Cape Privacy announces $20M Series A to help companies securely share data

Cape Privacy, the early stage startup that wants to make it easier for companies to share sensitive data in a secure and encrypted way, announced a $20 million Series A today.

Evolution Equity Partners led the round with participation from new investors Tiger Global Management, Ridgeline Partners and Downing Lane. Existing investors Boldstart Ventures, Version One Ventures, Haystack, Radical Ventures and a slew of individual investors also participated. The company has now raised approximately $25 million including a $5 million seed investment we covered last June..

Cape Privacy CEO Ché Wijesinghe says that the product has evolved quite a bit since we last spoke. “We have really focused our efforts on encrypted learning, which is really the core technology, which was fundamental to allowing the multi-party compute capabilities between two organizations or two departments to work and build machine learning models on encrypted data,” Wijesinghe told me.

Wijesinghe says that a key business case involves a retail company owned by a private equity firm sharing data with a large financial services company, which is using the data to feed its machine learning models. In this case, sharing customer data, it’s essential to do it in a secure way and that is what Cape Privacy claims is its primary value prop.

He said that while the data sharing piece is the main focus of the company, it has data governance and compliance components to be sure that entities sharing data are doing so in a way that complies with internal and external rules and regulations related to the type of data.

While the company is concentrating on financial services for now because Wijesinghe has been working with these companies for years, he sees uses cases far beyond a single vertical including pharmaceuticals, government, healthcare telco and manufacturing.

“Every single industry needs this and so we look at the value of what Cape’s encrypted learning can provide as really being something that can be as transformative and be as impactful as what SSL was for the adoption of the web browser,” he said.

Richard Seewald, founding and managing partner at lead investor Evolution Equity Partners likes that ability to expand the product’s markets. “The application in Financial Services is only the beginning. Cape has big plans in life sciences and government where machine learning will help make incredible advances in clinical trials and counter-terrorism for example. We anticipate wide adoption of Cape’s technology across many use cases and industries,” he said.

The company has recently expanded to 20 people and Wijesinghe, who is half Asian, takes DEI seriously. “We’ve been very, very deliberate about our DEI efforts, and I think one of the things that we pride ourselves in is that we do foster a culture of acceptance, that it’s not just about diversity in terms of color, race, gender, but we just hired our first non binary employee,” he said,

Part of making people feel comfortable and included involves training so that fellow employees have a deeper understanding of the cultural differences. The company certainly has diversity across geographies with employees in 10 different time zones.

The company is obviously remote with a spread like that, but once the pandemic is over, Wijesinghe sees bringing people together on occasion with New York City as the hub for the company where people from all over the world can fly in and get together.


By Ron Miller

Okta expands into privileged access management and identity governance reporting

Okta today announced it was expanding its platform into a couple of new areas. Up to this point, the company has been known for its identity access management product, giving companies the ability to sign onto multiple cloud products with a single sign on. Today, the company is moving into two new areas: privileged access and identity governance

Privileged access gives companies the ability to provide access on an as-needed basis to a limited number of people to key administrative services inside a company. This could be your database or your servers or any part of your technology stack that is highly sensitive and where you want to tightly control who can access these systems.

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon says that Okta has always been good at locking down the general user population access to cloud services like Salesforce, Office 365 and Gmail. What these cloud services have in common is you access them via a web interface.

Administrators access the speciality accounts using different protocols. “It’s something like secure shell, or you’re using a terminal on your computer to connect to a server in the cloud, or it’s a database connection where you’re actually logging in with a SQL connection, or you’re connecting to a container which is the Kubernetes protocol to actually manage the container,” McKinnon explained.

Privileged access offers a couple of key features including the ability to limit access to a given time window and to record a video of the session so there is an audit trail of exactly what happened while someone was accessing the system. McKinnon says that these features provide additional layers of protection for these sensitive accounts.

He says that it will be fairly trivial to carve out these accounts because Okta already has divided users into groups and can give these special privileges to only those people in the administrative access group. The challenge was figuring out how to get access to these other kinds of protocols.

The governance piece provides a way for security operations teams to run detailed reports and look for issues related to identity. “Governance provides exception reporting so you can give that to your auditors, and more importantly you can give that to your security team to make sure that you figure out what’s going on and why there is this deviation from your stated policy,” he said.

All of this when combined with the $6.5 billion acquisition of Auth0 last month is part of a larger plan by the company to be what McKinnon calls the identity cloud. He sees a market with several strategic clouds and he believes identity is going to be one of them.

