Cisco strikes again grabbing threat assessment tool Kenna Security as third acquisition this week

Cisco has been busy on the acquisition front this week, and today the company announced it was buying threat assessment platform Kenna Security, the third company it has purchased this week. The two companies did not disclose the purchase price.

With Kenna, Cisco gets a startup that uses machine learning to sort through the massive pile of threat data that comes into a security system on a daily basis and prioritizes the threats most likely to do the most damage. That could be a very useful tool these days when threats abound and it’s not always easy to know where to put your limited security resources. Cisco plans to take that technology and integrate into its SecureX platform.

Gee Rittenhouse, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group wrote in a blog post announcing the deal with Kenna, that his company is getting a product that brings together Cisco’s existing threat management capabilities with Kenna’s risk-based vulnerability management skills.

“That is why we are pleased to announce our intent to acquire Kenna Security, Inc., a recognized leader in risk-based vulnerability prioritization with over 14 million assets protected and over 12.7 billion managed vulnerabilities. Using data science and real-world threat intelligence, it has a proven ability to bring data in from a multi-vendor environment and provide a comprehensive view of IT vulnerability risk,” Rittenhouse wrote in the blog post.

The security sphere has been complex for a long time, but with employees moving to work from home because of COVID, it became even more pronounced in the last year. In a world where the threat landscape changes quickly, having a tool that prioritizes what to look at first in its arsenal could be very useful.

Kenna Security CEO Karim Toubba gave a typical executive argument for being acquired: it gives him a much bigger market under Cisco than his company could have built alone.

“Now is our opportunity to change the industry: once the acquisition is complete, we will be one step closer to delivering Kenna’s pioneering Risk-Based Vulnerability Management (RBVM) platform to the more than 7,000 customers using Cisco SecureX today. This single action exponentially increases the impact Kenna’s technology will have on the way the world secures networks, endpoints and infrastructures.,” he wrote in the company blog.

The company, which launched in 2010, claims to be the pioneer in the RBVM space. It raised over $98 million on a $320 million post-money valuation, according to Pitchbook data. Customers include HSBC, Royal Bank of Canada, Mattel and Quest Diagnostics.

For those customers, the product will cease to be stand-alone at some point as the companies work together to integrate Kenna technology into the SecureX platform. When that is complete, the stand-alone customers will have to purchase the Cisco solution to continue using the Kenna tech.

Cisco has had a busy week on the acquisition front. It announced its intent to acquire Sedona Systems on Tuesday, Socio Labs on Wednesday and this announcement today. That’s a lot of activity for any company in a single week. The deal is expected to close in Cisco Q4 FY 2021. The company’s 170 employees will be joining the Security Business Group led by Rittenhouse.


By Ron Miller

Cisco to acquire Indy startup Socio to bring hybrid events to Webex

Cisco announced this morning that it intends to acquire Indianapolis-based startup Socio, which helps plan hybrid in-person and virtual events. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

Socio provides a missing hybrid event management component for the company to add to its Webex platform. The goal appears to be to combine this with the recent purchase of Slido and transform Webex from an application mostly for video meetings into a more comprehensive event platform.

“As part of Cisco Webex’s vision to deliver inclusive, engaging and intelligent meeting and event experiences, the acquisition of Socio Labs complements Cisco’s recent acquisition of Slido, an industry-leading audience engagement tool, which together will create a comprehensive, cost-effective and easy-to-use event management solution […],” the company explained in a statement.

The impact of the pandemic was not lost on Cisco, and it’s clear that as we can foresee going back to go back to live events, having the ability to combine it with a virtual experience means that you can open up your event to a much wider audience beyond those who can attend in person. That’s likely not something that’s going away, even after we get past COVID.

Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM for security and collaboration at Cisco says that the future of work is going to be hybrid, whether it’s for work meetings or larger events and Cisco is making this acquisition to expand the use cases for the Webex platform.

“Whether it’s a 1:1 call, a small team huddle, a group meeting or a large external event, we want to remove friction and help people engage with each other in an inclusive manner. Slido allows for every voice to be heard — even when you’re not talking. Socio allows for getting your voice heard by a large number of people,” Patel said.

