Former L-3 leader turns to biometrics

Robert LaPenta, who helped build L-3 Communications into an $8 billion defense, homeland security and communications powerhouse, has set his sights on doing the same thing in the biometrics industry.

After stepping down as L-3's president and chief financial officer in April, he formed L-1 Investment Partners, a Stamford, Conn.-based private investment management firm, which he characterized as somewhere between a fund and a leveraged buyout business.

He's looking to build a top-tier biometrics and security company.

LaPenta said he realized there was a tremendous opportunity in biometrics when L-3 was building its homeland security business. He said small, good technology companies with special applications don't always have the financing, management depth, synergies and marketing presence they need.

"And it seemed to me that the technology was coming of age just at the exact time when the market was beginning to develop," he said. "With all of those things pointing in the right direction, I thought this would be a great opportunity and that's why I decided to pursue it."

LaPenta's firm is waiting for the right opportunity to acquire a platform company to build the business on, LaPenta said.

There is no pressure to buy a company immediately, he said, but he is interested in several. LaPenta said that companies such as Cogent Systems and Identix are good examples of platform companies.

He said L-3 leaders realized the importance of secure broadband communication technology for the military, and he has a similar intuition now.

"I think in security — homeland security, travel, transportation, network security, e-commerce, access security, you name it — it's going to be biometrics," he said.

Joel Fishbein Jr., a senior technology analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, a large Philadelphia-based investment firm, said LaPenta's entrance adds excitement to a fragmented industry.

"What I think is when you get guys like LaPenta coming in to the market saying, 'I think this market's real, I think it's going to grow,' I think that's going to add a level of confidence from an investment perspective," Fishbein said.

The biometrics industry, which has the potential to reach $4.5 billion by 2009, is an infant market. There are successful companies, but not mature ones, LaPenta said. And there are small companies with $8 million to $10 million in sales and valuable market capitalization, he added.

"What I hope to do is put together a company that has a tremendous amount of capability that could take advantage of what I think is going to be a rapidly growing, enormous domestic and international capability," he said.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group