“Because identity is so strategic for everything, it’s unlocking your customer, access, it’s unlocking your employee access, it’s keeping everything secure. And so this expansion, whether it’s customer identity with zero trust or whether it’s doing more on the workforce identity with not just access, but privileged access and identity governance. It’s about identity evolving in this primary cloud,” he said.

While both of these new products were announced today at the company’s virtual Oktane customer conference, they won’t be generally available until the first quarter of next year.


By Ron Miller

Kintent nabs $4M seed to automate compliance questionnaire process

Every tech vendor has to pass security muster with customers, typically a tedious activity involving answering long questionnaires. Kintent, a new startup that wants to automate this process, announced a $4 million seed today led by Tola Capital with help from a bunch of tech industry angel investors.

After company co-founder and CEO Sravish Sridhar sold his previous startup Kinvey, which provided Backend as a Service to mobile app developers, he took a couple of years off while he decided what to do next. The sale to Progress Software in 2017 gave him that luxury.

He knew first-hand from his experience at Kinvey, that companies like his had to adhere to a lot of compliance standards and the idea for the next company began to form in his head. He wanted to create a new startup that could make it easier to figure out how to become compliant with a given standard, measure the current state of compliance and get recommendations on how to improve. He created Kintent to achieve that goal.

“So the big picture idea is can we build a system of record for trust and our first use case is information security and data privacy compliance, specifically if you’re a company that is building a SaaS business and you’re storing customer data or PHI, which is health information,” Sridhar explained.

The company’s product is called Trust Cloud. He says that they begin by looking at the lay of your technology land in terms of systems and the types of information you are storing, looking at how compliant each system is with whatever standard you are trying to adhere to.

Then based on how you classify your data, the Trust Cloud generates a list of best practices to stay in compliance with your desired standard, and finally it provides the means to keep testing to validate what you’ve done and that you are remaining in compliance.

The company launched in 2019, spent the first part of 2020 developing the product, and began selling it last October. Today, it has 35 paying customers. “We’re in the high six figures in revenue. We’ve been growing at about 20-30% month-over-month consistently since we launched in October, and the customers are across 11 verticals already,” he said.

With 14 employees and some money in the bank from this funding round, he is thinking ahead to adding people. He says that diversity has to be more than something you just talk about, and he has made it one of the core founding values of the company, and one he takes very seriously.

“I’m very conscious with every hire that we make that we’re really pushing to extend ourselves to [find] people from different walks of life, different statuses and so on,” he said.

The company is also working on a DEI component for the Trust Cloud, which it will be offering for free, which enables companies to provide a set of diversity metrics to measure against and then report on how well you are doing, and how you can improve your numbers.


By Ron Miller

Feedzai raises $200M at a $1B+ valuation for AI tools to fight financial fraud

On the heels of Jumio announcing a $150 million injection this week to continue building out its AI-based ID verification and anti-money laundering platform, another startup in the space is levelling up. Feedzai, which provides banks, others in the financial sector, and any company managing payments online with AI tools to spot and fight fraud — its cornerstone service involves super quick (3 millisecond) checks happening in the background while transactions are being made — has announced a Series D of $200 million. It said that the new financing is being made at a valuation of over $1 billion.

The round is being led by KKR, with Sapphire Ventures and strategic backer Citi Ventures — both past investors — also participating. Feedzai said it will be using the funds for further R&D and product development, to expand into more markets outside the U.S. — it was originally founded in Portugal but now is based out of San Mateo — and towards business development, specifically via partnerships to integrate and sell its tools.

One of those partners looks to be Citi itself:

“Citi is committed to advancing global payments anchored on transparency, efficiency, and control, and our partnership with Feedzai is allowing us to provide customers with technology that seamlessly balances agility and security,” said Manish Kohli, Global Head of Payments and Receivables, with Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions, in a statement.

The funding is coming at a time when the need for fraud protection for those managing transactions online has reached a high watermark, leading to a rush of customers for companies in the field.

Feezai says that its customers include 4 of the 5 largest banks in North America, 80% of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, 154 million individual and business taxpayers in the U.S., and has processed $9 billion in online transactions for 2 of the world’s most valuable athletic brands. In total its reach covers some 800 million customers of businesses that use its services.

In addition to Citibank, its customers include Fiserv, Santander, SoFi, and Standard Chartered’s Mox.