And the company believes that Webex provides the platform to make it all happen. “It’s a really potent combination of technology to make human interactions more engaging, no matter the type of conversation,” he added.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that it’s a smart move to take advantage of the changing events landscape and that this acquisition helps make Cisco a serious player in this space.

“As we get closer to a post-pandemic world, the need to create hybrid event experiences is going to quickly accelerate as people start venturing out to attend physical events. So having an event stack that combines local event support/participation with tools to integrate a broader virtual audience will be the future of event management,” Leary told me.

Socio was founded in 2016 and raised around $7 million in investment capital, according to Crunchbase data. It has a prestigious list of enterprise customers that includes Microsoft, Google, Jet Blue, Greenpeace, PepsiCo and Hyundai

The deal is expected to close in Q4 of FY2021. When it does close, Socio’s 135 employees will be joining Cisco. The plan is to incorporate Socio’s tooling into the Webex platform while allowing it to continue as a stand-alone product, according to a Cisco spokesperson.


By Ron Miller

Google’s Anthos multi-cloud platform gets improved logging, Windows container support and more

Google today announced a sizable update to its Anthos multi-cloud platform that lets you build, deploy and manage containerized applications anywhere, including on Amazon’s AWS and (in preview) and Microsoft Azure.

Version 1.7 includes new features like improved metrics and logging for Anthos on AWS, a new Connect gateway to interact with any cluster right from Google Cloud and a preview of Google’s managed control plane for Anthos Service Mesh. Other new features include Windows container support for environments that use VMware’s vSphere platform and new tools for developers to make it easier for them to deploy their applications to any Anthos cluster.

Today’s update comes almost exactly two years after Google CEO Sundar Pichai originally announced Anthos at its Cloud Next event in 2019 (before that, Google called this project the ‘Google Cloud Services Platform,’ which launched three years ago). Hybrid- and multi-cloud, it’s fair to say, takes a key role in the Google Cloud roadmap — and maybe more so for Google than for any of its competitors. And recently, Google brought on industry veteran Jeff Reed to become the VP of Product Management in charge of Anthos.

Reed told me that he believes that there are a lot of factors right now that are putting Anthos in a good position. “The wind is at our back. We bet on Kubernetes, bet on containers — those were good decisions,” he said. Increasingly, customers are also now scaling out their use of Kubernetes and have to figure out how to best scale out their clusters and deploy them in different environments — and to do so, they need a consistent platform across these environments. He also noted that when it comes to bringing on new Anthos customers, it’s really those factors that determine whether a company will look into Anthos or not.

He acknowledged that there are other players in this market, but he argues that Google Cloud’s take on this is also quite different. “I think we’re pretty unique in the sense that we’re from the cloud, cloud-native is our core approach,” he said. “A lot of what we talk about in [Anthos] 1.7 is about how we leverage the power of the cloud and use what we call ‘an anchor in the cloud’ to make your life much easier. We’re more like a cloud vendor there, but because we support on-prem, we see some of those other folks.” Those other folks being IBM/Red Hat’s OpenShift and VMware’s Tanzu, for example. 

The addition of support for Windows containers in vSphere environments also points to the fact that a lot of Anthos customers are classical enterprises that are trying to modernize their infrastructure, yet still rely on a lot of legacy applications that they are now trying to bring to the cloud.

Looking ahead, one thing we’ll likely see is more integrations with a wider range of Google Cloud products into Anthos. And indeed, as Reed noted, inside of Google Cloud, more teams are now building their products on top of Anthos themselves. In turn, that then makes it easier to bring those services to an Anthos-managed environment anywhere. One of the first of these internal services that run on top of Anthos is Apigee. “Your Apigee deployment essentially has Anthos underneath the covers. So Apigee gets all the benefits of a container environment, scalability and all those pieces — and we’ve made it really simple for that whole environment to run kind of as a stack,” he said.

I guess we can expect to hear more about this in the near future — or at Google Cloud Next 2021.

