From HelpSystems to Fortra


Every company, big and small, has a unique story about how it came to be. Here at Fortra, we’re pretty proud of ours. In fact, the events from our history have built upon one another to set us up for success today and in the future. Our focus from day one has been on quality and relationships, and we remain the strong and steady company ready to support our customers in every way we can.

From our founding as Help/38 to our role as a cybersecurity ally for organizations around the world, here’s a look at the key milestones and defining values that have paved Fortra’s road to success.

Today: Leading the Industry With Innovative Solutions and Strong Customer Relationships

The story of our success goes hand in hand with that of supporting our customers, and we often hear that they love working with Fortra. This is a testament not only to our dedicated product teams and the wonderful customer support staff we have around the world, but also to every employee in the company.

2022: HelpSystems Becomes Fortra

Customers continue to share that protecting their data is increasingly difficult in light of frequent cyberattacks. With a goal of pursuing a better future for cybersecurity, HelpSystems becomes Fortra, placing a larger focus on the area where our expertise can create the most positive change for our customers. 

As Fortra, we continue to deliver the same people-first support and best-in-class security and automation solutions customers have come to expect from HelpSystems. These include data security, infrastructure protection, threat research and intelligence, and managed services that enable customers to continue on their journeys of increasing security maturity while decreasing the operational burden that comes with it.  

2020: HelpSystems Enriches the Team Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The events of 2020 highlight ongoing disparities in our communities propel HelpSystems to do more to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The company shifts its annual fundraiser to benefit organizations around the world 100% committed to these efforts, and the results are powerful. HelpSystems founds a DEI Council to effect meaningful change in the organization, change that makes us stronger and enables us to make our communities more equitable.  

2016: HelpSystems Flourishes on a Global Scale, Evolving the Company Culture

HelpSystems continues to grow internationally, establishing footholds in Barcelona, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  

The company continues its focus on fast, thorough integration with new teams, which is key to continuing strong customer support.  

Likewise, the culture evolves as the company expands. We recognize that although our roots in “Minnesota nice” make for a great culture for many of our employees, our offices around the world have their own personalities that make a great addition to the global HelpSystems family. We constantly learn from one another, and our different backgrounds inform our interactions in many ways. With a strong, diverse workforce, we are better able to support our customers across the globe.

2010: HelpSystems Increases the Focus on Cybersecurity

As security becomes front and center for IT teams, HelpSystems begins to build out its portfolio. The company concentrates on acquiring technology leaders in the areas of information security; data security; and administrative identity, governance, and administration (IGA).  

In light of the ongoing shortage of IT personnel, particularly in the information security realm, this increased attention on automating security operations is key to protecting both corporate IP and quickly expanding technology infrastructures. HelpSystems customers understand how critical it is to leverage effective security and automation technology to maximize the limited time of their valuable resources and protect their own customers and brand reputation.

2008: HelpSystems Expands Internationally

HelpSystems purchases a long-time distributor in the U.K. to launch operations in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

2005: HelpSystems Leverages Investment to Fuel Expansion

The founders retire and sell the business to Summit Partners, the first private equity group to provide significant investment in the growing company. 

HelpSystems acquires business intelligence software for IBM i and completes its first security acquisition to address the burgeoning need for IT security. Thus begins the path of bringing other successful businesses under the HelpSystems umbrella. This gives them the bounty of resources they need to accelerate growth while offering HelpSystems customers an expanding one-stop-shop selection of top-notch solutions. 

1999: HelpSystems Supports Those in Need With a Focus on Giving Back

HelpSystems nurtures the charitable spirit of its employees, supporting their dedication and donations to help worthy causes close to their hearts.

1992: HelpSystems Doubles Down on Quality

HelpSystems becomes the first software company in the U.S. to be ISO-9001 certified for quality. This commitment extends far beyond developing and testing software, informing and strengthening every part of the business.

1990: HelpSystems Builds a Community and Encourages Customer Feedback

HelpSystems is one of the first companies in the AS/400 (now IBM i) world to hold a user conference to gather direct customer feedback on its solutions. As a result, customers become highly loyal to the Robot product line and to HelpSystems.

In the coming years, the company establishes customer advisory boards to direct investment, which ultimately evolve into the Product Direction Team. This reliance on voice-of-customer feedback in combination with a keen understanding of industry shifts drives the product roadmap from here on out.

1989: HelpSystems Moves Toward Intelligent Automation

HelpSystems increase its focus on productivity and automation offerings as well as message management and escalation for the rapidly growing AS/400 user base.

The company builds an automation computer set, with all capabilities aimed at the operator level. The idea—and it was a popular one—is that customers don’t need to be programmers to understand how to use and derive benefit from these time-saving applications.

Mid-1980s: HelpSystems Ensures a Strong Business Foundation

As the 1980s progressed, the company develops additional solutions, always designed with the end user in mind. The fundamental software design principles of quality and business relevance embodied in Robot/38 become a hallmark of the young company’s endeavors. Solutions are built to include self-auditing functionality while full-time testers and documentation teams focus on quality and uptime.

By 1988 the company has around a dozen employees and is about to find an eager new audience: Enter the IBM AS/400.

1982: HelpSystems Is Founded as Help/38

Engineer Richard Jacobson was a fan of the Field of Dreams philosophy of software—build it, and they will come. Alongside Tom Mueller and Tom Leahy, Jacobson starts Help/38 on the premise that a product is successful when it solves a real business problem and makes life easier.  

The company’s first solution, Robot/38, does just that. This scheduling tool helps companies automate overnight IT processes such as running sales figures and reports, a capability the three former Arthur Andersen consultants know will be a hit.  

They bring an auditor’s viewpoint to the application’s development, establishing the tradition of building feature-rich products. This means going above and beyond to include in-depth functionality for logging authorized users and usage history, the same building blocks that will be required for robust security and automation software in the future.  

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