The round comes nearly four years after Feedzai raised its Series C, a $50 million round led by an unnamed investor and with an undisclosed valuation. Sapphire also participated in that round.

While money laundering, fraud and other kinds of illicit financial activity were already problems then, in the interim, the problem has only compounded, not least because of how much activity has shifted online, accelerating especially in the last year of pandemic-driven lockdowns. That’s been exacerbated also by a general rise in cybercrime — of which financial fraud remains the biggest component and motivator.

Within that bigger trend, solutions based on artificial intelligence have really emerged as critical to the task of identifying and fighting those illicit activities. Not only is that because AI solutions are able to make calculations and take actions and simply process more than non-AI based tools, or humans for that matter, but they are then able to go head to head with much of the fraud taking place, which itself is being built out on AI-based platforms and requires more sophistication to identify and combat.

For banking customers, Feedzai’s approach has been disruptive in part because of how it has conceived of the problem: it has built solutions that can be used across different scenarios, making them more powerful since the AI system is subsequently “learning” from more data. This is in contrast to how many financial service providers had conceived and tackled the issue in the past.

“Until now banks have used solutions based on verticals,” Nuno Sebastiao, co-founder and CEO of Feedzai, said in the past to TechCrunc. “The fraud solution you have for an ATM wouldn’t be the same fraud solution you would use for online banking which wouldn’t be the same fraud solution would have for a voice call center.” As these companies have refreshed their systems, many have taken a more agnostic approach like the kind the Feedzai has built.

The scale of the issue is clear, and unfortunately also something many of us have experienced first-hand. Feedzai says its data indicates that the last quarter of 2020 that show consumers saw a 650% increase in account takeover scams, a 600% in impersonation scams, and a 250% increase in online banking fraud attacks versus the first quarter of 2020.  (Those periods are, essentially, before pandemic and during pandemic comparisons.)

“The past 12 months have accelerated the world’s dependency on electronic financial services – from online banking to mobile payments, and in turn have increased fraud and money laundering activity. Our services are in more demand than ever,” said Sebastiao in a statement today.

Indeed, yesterday, when I covered Jumio’s $150 million round, I said I wouldn’t consider its funding to be an outlier (even though Jumio made clear it was the largest funding to date in its space): the fast follow from Feedzai, with an even higher amount of financing, really does underscore the trend at the moment.

In addition to these two, one of Feedzai’s biggest competitors, Kount, was acquired by credit ratings giant Equifax earlier this year for $640 million to move deeper into the space. (And related to that field, in the area of identity management, which goes hand-in-hand with tools for laundering and fraud, Okta acquired Auth0 for $6.5 billion.)

Other big rounds for startups in the wider space have included included ForgeRock ($96 million round), Onfido ($100 million), Payfone ($100 million), ComplyAdvantage ($50 million), Ripjar ($36.8 million) Truework ($30 million), Zeotap ($18 million) and Persona ($17.5 million).

KKR’s involvement in this round is notable as another example of a private equity firm getting in earlier with venture rounds with fast-scaling startups, similar to Great Hill’s investment in Jumio yesterday and a number of other examples. The firm says it’s making this investment out of its Next Generation Technology Growth Fund II, which is focused on making growth equity investment opportunities in the technology space.

“Feedzai offers a powerful solution to one of the biggest challenges we are facing today: financial crime in the digital age. Global commerce depends on future-proof technologies capable of dealing with a rapidly evolving threat landscape. At the same time, consumers rightfully demand a great customer experience, in addition to strong security layers when using banking or payments services,” said Stephen Shanley, Managing Director at KKR, in a statement

“We believe Feedzai’s platform uniquely meets these expectations and more, and we are looking forward to working with Nuno and the rest of the team to expand their offering even further,” added Spencer Chavez, Principal at KKR.


By Ingrid Lunden

OneTrust adds ethics to its privacy platform with Convercent acquisition

OneTrust, a late stage privacy platform startup, announced it was adding ethics and compliance to the mix this morning by acquiring Convercent, a company that was built to help build more ethical organizations. The companies did not share the purchase price.

OneTrust just raised $300 million on a fat $5.1 billion valuation at the end of last year, and it’s putting that money to work with this acquisition. Alan Dabbiere, co-chairman at OneTrust sees this acquisition as a way to add a missing component to his company’s growing platform of services.