 


By Frederic Lardinois

Cisco acquires PortShift to raise its game in DevOps and Kubernetes security

Cisco is making another acquisition to expand its reach in security solutions, this time specifically targeting DevOps and the world of container management. It is acquiring PortShift, an Israeli startup that has built a Kubernetes-native security platform.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed. PortShift had raised about $5.3 million from Team8, an incubator and backer of security startups in Israel founded by a group of cybersecurity vets. Cisco, along with Microsoft and Walmart, are among the large corporates that back Team8. (Indeed, their participation is in part a way of getting an early look and inside scoop on some of the more cutting edge technologies being built, and in part a way to help founders understand what corporates’ security needs are these days.)

The deal underscores not just how containerization, and specifically Kubernetes, has taken hold of the enterprise world, but also how those working in this area, and building businesses around containerization and Kubernetes, are paying increasing attention to security around them.

Others are also sharpening their focus on containers and how they are secured. Earlier this year, Venafi acquired Jetstack, which runs a certificate controller for Kubernetes; and last month StackRox raised funding for its own approach to Kubernetes security.

Cisco has been a longtime partner of Google’s around cloud services, and it has made a number of acquisitions in the area of cybersecurity in recent years. They have included Duo for $2.35 billion, OpenDNS for $635 million, and most recently Babble Labs (which helps reduce background noise in video calls, something that both improves quality but also helps users ensure unwanted or private chatter doesn’t inadvertently get heard by unintended listeners).

But as Liz Centoni, the SVP of the Emerging Technologies and Incubation (ET&I) Group, notes in a blog post, Cisco is now turning its attention also to how it can help customers better secure applications and workloads, alongside the investments that it has made to help secure people.

In the area of containers, security issues can arise around container architecture in a number of ways: it can be due to misconfiguration; or because of how applications are monitored; or how developers use open-source libraries; and how companies implement regulatory compliance. Other security vulnerabilities include the use of insecure container images; problems with how containers interact with each other; the use of containers that have been infected with rogue processes; and having containers not isolated properly from their hosts.

Centoni notes that PortShift interested them because it provides an all-in-one platform covering the many aspects of Kubernetes security:

“Today, the application security space is highly fragmented with many vendors addressing only part of the problem,” she writes. “The Portshift team is building capabilities that span a large portion of the lifecycle of the cloud-native application.”

PortShift provides tools for better container configuration visibility, vulnerability management, configuration management, segmentation, encryption, compliance and automation.

The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of Cisco’s 2021 fiscal year, when the team will join Cisco’s ET&I Group.


By Ingrid Lunden

Cisco acquiring BabbleLabs to filter out the lawn mower screeching during your video conference

We’ve all been in a video conference, especially this year, when the neighbor started mowing the lawn or kids were playing outside your window — and it can get pretty loud. Cisco, which owns the WebEx video conferencing service wants to do something about that, and late yesterday it announced it was going to acquire BabbleLabs, a startup that can help filter out background noise.

BabbleLabs has a very particular set of skills. It uses artificial intelligence to enhance the speaking voice, while filtering out those unwanted background noises that seem to occur whenever you happen to be in a meeting.

Interestingly enough, Cisco also sees this as a kind of privacy play by removing background conversation. Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager in the Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, says that this should go a long way toward improving the meeting experience for Cisco users.

“Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation — automatically removing unwanted noise — to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences,” Patel, who was at Box for many years before joining Cisco recently, said in a statement.

In a blog post, BabbleLabs CEO and co-founder Chris Rowen wrote that conversations about being acquired by Cisco began just recently, and the deal came together pretty quickly. “We quickly reached a common view that merging BabbleLabs into the Cisco Collaboration team could accelerate our common vision dramatically,” he wrote.

BabbleLabs, which launched three years ago and raised $18 million, according to Crunchbase, had an interesting, but highly technical idea. That can sometimes be difficult to translate into a viable commercial product, but makes a highly attractive acquisition target for a company like Cisco.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says this acquisition could be seen as part of a broader industry consolidation. “We’re seeing consolidation taking place as the big web conferencing players are snapping up smaller players to round out their platforms,” he said.

He added, “WebEx may not be getting the attention that Zoom is, but it still has a significant presence in the enterprise, and this acquisition will allow them to keep improving their offering,”

The deal is expected to close in the current quarter after regulatory approval. Upon closing, BabbleLabs employees will become part of Cisco’s Collaboration Group.


