Today we announced that Chris Manton-Jones has joined Cobalt as Chief Executive Officer. As Cobalt founder, board member, and former CEO Jacob Hansen said when he shared this news with the internal team, “Chris will add a new dimension of leadership that will help us accelerate into the next phase of growth.”
In this Q&A, we talk to Chris about his professional experience, vision for the future, and what made him pick Cobalt.
Chris, welcome aboard! So what made you choose us?
First, let me say that I am thrilled to be here and very excited about forging a path forward as part of the Cobalt team.
There are many reasons why I chose Cobalt. On a macro level, I’ll say that I’m excited to continue working in cybersecurity – not only is this a red-hot market that tackles a major business pain point, but it also has real purpose and relevance in society. We regularly read headlines about large-scale breaches, and malicious attacks are on the rise to the point where it’s become a global conversation, and an important one.
Playing in such a pivotal space presents Cobalt with an opportunity to make our mark in a very visible way. This company is truly disruptive. We have nurtured a best-in-class community of highly skilled, vetted pentesters. We coupled that top-tier talent marketplace with a technology platform that unlocks the speed and agility which traditional pentesting lacks. I love the simplicity of that model and the clear value it delivers, and so this was another big factor in my decision.
Lastly, it’s about fit: there’s a shared DNA between myself and Cobalt. It gripped me from the start. The team here has worked incredibly hard and that effort has paid off when you look at what has been achieved in the last year alone. Throughout all the conversations I’ve had there’s been a palpable sense of authenticity, drive, and teamwork. I feel a great affinity towards those values, and have personally worked to embody them in my own career.
That’s a great segue into the next question: at Cobalt, we believe that Pentest as a Service has the power to revolutionize cybersecurity. You of course are no stranger to this industry, having worked at LogMeIn and scaling LastPass. Can you tell us a bit about your past career experience, and how it has led to this moment?
When I consider my career up to this point, 3 primary themes surface.
First, I thrive amidst high growth businesses. Whether it’s launching products, new segments, geographic expansion, or shifting the business model to improve reach or efficiency. At LogMeIn, I focused on international expansion and we grew the business from $60M to over $300M. A pivotal growth driver in that was the LastPass business which grew from $10 million to $150 million ARR globally.
That brings me to the second theme: great teams and great people. I am constantly asking, “What will it take to win?” and the answer boils down to the people. To succeed, you need a great team, particularly in tech because the landscape is constantly evolving and you must be fast-moving to be ahead.
I mentioned earlier that I saw significant growth within LastPass during my time at LogMeIn. It was a great team effort across all functions. Product and engineering were constantly evolving our offering, go-to-market teams led the charge externally, and the individuals in finance, operations, and HR were enabling growth. That’s something I want to underscore: the entire company plays a role in achieving success.
There are many other examples in my career of ambitious teams driving growth — be it with a change in go-to-market strategy at Witness Systems, a repositioning of a suite proposition at Unica, or the cross functional focus on Enterprise accounts at Peregrine. It is incredible to see what a unified team can achieve when aligned behind a mission.
What each of these examples have in common is my third theme: that agility must go hand in hand with change.
“The only constant is change” is a cliche, but it rings true. Things never stand still. My philosophy is to have a plan, but be prepared to react to different situations and remain agile. Having an agile mindset is critical; it’s about seeing change as an opportunity.
These 3 themes – growth, people/teamwork, and agility – have coalesced in this current moment, at Cobalt.
Our culture, in addition to being highly values-based, is one that pushes customer centricity into everything we do. What changes can customers expect now with a new CEO at the helm? What about our other key constituents, like the pentesters in the Core, who are so pivotal in fueling Cobalt’s success – what message do you have for these audiences, when they hear this news?
I see so much opportunity ahead of us. It’s really about seizing that opportunity and accelerating our growth.
Many tech companies at this stage of their maturity undergo a similar transition. At a certain point, the leadership composition changes to reflect the future needs of the business. [Former CEO] Jacob Hansen has been a wonderful leader, and 2021 was a banner year for Cobalt. We are thriving and growing. Now it is a question of: how do we continue that momentum, and build on the foundation?
One thing I’ve learned over the years has to do with what I call “premature pattern matching.” I use that term when new leaders think they recognize a problem based on what they’ve seen in the past, and jump to change it before they truly grasp the full picture. My goal is to avoid this pitfall and instead focus on understanding what’s made us successful. We’re in a highly competitive market, and I believe that Cobalt has the power to alter the face of cybersecurity as we know it.
Will there be change? Of course. If we are going to be known as an innovator, as a company that puts customers, pentesters, and people at the heart of everything we do, then we have to find ways to push the boundaries and think differently. But we will also preserve the elements that have propelled us to 1,000+ customers in the spirit of building a platform for future growth.
So that’s my commitment to Cobalt, and to everyone else that is vital to our success – customers, partners, pentesters, investors. Let’s commit to being a winning team. A market leader, an innovator, and a disruptor. Cobalt pioneered Pentest as a Service, and we want to always be the category leader in this space.
So far, we’ve talked about your career trajectory, your leadership philosophy, and your vision for Cobalt. Putting the professional piece aside, can we end by learning about your interests outside of work?
I am about to celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary, and have three wonderful grown children – two sons and a daughter who are now in their 20s, forging their own careers. Interestingly, all three of them have ended up in tech. Perhaps I influenced that in some small way!
In addition to family, I have a lifelong passion for sport. I played hockey mainly (field hockey, for those outside of Europe), but cricket, tennis, football (what Americans call “soccer”), rugby, and basketball I also played to what I’ll call a “reasonable” level.
My background playing and coaching sports is probably not too far removed from my professional career, come to think of it. Both arenas reward team players who work hard, and teach lessons about leadership, motivation, and grit.
I spend quite a bit of time traveling. That grants me an opportunity to try to get exposure to various cultures and perspectives. I’ve always been fascinated by how people view things differently.
That diversity of thought is something that I’ve carried into my professional life. It can deepen your understanding of the world and I have seen firsthand that diverse teams are higher performing teams. It’s why I got involved in WE@LogMeIn, an employee resource group focused on gender equality by empowering women and allies. I’ll continue to seek out those opportunities in the spirit of challenging us all to build the best teams that we possibly can.