“OneTrust instantly brings a proven ethics and compliance technology, team, and customer base into the OneTrust, further aligning the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer strategy alongside privacy, data governance, third-party risk, GRC (governance, risk and compliance), and ESG (environmental, social and governance) to build trust as a competitive advantage,” he said.

Convercent brings 750 customers and 150 employees to the OneTrust team along with its ethics system, which includes a way for employees to report ethical violations to the company and a tool for managing disclosures.

Convercent can also use data to help surface bad behavior before it’s been reported. As CEO Patrick Quinlan explained in a 2018 TechCrunch article:

“Sometimes you have this interactive code of conduct, where there’s a new vice president in a region and suddenly page views on the sexual harassment section of the Code of Conduct have increased 200% in the 90 days after he started. That’s easy, right? There’s a reason that’s happening, and our system will actually tell you what’s happening.”

Quinlan wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal that joining forces with OneTrust will give it the resources to expand its vision.

“As a part of OneTrust, we’ll be combining forces with the leader across privacy, security, data governance, third-party risk, GRC, ESG—and now—ethics and compliance. Our customers will now be able to build centralized programs across these workstreams to make trust a competitive differentiator,” Quinlan wrote.

Convercent was founded in 2012 and has raised over $100 million, according to Pitchbook data. OneTrust was founded in 2016. It has over 8000 customers and 150 employees and has raised $710 million, according to the company.


By Ron Miller

Jumio raises $150M as its all-in-one ID authentication platform crosses 300M verified identities

Digital identity services — used as a key link between organizations to verify that you are who you say you are online and individuals logging into those services — have come into their own in this past year. Now, one of the companies providing digital identity products is announcing a large round of funding, underscoring both the market size and its ambitions to be a central player in that space.

Jumio, which has built a platform that provides a variety of digital identity tools and technology — using biometrics, machine learning, computer vision, big data, and more to run checks on ID documents, log-ins, to help prevent suspicious financial activity, identity theft and more — has closed a $150 million round of funding. The Palo Alto-based company says it will use the funds to build more tools on its platform, and to double down on customer growth after a big year.

Currently, Jumio’s primary business is B2B: it provides tools to enterprise customers like HSBC to manage digital identity verification. Some of the areas where it will be investing include expanding its AI capabilities to do more anti-money laundering work, and to look at building a B2C product, using the data, tools and network of customers that it has to help individuals better manage their identities online.

“I think the big thing is that the foundation of the internet is identity not anonymity,” said CEO Robert Prigge in an interview, who said the trend of digital transformation has spurred that chane. “It’s been a big shift over the last couple of years. People wanted to originally hide behind anonymity, but now identify is the keystone. Whether it’s online banking or social networks, you need to be able to establish trust remotely.”

Of course, anonymity still is there, just in a different form: data protection regulations are all about making sure that we can stay private if we so choose as we use the tools that are now the norm, and countries like the UK are fleshing that out further with regulations in the works to make sure that services that use or manage digital identities are carried out on a common framework and with adequate oversight from users themselves. That presents the challenge and opportunity for a company like Jumio: how to navigate the push for identity while still providing a way to do that with privacy protections in mind.

The funding is coming from a single investor, Great Hill Partners, which will be joining Centana and Millennium as shareholders in the company. The valuation is not being disclosed but CEO Robert Prigge noted a few details that he believes point to the company’s position right now.

He confirmed that Jumio made $100 million in revenues last year; this is the first money the company has raised in nearly five years after bringing in a modest $16 million in 2016; and this looks to be the largest single round ever raised for a digital identity company.

However, given the market environment and the advances of tech, there has been quite a lot of momentum in the space, and a number of other digital identity and anti-money laundering (AML) prevention startups have been launching, growing and raising money. Just in the last year, they have included ForgeRock ($96 million round), Onfido ($100 million), Payfone ($100 million), ComplyAdvantage ($50 million), Ripjar ($36.8 million) Truework ($30 million), Zeotap ($18 million), Persona ($17.5 million) — so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is not an outlier at the end of the day.

Acquisitions like Equifax buying Kount earlier this year, and Okta acquiring Auth0 for $6.5 billion, meanwhile, point to encroaching competition from other areas of the market such as credit rating agencies and those providing login services for corporates, as well as the bigger consolidation trends.

The pandemic has precipitated a shift where many services we might have used in person are now accessible via the web and apps, but at the same time, the amount of cybercrime aimed at abusing that environment is on the rise, and both trends fuel a stronger demand for ID verification tools.