By Ron Miller

Box CEO Aaron Levie says thrifty founders have more control

Once upon a time, Box’s Aaron Levie was just a guy with an idea for a company: 15 years ago as a USC student, he conceived of a way to simply store and share files online.

It may be hard to recall, but back then, the world was awash with thumb drives and moving files manually, but Levie saw an opportunity to change that.

Today, his company helps enterprise customers collaborate and manage content in the cloud, but when Levie appeared on an episode of Extra Crunch Live at the end of May, my colleague Jon Shieber and I asked him if he had any advice for startups. While he was careful to point out that there is no “one size fits all” advice, he did make one thing clear:

“I would highly recommend to any company of any size that you have as much control of your destiny as possible. So put yourself in a position where you spend as little amount of dollars as you can from a burn standpoint and get as close to revenue being equal to your expenses as you can possibly get to,” he advised.

Don’t let current conditions scare you

Levie also advised founders not to be frightened off by current conditions, whether that’s the pandemic or the recession. Instead, he said if you have an idea, seize the moment and build it, regardless of the economy or the state of the world. If, like Levie, you are in it for the long haul, this too will pass, and if your idea is good enough, it will survive and even thrive as you move through your startup growth cycle.


By Ron Miller

Cisco acquires Modcam to make Meraki smart camera portfolio even smarter

As the Internet of Things proliferates, security cameras are getting smarter. Today, these devices have machine learning capability that helps the camera automatically identify what it’s looking at — for instance, an animal or a human intruder? Today, Cisco announced that it has acquired Swedish startup Modcam and is making it part of its Meraki smart camera portfolio with the goal of incorporating Modcam computer vision technology into its portfolio.

The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Cisco tells us that the acquisition has closed.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Cisco Meraki’s Chris Stori says Modcam is going to up Meraki’s machine learning game, while giving it some key engineering talent, as well.

“In acquiring Modcam, Cisco is investing in a team of highly talented engineers who bring a wealth of expertise in machine learning, computer vision and cloud-managed cameras. Modcam has developed a solution that enables cameras to become even smarter,” he wrote.

What he means is that today, while Meraki has smart cameras that include motion detection and machine learning capabilities, this is limited to single camera operation. What Modcam brings is the added ability to gather information and apply machine learning across multiple cameras, greatly enhancing the camera’s capabilities.

“With Modcam’s technology, this micro-level information can be stitched together, enabling multiple cameras to provide a macro-level view of the real world,” Stori wrote. In practice, as an example, that could provide a more complete view of space availability for facilities management teams, an especially important scenario as businesses try to find safer ways to open during the pandemic. The other scenario Modcam was selling was giving a more complete picture of what was happening on the factory floor.

All of Modcams employees, which Cisco described only as “a small team,” have joined Cisco, and the Modcam technology will be folded into the Meraki product line, and will no longer be offered as a standalone product, a Cisco spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Modcam was founded in 2013 and has raised $7.6 million, according to Crunchbase data. Cisco acquired Meraki back in 2012 for $1.2 billion.


By Ron Miller

Cisco to acquire internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes

When Cisco bought AppDynamics in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before the IPO, the company sent a clear signal it wanted to move beyond its pure network hardware roots into the software monitoring side of the equation. Yesterday afternoon the company announced it intends to buy another monitoring company, this time snagging internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes.

Cisco would not comment on the price when asked by TechCrunch, but published reports from CNBC and others pegged the deal at around $1 billion. If that’s accurate, it means the company has paid around $4.7 billion for a pair of monitoring solutions companies.

Cisco’s Todd Nightingale, writing in a blog post announcing the deal said that the kind of data that ThousandEyes provides around internet user experience is more important than ever as internet connections have come under tremendous pressure with huge numbers of employees working from home.

ThousandEyes keeps watch on those connections and should fit in well with other Cisco monitoring technologies. “With thousands of agents deployed throughout the internet, ThousandEyes’ platform has an unprecedented understanding of the internet and grows more intelligent with every deployment, Nightingale wrote.

