Ashar Aziz

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Ashar Aziz
اشعر عزیز
Ashar Aziz Butt[1]

1959 (age 64–65)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Middle East Technical University
  • Electrical engineer
  • business executive
  • philanthropist
Years active1981–present
TitleFounder and CEO of FireEye
Chairman of Sky Electric
Parent(s)Asghar Butt (father)[2]
Nisar Aziz (mother)[3]
RelativesSartaj Aziz (uncle)
Majid Nizami (uncle)
AwardsErnst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Ashar Aziz (Urdu: اشعر عزیز; born 1959) is a Pakistani–American electrical engineer, business executive, and philanthropist. He is best known as the founder of Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity company FireEye.[4] A former billionaire,[5][6][7] Aziz had an estimated net worth of over $ 233 million as of 2015.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Aziz was born in Karachi in 1959 and grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan.[5][9] He arrived in the United States as a student, having gained admission into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering (MIT).[4] Prior to entering MIT, he completed two years of foundation studies at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Turkey during the mid-1970s. He graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1981, followed by a Master of Science in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also granted a Regents' Fellowship.[4][5]


Aziz worked as an engineer at Sun Microsystems for twelve years, specialising in computer networking, network security, and system design.[4][5] He also served as chief technology officer of the N1 program at Sun.[10] In 1999, he founded his first startup company Terraspring Inc., which focused on data center automization and virtualization. The business was bought by Sun Microsystems in 2002, following the stock market crash of 2001.[4][5]

At around the same time, Aziz began studying the risks stemming from highly stealthy and self-propagating malware systems, and the threats they posed to future cybersecurity infrastructures—a problem he first discovered in the U.S. Department of Defense archives. In 2004, he founded FireEye, having become convinced that he could provide the solutions to these emerging cybersecurity challenges.[4] He initially worked out of his home for 80 to 100 hours a week, with only $4,000 in his personal savings.[5] Initially, most of his technical team comprised engineers and technology professionals he knew from his previous startup.[5] Based in Milpitas, California, the company today provides both software and cloud-based anti-malware products.[6] According to the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, "the core of the FireEye platform is a virtual execution engine, complemented by dynamic threat intelligence, to identify and block cyber attacks in real time and across the different stages of an attack life cycle."[4] Describing FireEye in 2012, Aziz stated that the company's objective was to strengthen the "security and key infrastructure that is pervasive across financial, government and credit card infrastructure to protect from three very important threats: crime, espionage, and warfare."[4] Aziz served as FireEye's chief executive officer from 2004 to 2012, as well as remaining its chief strategy officer, chief technology officer and board vice chairman.[4][6][10]

Before you even have an idea, think about how you construct it – backwards – from the problem. Once you have reverse engineered the solution, you have to validate it with a potential customer.

— Aziz addressing Start6 engineering students at MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, 2015.[4]

In December 2012, Aziz stepped down as CEO and former McAfee CEO David DeWalt was appointed to the position.[11][12][13] DeWalt was recruited in order to prepare the company for an initial public offering (IPO).[14][15] The following year, FireEye raised an additional $50 million in venture capital, bringing its total funding to $85 million.[16][17] In September 2013, FireEye went public, raising $300 million.[12] Aziz's shares in FireEye skyrocketed as the company acquired an asset valuation of over US$1 billion.[5] According to Forbes, he owned 11 million shares in the company and his personal net worth had increased to just over US$1 billion.[6] However, the Business Insider explained the appreciation in Aziz's net worth was temporary due to the high fluctations in share prices, dropping his stake worth to under $1 billion once prices dropped.[7] According to The Wall Street Journal, FireEye was the second-best performing firm in the U.S. that went public in 2013.[18] Aziz was inducted into the Forbes' list of billionaires for 2014.[19][20]

As the inventor of FireEye's malware protection system, Aziz currently holds over 80 patents relating to various cybersecurity technologies, including in the fields of network security, cryptography, and data center virtualization.[21][10] He is recognized as the technical visionary and pioneer behind FireEye's core technology.[22] In August 2016, it was announced that Aziz had tendered his resignation from FireEye in order to spend more time with his family, and focus on solar energy distribution projects in developing countries.[22] A partner of FireEye described the news as "disconcerting" for FireEye's future and its workforce, and predicted his exit would accelerate discussions on a potential sale of the company.[22] However, a FireEye source dismissed this notion, stating the company would operate under its new CEO and continue to provide solutions using its multi-vector virtual execution (MVX) technology. The source also clarified that Aziz felt he was leaving the company in "good hands", and that he was still a shareholder in FireEye.[22]


Aziz is the founding CEO of SkyElectric Inc., a company which seeks to provide affordable and sustainable solar energy solutions. In February 2017, he pitched solar energy as the solution to Pakistan's electricity crisis and launched his company's operations in the country.[19][20]