Jumio is notable among the group of companies providing those services both for being one of the bigger and older players. Prigge said that currently has around 1,000 customers, including some of the very biggest enterprises like the banking group HSBC, United Airlines and the telecoms operator Singtel, and it is active in 200 countries.

It’s also distinctive for having developed a platform approach, where it offers a range of different kinds of tools. This is in contrast to many others, which — partly as newer entrants — are focusing on more specific technology or addressing a narrower aspect of what is a pretty complex problem. That said, the company’s earliest work seems to still be the mainstay of what it does. The number of documents that it can “read” to begin the process of verifying users now numbers about 3,500. That has propelled more than 300 million verifications made on Jumio’s platform.

“Almost all vendors verify you are who you say you are, not that it’s really you. That is why the biometrics is so important.
In our case we see it as a holistic onboarding,” Prigge said. “We are one of the only AML and KYC [know your customer] providers.” The AML tools came by way of an acquisition the company made last year, of Beam Solutions.

This funding round, nevertheless, is a big step up for a company that has, in fact, seen a lot of ups and downs.

To be clear, Prigge is very explicit when he says that the Jumio he runs has nothing to do with an older incarnation of the company.

Jumio the first came into existence around a decade ago and raised nearly $40 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Eduardo Saverin as an early player in mobile payments, with technology that could use the camera on a phone to scan cards and IDs to enable the payments. That business ran into a lot of hot water for mis-stating financial results and mostly likely other related things, and eventually it filed for bankruptcy in March 2016. Saverin apparently wanted to buy the business — if only to encourage other buyers to come out of the woodwork — eventually Centana did, at a bargain price of $850,000.

While that took a portion of the business (mainly branding, a business concept and some employees) out of bankruptcy, the legacy Jumio remained in a bankruptcy process that is, almost exactly five years to the date, still ongoing, partly because the original founder is being accused of destroying documents needed to finally conclude that mess. 

The fact that Great Hill Partners is doing the investing here is notable. It’s mostly a PE firm that has been doing an increasing amount of investing in tech companies, part of a bigger trend where more PE firms are getting involved in rounds for later-stage startups. Its interest is in backing a company that has emerged as a leader in a crowded space but one targeting a big opportunity in digital identity, forecast to be worth some $12.8 billion by 2024, from $6 billion in 2019.

“Jumio has an incredible foundation – an expert management team, deep product roadmap and a global reach that is positioning the company for significant growth as the volume of online transactions and interactions, and associated fraud, is reaching record-highs. In particular, we have deep conviction in the company’s AI-enabled identity verification solution Jumio Go and KYC orchestration platform,” said Nick Cayer, partner at Great Hill Partners, in an emailed interview. “Jumio will need to both keep pace with incredible demand for online identity verification services, and of course outlast new and evolving competition in the space. We have strong conviction that Jumio has the right management team, innovative product roadmap and group of supporting investors to maintain leadership in the space.”


By Ingrid Lunden

SecurityScorecard snags $180M Series E to measure a company’s security risk

SecurityScorecard has been helping companies understand the security risk of its vendors since 2014 by providing each one with a letter grade based on a number of dimensions. Today, the company announced a $180 million Series E.

The round includes new investors Silver Lake Waterman, T. Rowe Price, Kayne Anderson Rudnick, and Fitch Venture along with existing investors Evolution Equity Partners, Accomplice, Riverwood Capital, Intel Capital, NGP Capital, AXA Venture Partners, GV (Google Ventures) and Boldstart Ventures. The company reports it has now raised $290 million.

Co-founder and CEO Aleksandr Yampolskiy says the company’s mission has not changed since it launched. “The idea that we started the company was a realization that when I was CISO and CTO I had no metrics at my disposal. I invested in all kinds of solutions where I was completely in the dark about how I’m doing compared to the industry and how my vendors and suppliers were doing compared to me,” Yampolskiy told me.

He and his co-founder COO Sam Kassoumeh likened this to a banker looking at a mortgage application and having no credit score to check. The company changed that by starting a system of scoring the security posture of different companies and giving them a letter grade of A-F just like at school.

Today, it has ratings on more than 2 million companies worldwide, giving companies a way to understand how secure their vendors are. Yampolskiy says that his company’s solution can rate a new company not in the data set in just five minutes. Every company can see its own scorecard for free along with advice on how to improve that score.

He notes that in fact, the disastrous SolarWinds hack was entirely predictable based on SecurityScorecard’s rating system. “SolarWinds’ score has been lagging below the industry average for quite a long time, so we weren’t really particularly surprised about them,” he said.