He added, “Cisco will incorporate ThousandEyes’ capabilities in our AppDynamics application intelligence portfolio to enhance visibility across the enterprise, internet and the cloud.”

As for ThousandEyes, co-founder and CEO Mohit Lad told a typical acquisition story. It was about growing faster inside the big corporation than it could on its own. “We decided to become part of Cisco because we saw the potential to do much more, much faster, and truly create a legacy for ThousandEyes,” Lad wrote.

It’s interesting to note that yesterday’s move, and the company’s larger acquisition strategy over the last decade is part of a broader move to software and services as a complement to its core networking hardware business.

Just yesterday, Synergy Research released its network switch and router revenue report and it wasn’t great. As companies have hunkered down during the pandemic, they have been buying much less network hardware, dropping the Q1 numbers to seven year low. That translated into a $1 billion less in overall revenue in this category, according to Synergy.

While Cisco owns the vast majority of the market, it obviously wants to keep moving into software services as a hedge against this shifting market. This deal simply builds on that approach.

ThousandEyes was founded in 2010 and raised over $110 million on a post valuation of $670 million as of February 2019, according to Pitchbook Data.


By Ron Miller

Verizon is buying b2b videoconferencing firm BlueJeans

US carrier Verizon* has splashed out to buy veteran b2b videoconferencing platform, BlueJeans Network — shelling out less than $500 million on the acquisition, according to the Wall Street Journal which first reported the news.

A Verizon spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch that the price-tag is sub-$500M but did not provide a more exact figure. Videoconferencing platform BlueJeans has raised ~$175M since being founded around a decade ago, per Crunchbase, with US investor NEA leading a Series E round back in 2015.

In a press release announcing the deal, Verizon said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the enterprise-grade videoconferencing and event platform in order to expand its “immersive unified communications portfolio”.

“Customers will benefit from a BlueJeans enterprise-grade video experience on Verizon’s high-performance global networks. In addition, the platform will be deeply integrated into Verizon’s 5G product roadmap, providing secure and real-time engagement solutions for high growth areas such as telemedicine, distance learning and field service work,” it wrote.

“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools,” added Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, in a supporting statement. “Collaboration and communications have become top of the agenda for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors in recent months. We are excited to combine the power of BlueJeans’ video platform with Verizon Business’ connectivity networks, platforms and solutions to meet our customers’ needs.”

The acquisition comes at a time when videoconferencing has been seeing a massive uptick in usage as white collar workers around the world log on to meetings from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it’s BlueJeans’ rival, Zoom, that’s been the most high profile name linked to the viral videoconferencing boom in recent weeks. The latter recently revealed that daily meeting participants on its platform jumped from a modest 10M in December to 200M in March.

However such booming growth and consumer usage has brought increased scrutiny for Zoom — leading to a spate of warnings (and even some bans), related to security and privacy concerns. And earlier this month the company said it would freeze product dev to focus on the laundry list of issues that have surfaced as users have piled in and kicked its tires, taking a little of the shine off of surging growth. 

On the sheer usage front BlueJeans is certainly small fish in comparison to Zoom — having remained b2b focused. A BlueJeans spokeswoman told us it has more than $100M ARR and over 15,000 customers at this point. (Some notable users include Facebook and Disney.)

But it’s paying users that are likely of most interest to Verizon, hence talk of telemedicine, distance learning and field service work — areas ripe for coronavirus-accelerated digitization.

Carriers generally, meanwhile, haven’t been able to translate increased usage during the pandemic into a revenue growth story — as a result of a combination of fixed costs, debt and market disruption that’s been hitting their shares during the coronavirus crisis, per Reuters.

“The combination of BlueJeans’ world class enterprise video collaboration platform and trusted brand with Verizon Business’ next generation edge computing innovation will deliver highly differentiated and compelling solutions to our joint customers,” said Quentin Gallivan, BlueJeans CEO, in a statement. “We are very excited about joining the Verizon team and we truly believe the future of business communications starts today!”

BlueJeans co-founder Krish Ramakrishnan has a history of exits, selling a couple of his previous startups to networking giant Cisco — where he has also worked, in between spinning out his own companies.

