Stanford B-School’s Grittiest Winner: An Update

A few years ago, Rob Cherun walked away from the safety and comfort of a career as a McKinsey consultant, explaining that he wanted “more volatility in my life.” FORBES profiled him in this 2013 magazine feature. Now it’s time for an update.

Cherun’s adventures began with a life-changing course at Stanford Business School: Strategy 543: Entrepreneurial Acquisition. That’s the class that teaches you how to carry out your own corporate acquisition — and install yourself as chief executive. Think of it as Teach for America, retooled for budding capitalists.

Shortly after completing that class, Cherun and a long-time friend, Erik Mikkelsen, bought UCIT Online, a video-security company in Mississauga, Ontario. They moved north. They jettisoned suits and penny loafers for jeans and work boots. When lightbulbs burnt out onsite, they drove to Home Depot and bought replacements themselves. Their consolation: a belief that a few years of the rugged life would put them on track to make far more from their equity investment in UCIT than their peers could earn from safe corporate jobs.

Rob Cherun (l) and Erik Mikkelsen (Photo credit: George Simhoni for Forbes.)

Rob Cherun (l) and Erik Mikkelsen (Photo credit: George Simhoni for Forbes.)

It looks as if Cherun and Mikkelsen guessed right. Their company’s security-monitoring business has been averaging 26% annual revenue growth since 2011, Cherun said in an email. Revenue this year is running 80% above the pace at the time of the original magazine profile in 2013. In addition to its North American operations, UCIT now runs a 60-person monitoring center in the Philippines.

More growth lies ahead. Cherun and Mikkelsen this week announced that their investment company, Auxo Management LP, has wrapped up a U.S. investment that will expand their video-security business to nearly six times the headcount of what they started with in 2011.

Coming into the Auxo fold is Stealth Monitoring Inc., a Dallas company that focuses on apartment buildings as well as commercial and industrial businesses. That represents a slight market broadening from UCIT, which concentrates on the construction and industrial markets. Together, the two companies will have more than 300 employees, Mikkelsen said, up from 55 at UCIT alone when he and Cherun made their initial investment in 2011.

In a news release, Cherun and Mikkelsen said that Stealth’s existing management, led by founder Norm Charney and his sons David and Rick, will continue to run Stealth. That’s similar to the way Auxo structured its first investment, taking a majority stake in UCIT while founder Sidney Sommer remained an investor and stayed on as head of sales.

Auxo’s ambitions now stretch across North America and include lots of ideas for ways that machine learning and other advanced technologies can deliver better security at lower cost. Stealth’s David Charney said “UCIT has been investing heavily into people, technology and growth for years; they see the big picture – that video surveillance is still in its infancy and that it’s an increasingly important element in the safety of our country’s businesses and people.”