CIO 20/20 Honorees--Innovator's Profile: Gil Schwed of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

Chairman and CEO

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

You can forgive Gil Shwed for not wanting to discuss his age, which he reluctantly confirms is 34. He was just shy of 25 when he and two colleagues started Check Point Software. The company’s rise thrust Shwed into a spotlight most executives don’t see for decades. His appearance on Forbes’ 2002 list of under-35 "billionaire babies" has led some wags back home to call him the "Bill Gates of Israel."

All that attention comes thanks to Check Point FireWall-1, the first mass-market firewall that made its debut just as the Internet was taking off in 1993. That product and subsequent Check Point offerings are credited with helping define the nascent markets for network security and virtual private networks.

It was during Shwed’s four years in the Israeli Defense Forces that he first had the idea for stateful inspection?the network security standard for which he holds a patent. Despite that, he shies away from suggestions that his nationality or military background are especially significant to his business. "We look at ourselves as a technology company, not as a military company or as an Israeli company." Shwed sees Check Point, headquartered in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Redwood City, Calif., as a global company. "We have people all over the world with very different backgrounds and nationalities, but the most interesting thing to me is not how different we are from one another but how much we all have in common."

He’ll need all the teamwork he can muster in the times ahead, industry watchers say, to help Check Point fend off big competitors like Microsoft and Cisco Systems, and capture the more elusive consumer and wireless security markets. "My future, I hope, is to continue to figure out where we should be in six months and where we should be in three years. That’s the really interesting thing."

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