Verizon said today that said BlueJeans founders and “key management” will join the company as part of the acquisition, with BlueJeans employees set to become Verizon employees immediately following the close of the deal — which is expected in the second quarter, pending customary closing conditions.

*Disclosure: Verizon is also TechCrunch’s parent company


By Natasha Lomas

Edge computing startup Pensando comes out of stealth mode with a total of $278 million in funding

Pensando, an edge computing startup founded by former Cisco engineers, came out of stealth mode today with an announcement that it has raised a $145 million Series C. The company’s software and hardware technology, created to give data centers more of the flexibility of cloud computing servers, is being positioned as a competitor to Amazon Web Services Nitro.

The round was led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners and brings Pensando’s total raised so far to $278 million. HPE chief technology officer Mark Potter and Lightspeed Venture partner Barry Eggers will join Pensando’s board of directors. The company’s chairman is former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who is also one of Pensando’s investors through JC2 Ventures.

Pensando was founded in 2017 by Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani, a team of engineers who spearheaded the development of several of Cisco’s key technologies, and founded four startups that were acquired by Cisco, including Insieme Networks. (In an interview with Reuters, Pensando chief financial offier Randy Pond, a former Cisco executive vice president, said it isn’t clear if Cisco is interested in acquiring the startup, adding “our aspirations at this point would be to IPO. But, you know, there’s always other possibilities for monetization events.”)

The startup claims its edge computing platform performs five to nine times better than AWS Nitro, in terms of productivity and scale. Pensando prepares data center infrastructure for edge computing, better equipping them to handle data from 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications. While in stealth mode, Pensando acquired customers including HPE, Goldman Sachs, NetApp and Equinix.

In a press statement, Potter said “Today’s rapidly transforming, hyper-connected world requires enterprises to operate with even greater flexibility and choices than ever before. HPE’s expanding relationship with Pensando Systems stems from our shared understanding of enterprises and the cloud. We are proud to announce our investment and solution partnership with Pensando and will continue to drive solutions that anticipate our customers’ needs together.”


By Catherine Shu

Symantec’s Sheila Jordan named to Slack’s board of directors

Workplace collaboration software business Slack (NYSE: WORK) has added Sheila Jordan, a senior vice president and chief information officer of Symantec, as an independent member of its board of directors. The hiring comes three months after the business completed a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Jordan, responsible for driving information technology strategy and operations for Symantec, brings significant cybersecurity expertise to Slack’s board. Prior to joining Symantec in 2014, Jordan was a senior vice president of IT at Cisco and an executive at Disney Destination for nearly 15 years.

With the new appointment, Slack appears to be doubling down on security. In addition to the board announcement, Slack recently published a blog post outlining the company’s latest security strategy in what was likely part of a greater attempt to sway potential customers — particularly those in highly regulated industries — wary of the company’s security processes. The post introduced new features, including the ability to allow teams to work remotely while maintaining compliance to industry and company-specific requirements.

Jordan joins Slack co-founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield, former Goldman Sachs executive Edith Cooper, Accel general partner Andrew Braccia, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, Andreessen Horowitz general partner John O’Farrell, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya and former Salesforce chief financial officer Graham Smith on Slack’s board of directors.

“I believe there is nothing more critical than driving organizational alignment and agility within enterprises today,” Jordan said in a statement. “Slack has developed a new category of enterprise software to help unlock this potential and I’m thrilled to now be a part of their story.”

Slack closed up nearly 50% on its first day of trading in June but has since stumbled amid reports of increased competition from Microsoft, which operates a Slack-like product called Teams.

Slack co-founder and chief technology officer Cal Henderson will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco next week to discuss the company’s founding, road to the public markets and path forward. Buy tickets here.


By Kate Clark

Duo’s Wendy Nather to talk security at TC Sessions: Enterprise

When it comes to enterprise security, how do you move fast without breaking things?

Enter Duo’s Wendy Nather, who will join us at TC Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco on September 5, where we will get the inside track on how to keep enterprise networks secure without slowing growth.

