Cleve Adams wanted to be a professional baseball player. Instead his professional hits have all come with technology companies.
Adams, 56, is the new CEO of AirPatrol, a Columbia company that makes security protection for mobile devices for the federal government and private sector.
Adams was playing baseball for a small college in California, the University of La Verne in Pomona, when he received notice that he was a late-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres. But when a team official called him, he encouraged Adams to stay in college. Adams did and graduated with a bachelor’s in education and then went on to get his master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University, where he still serves on the university’s Board of Advisors.
At Pepperdine, Adams, who grew up pumping gas at his father’s service station outside of Los Angeles, said he was encouraged by one business recruiter to consider a career in computers. So he joined a computer technology company and as the Internet began to grow in the early 1990s he thought his professional future would lie there.
In 1996, the owner of a startup called Websense, which allows employers and parents to block websites from being viewed, offered him a job four times before Adams finally said yes and became vice president of sales and marketing.
“The fifth time was the charm,” Adams said.
Websense was a success story of the tech boom.
“We were 14 guys and a dog,” Adams said.
Four years later, the company raised more than $1 billion when it went public.
Adams used his share of the proceeds to launch his own consulting company and has since worked as a startup and turnaround specialist with other companies.
Adams joined AirPatrol with orders to grow the company, which has 30 full-time employees and 20 contractors, to $30 million in revenues in the next few years. He declined to disclose current revenues at the privately held company.
There are four or five ways to grow a company such as AirPatrol and he will have to hit them all to succeed — from growing its sales and marketing expertise, through bringing in additional people with experience and training current employees, to having the right marketing materials and distribution partners, Adams said.
As a consultant, Adams has helped turn around technology companies, to either market them to other companies in the short term or to grow their operations for the long term.
AirPatrol, founded in 2006, develops location-based security systems for smartphones and laptops that are used by the military, plus “three-digit and four-digit federal agencies,” Adams said, referring to the federal coding system for agencies.
Company officials believe there is the potential for huge growth in the private sector because many workers use their smartphones as they would their company laptops and the information stored on them and being transmitted to the company needs to be secure, Adams said.
"AirPatrol is thrilled to have Cleve join the team and lead the company," said AirPatrol Chairman Bradley Rotter. "Cleve has extensive experience as a security CEO and an impressive scorecard of past leadership roles. Having served as interim CEO, I am proud to give Cleve the driver's seat."
Adams said his work with AirPatrol will keep him too busy to operate his consulting business. But one thing he is not giving up is his beachfront home in San Clemente, Calif. Adams is staying at a residential motel in Columbia during the week, then commuting home across the continent on weekends to his wife of 31 years, Shelli Adams.
“Having a marriage that has lasted is my real success,” Adams said.