He is a member of the board of governors of Namal Institute, founded by Imran Khan. In January 2020, he inaugurated the Nisar Aziz Agri-Tech Center at Namal Institute at Namal. Named after his mother, the center would assist in the development of a "robust agricultural economy through technology" by promoting low-cost agricultural practices, and providing agricultural education to farmers in Pakistan.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Aziz's father, Asghar Butt, was a journalist, writer and playwright, who served as the deputy editor of the Pakistani broadsheet The Nation.[2][1] His father died aged 91 at his hometown Lahore, Punjab, on 13 November 2012.[1]

Aziz's mother, Nisar Aziz, was an eminent Urdu novelist and literary figure who belonged to a Pashtun family from Mardan.[3] She died aged 93 on 7 February 2020.[3] The economist and politician Sartaj Aziz is his maternal uncle.[3][1][24] The Nation's editor-in-chief, Majid Nizami, was his father's brother-in-law and thus his uncle.[1] Ashar has one brother, Ahmar Aziz Butt, who is a doctor.[1][3]

Aziz is a recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.[10] In 2018, he was presented the civil award Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan for his contributions to the IT industry.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Journalist, writer and dramatist Asghar Butt passes, aged 91". The Nation. 14 November 2012. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b "FireEye's debut signals red hot interest in cybersecurity". The Nation. 22 September 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2020. Ashar Aziz, founder, CTO and chief strategy officer of FireEye and son of late Asghar Butt, former deputy editor of Pakistan's leading national daily The Nation, was one of the big personal gainers from FireEye's IPO.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jalil, Xari (8 February 2020). "Novelist Nisar Aziz Butt passes away". Dawn. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Ashar Aziz '81". MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. 2015. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Making the Impossible Possible: Ashar Aziz". The New Spaces. 7 March 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Mac, Ryan (5 March 2014). "Rampant FireEye Shares Makes Founder Ashar Aziz A Cybersecurity Billionaire". Forbes. Retrieved 7 April 2020. Ashar Aziz, founder of cybersecurity firm FireEye, is the world's newest billionaire as shares in his company continue to skyrocket following a September initial public offering.
  7. ^ a b Bort, Julie (7 March 2014). "Shares Of Newly Public Company FireEye Have Gone Nuts, And They Have Turned This Man Into A Billionaire". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 7 April 2020. In the past few days, shares of security company FireEye have gone absolutely bonkers, turning the company's founder into an instant billionaire... He owns a 7.8% stake with 10,835,000 shares, worth just over $US1 billion when the share price reached $US93... But the high share price, and Aziz's newfound billionaire status, might not last that long... Prices have dropped to just below $US92 so far, which makes Ariz's stake worth just under $US1 billion.
  8. ^ "Ashar Aziz". Wallmine. 15 June 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  9. ^ Ahmed, Rehan (22 September 2016). "This Pakistani-American's Cybersecurity Company is Worth $2.43 Billion Today". Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Meet Ashar Aziz, a 57-year-old entrepreneur who entered Forbes' Billionaire list two years back. Born in Pakistan, Aziz is the founder of FireEye, a cyber security company that provides automated threat forensics and dynamic malware protection.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Ashar Aziz". SkyElectric. 2020. Archived from the original on 8 March 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  11. ^ Hackett, Robert (6 May 2016). "FireEye Names New CEO". Fortune. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b Owens, Jeremy C.; Delevett, Peter (20 September 2013). "FireEye's price more than doubles on Wall Street after eye-popping IPO". The Mercury News. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  13. ^ "FireEye names former McAfee exec Dave DeWalt as CEO, plans IPO". Reuters. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  14. ^ "FireEye shares double as hot security firm goes public". USA TODAY. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  15. ^ Kelly, Meghan (5 August 2013). "FireEye brings more legitimacy to new security solutions with IPO filing". VentureBeat. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  16. ^ Westervelt, Robert (10 January 2013). "FireEye Scores $50M Funding, Beefs Up Executive Team". CRN. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  17. ^ Bort, Julie (10 January 2013). "Now Worth $1.25 Billion, FireEye Is The Next Hot Enterprise Startup To Watch". Business Insider. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  18. ^ Jarzemsky, Matt (3 March 2014). "FireEye Looks to Cash In on Red-Hot Shares". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  19. ^ a b Bhutta, Zafar (28 February 2017). "With smart energy system, SkyElectric looks upwards". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  20. ^ a b Zahid, Anusha (October 2019). "Making solar possible". Dawn Aurora. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  21. ^ "Ashar Aziz" (PDF). Punjab Information Technology Board. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  22. ^ a b c d Kuranda, Sarah (7 September 2016). "Partners Concerned About Future As FireEye Founder Resigns From Board Of Directors". CERN. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  23. ^ "Nisar Aziz Agri-Tech Center; fostering rural development". Namal Knowledge City. 10 January 2020. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Rasm-e-Qul of Nisar Aziz Butt held". The Nation. 9 February 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020. He said that the deceased had played the role of a mother for her brother Senator Sartaj Aziz.