Nather is head of advisory CISOs at Duo Security, a Cisco company, and one of the most respected and trusted voices in the cybersecurity community as a regular speaker on a range of topics, from threat intelligence to risk analysis, incident response, data security and privacy issues.

Prior to her role at Duo, she was the research director at the Retail ISAC, and served as the research director of the Information Security Practice at independent analyst firm 451 Research.

She also led IT security for the EMEA region of the investment banking division of Swiss Bank Corporation — now UBS.

Nather also co-authored “The Cloud Security Rules,” and was listed as one of SC Magazine’s Women in IT Security “Power Players” in 2014.

We’re excited to have Nather discuss some of the challenges startups and enterprises face in security — threats from both inside and outside the firewall. Companies large and small face similar challenges, from keeping data in to keeping hackers out. How do companies navigate the litany of issues and threats without hampering growth?

Who else will we have onstage, you ask? Good question! We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Bill McDermott at SAP, Scott Farquhar at Atlassian, Julie Larson-Green at Qualtrics, Aaron Levie at Box and Andrew Ng at Landing AI and many, many more. See the whole agenda right here.

Early-bird tickets are on sale right now! For just $249 you can see Nather and these other awesome speakers live at TC Sessions: Enterprise. But hurry, early-bird sales end on August 9; after that, prices jump up by $100. Book here.

If you’re a student on a budget, don’t worry, we’ve got a super-reduced ticket for just $75 when you apply for a student ticket right here.

Enterprise-focused startups can bring the whole crew when you book a Startup Demo table for just $2,000. Each table gives you a primo location to be seen by attendees, investors and other sponsors, in addition to four tickets to enjoy the show. We only have a limited amount of demo tables and we will sell out. Book yours here.


By Frederic Lardinois

Unveiling its latest cohort, Alchemist announces $4 million in funding for its enterprise accelerator

The enterprise software and services-focused accelerator Alchemist has raised $4 million in fresh financing from investors BASF and the Qatar Development Bank, just in time for its latest demo day unveiling 20 new companies.

Qatar and BASF join previous investors, including the venture firms Mayfield, Khosla Ventures, Foundation Capital, DFJ and USVP, and corporate investors like Cisco, Siemens and Juniper Networks.

While the roster of successes from Alchemist’s fund isn’t as lengthy as Y Combinator, the accelerator program has launched the likes of the quantum computing upstart Rigetti, the soft-launch developer tool LaunchDarkly and drone startup Matternet .

Some (personal) highlights of the latest cohort include:

  • Bayware: Helmed by a former head of software-defined networking from Cisco, the company is pitching a tool that makes creating networks in multi-cloud environments as easy as copying and pasting.
  • MotorCortex.AI: Co-founded by a Stanford engineering professor and a Carnegie Mellon roboticist, the company is using computer vision, machine learning and robotics to create a fruit packer for packaging lines. Starting with avocados, the company is aiming to tackle the entire packaging side of pick and pack in logistics.
  • Resilio: With claims of a 96% effectiveness rate and $35,000 in annual recurring revenue with another $1 million in the pipeline, Resilio is already seeing companies embrace its mobile app that uses a phone’s camera to track stress levels and application-based prompts on how to lower it, according to Alchemist.
  • Operant Networks: It’s a long-held belief (of mine) that if computing networks are already irrevocably compromised, the best thing that companies and individuals can do is just encrypt the hell out of their data. Apparently Operant agrees with me. The company is claiming 50% time savings with this approach, and have booked $1.9 million in 2019 as proof, according to Alchemist.
  • HPC Hub: HPC Hub wants to democratize access to supercomputers by overlaying a virtualization layer and pre-installed software on underutilized super computers to give more companies and researchers easier access to machines… and they’ve booked $92,000 worth of annual recurring revenue.
  • DinoPlusAI: This chip developer is designing a low latency chip for artificial intelligence applications, reducing latency by 12 times over a competing Nvidia chip, according to the company. DinoPlusAI sees applications for its tech in things like real-time AI markets and autonomous driving. Its team is led by a designer from Cadence and Broadcom and the company already has $8 million in letters of intent signed, according to Alchemist.
  • Aero Systems West: Co-founders from the Air Force’s Research Labs and MIT are aiming to take humans out of drone operations and maintenance. The company contends that for every hour of flight time, drones require seven hours of maintenance and check ups. Aero Systems aims to reduce that by using remote analytics, self-inspection, autonomous deployment and automated maintenance to take humans out of the drone business.

