Gary Hendix founded Symantec in 1982. With the aid of a National Science Foundation grant, Hendix hired natural language processing researchers from Stanford University and focused on artificial intelligence related projects. When the original grant ran out, Hendrix solicited funding from venture capital firms. In 1984, Symantec was purchased by C&E Software, which was founded by Dennis Coleman and Gordon Eubanks. The company retained the Symantec name.
Now CEO of Symantec, Eubanks a former commander of a nuclear submarine, had also studied computer engineering at the Navel Post Graduate School located in Monterey, California. Eubanks had developed an innovative microcomputer tool for a CPM system called EBASIC and at the time of the merger, was working on a database program. By merging Symantec’s high technology innovation and C&E’s experience writing computer code and solving program problems, the newly formed Symantec had great potential. The first to recognize how lucrative the potential could be was venture capitalist John Doerr, who provided financial support and later became a member of the board of directors.
And in 1985, Symantec made a winning mark with the release of its first major product Q&A. Designed for the IBM compatible PC, Q&A was one of the first database management software packages to use natural language query instead of arcane commands. Based on an internal vocabulary of nearly 600 words, the user was able to access lists or statistics based on a data file simply by typing in a query in the form of an ordinary English sentence. The user asked a question and the computer system provided an answer, hence the name Q&A. The new product was touted as a significant step in making computers user friendly. The product not only cemented Symantec’s place in the software market, sales for that year totaled $1.4 million dollars.
In 1987 Symantec switched focus from product development to acquisition of other companies. By acquiring other smaller companies Symantec was able to double not only their sales, but also their employees. Product management of each acquisition was kept separate, but the finance, administration, personnel and public relation portions of each new company had to be merged. Eubanks reorganized the company and reduced the number of top executives and assigned more authority to middle management. After several years of significant loss, Symantec became profitable in 1988 and the company became public. In 1990, Symantec made its largest acquisition when it purchased Norton Computing.
Norton Computing was a pioneer in DOS based utility software, having introduced Norton Utilities in 1982. The software package performs such functions as backing up and compressing files, restoring lost data and locating and isolating viruses. The merger has been cited as one of the most successful in the software industry. Symantec continued to grow and made three more acquisitions in 1991. Even though the economy was going through a recession, the company continued to do well, the stock was five times higher that when it went public, easily supporting acquisitions bought in exchange for Symantec stock.
Symantec, which has headquarters in Cupertino, California, has continued their policy of acquisition and now has branches in more than forty countries. It is part of the Fortune 500 and the NASDAQ 100. And the company considered to be one of the best in the realms of security and information management, is one of the ten largest software companies in the world.