make security possible for the consumer,” he said. “That’s what I’m laser-focused on. That other stuff is nice, but it’s the problems we solve that matter.”

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