Watch a live stream of Alchemist’s demo day pitches, starting at 3PM, here.

 


By Jonathan Shieber

Cisco open sources MindMeld conversational AI platform

Cisco announced today that it was open sourcing the MindMeld conversation AI platform, making it available to anyone who wants to use it under the Apache 2.0 license.

MindMeld is the conversational AI company that Cisco bought in 2017. The company put the technology to use in Cisco Spark Assistant later that year to help bring voice commands to meeting hardware, which was just beginning to emerge at the time.

Today, there is a concerted effort to bring voice to enterprise use cases, and Cisco is offering the means for developers to do that with the MindMeld tool set. “Today, Cisco is taking a big step towards empowering developers with more comprehensive and practical tools for building conversational applications by open-sourcing the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform,” Cisco’s head of machine learning Karthik Raghunathanw wrote in a blog post.

The company also wants to make it easier for developers to get going with the platform, so it is releasing the Conversational AI Playbook, a step-by-step guide book to help developers get started with conversation-driven applications. Cisco says this is about empowering developers, and that’s probably a big part of the reason.

But it would also be in Cisco’s best interest to have developers outside of Cisco working with and on this set of tools. By open sourcing them, the hope is that a community of developers, whether Cisco customers or others, will begin using, testing and improving the tools; helping it to develop the platform faster and more broadly than it could, even inside an organization as large as Cisco.

Of course, just because they offer it doesn’t necessarily automatically mean the community of interested developers will emerge, but given the growing popularity of voice-enabled used cases, chances are some will give it a look. It will be up to Cisco to keep them engaged.

Cisco is making all of this available on its own DevNet platform starting today.


By Ron Miller

Harness hauls in $60M Series B investment on $500M valuation

Series B rounds used to be about establishing a product-market fit, but for some startups the whole process seems to be accelerating. Harness, the startup founded by AppDynamics co-founder and CEO Jyoti Bansal is one of those companies that is putting the pedal the metal with his second startup, taking his learnings and a $60 million round to build the company much more quickly.

Harness already has an eye-popping half billion dollar valuation. It’s not terribly often I hear valuations in a Series B discussion. More typically CEOs want to talk growth rates, but Bansal volunteered the information, excited by the startup’s rapid development.

The round was led by IVP, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and ServiceNow Ventures. Existing investors Big Labs, Menlo Ventures and Unusual Ventures also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $80 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Bansal obviously made a fair bit of money when he sold AppDynamics to Cisco in 2017 for $3.7 billion and he could have rested after his great success. Instead he turned his attention almost immediately to a new challenge, helping companies move to a new continuous delivery model more rapidly by offering Continuous Delivery as a Service.

As companies move to containers and the cloud, they face challenges implementing new software delivery models. As is often the case, large web scale companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix have the resources to deliver these kinds of solutions quickly, but it’s much more difficult for most other companies.

Bansal saw an opportunity here to package continuous delivery approaches as a service. “Our approach in the market is Continuous Delivery as a Service, and instead of you trying to engineer this, you get this platform that can solve this problem and bring you the best tooling that a Google or Facebook or Netflix would have,” Basal explained.

The approach has gained traction quickly. The company has grown from 25 employees at launch in 2017 to 100 today. It boasts 50 enterprise customers including Home Depot, Santander Bank and McAfee.

He says that the continuous delivery piece could just be a starting point, and the money from the round will be plowed back into engineering efforts to expand the platform and solve other problems DevOps teams face with a modern software delivery approach.

Bansal admits that it’s unusual to have this kind of traction this early, and he says that his growth is much faster than it was at AppDynamics at the same stage, but he believes the opportunity here is huge as companies look for more efficient ways to deliver software. “I’m a little bit surprised. I thought this was a big problem when I started, but it’s an even bigger problem than I thought and how much pain was out there and how ready the market was to look at a very different way of solving this problem,” he said.


By Ron Miller