The industry average is around 85 or a solid B in the letter grade system, whereas SolarWinds was sitting at 70 or a C for quite some time, indicating its security posture was suspect, he reports.

While Yampolskiy didn’t want to discuss valuation or revenue or even growth numbers, he did say the company has 17,000 customers worldwide including 7 of the 10 top pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The company has reached a point where this could be the last private fundraise it does before going public, but Yampolskiy kept his cards close on timing, saying it could happen some time in the next couple of years.


By Ron Miller

Cyware nabs $30M to help organizations detect and stop advanced cyber attacks

Malicious hacking has become a pernicious and dogged fact of life for more organizations, and it’s a threat that has seemingly grown more complicated and sophisticated over time. One one effective approach to tackling that has been collaboration: not just applying an array of services to address the issue, but creating environments to help those building cybersecurity to work better together. Today one of the startups building tools to do just that is announcing a round of funding, underscoring the opportunity and its own growth within that.

Cyware, a New York startup that has created a platform for organizations to build and operate virtual “cyber fusion centers” —
spaces for people to share threat intelligence, run end-to-end security automation, and orchestrate and execute 360-degree threat responses — has picked up $30 million in funding, a Series B that it will use to continue growing its business.

The funding is being co-led by Advent International and Ten Eleven Ventures. Advent made some waves in the cybersecurity industry last year when it partnered with Crosspoint to acquire Forescout for $1.9 billion. Ten Eleven, meanwhile, is a VC that specializes in cybersecurity startups. Prelude Fund (the venture practice at Mercato Partners), Emerald Development Managers, Great Road Holdings and cloud security firm Zscaler — a mix of financial and strategic investors — also participated. Before this, the startup had raised around $13 million, and it is not disclosing its valuation.

The story of the last year in the world of business has been about how everything has gone online: people and their companies have been working remotely; consumers are browsing, buying and entertaining themselves over the internet and with apps. Digital is where all the traffic is.

Unsurprisingly that has also played out in the world of cybersecurity: the threat landscape has grown, and so cybersecurity responses have grown with them. Cyware said that in the last year it saw 120% year-over-year growth in annual recurring revenue — although it doesn’t disclose actual revenue figures. Its customers are a mix of large enterprises, but also those who both collaborate with others to manage cyber security, such as information sharing communities (ISACs), as well as organizations that manage cybersecurity on behalf of a number of others, such as managed security service providers and computer emergency response teams.

Although many might have a stereotype of a malicious hacker in their heads who sits alone in a darkened room with a determined look in his/her eye, the reality is more likely to be a collaboration between a number of people, providing tips, technology, threads that are developed and so on. Cyware, in its focus on providing a platform for collaboration and creating operations centers, seems to take the same approach in what it has built, a platform to make collaborating easier and part of the solution.

It does so through security orchestration, automation and response (known as SOAR), used by teams to collaborate better and make more informed threat scoring, and to respond better to threat alerts. Indeed, a key part of the challenge for a lot of security services is that they cross multiple parts of organizations, including IT, compliance, trust and safety, and indeed security itself. One aim of Cyware is to create a platform for these all to meet and exchange information that could be helpful to others in one place.

“Over the past decade, security operations teams have had difficulty with trying to sift through copious amounts of threat data and lacked the humans’ role as part of their security orchestration strategies,” said Anuj Goel, Ph.D., cofounder and CEO of Cyware, in a statement. “Our goal with our Virtual Cyber Fusion platform is to help our customers unite their security teams to efficiently respond to high-priority threats by connecting the dots in their environments, and the momentum we’re experiencing is proof that we are executing on that mission. This Series B financing will help us continue to overdeliver for customers, expand our team, improve our platform and truly revolutionize how security operations and threat intelligence teams work together.”

Goel, who cofounded the company with CTO Akshat Jain, cut his teeth in a big security team, as head of global cyber strategy for Citi. He is also an advisor for the Centre for Strategic Cyberspace in London and has worked with other organizations on collaborative approaches to the problem and consequences of malicious hacking.

Investors will have not just been looking at the company’s growth, but also the list of customers — themselves also leaders in cyber — that are trusting Cyware.

“In our increasingly connected environment, companies of all sizes are demanding new and innovative cybersecurity solutions,” said Eric Noeth, Principal, Advent International, in a statement. “Cyware’s early traction among leading enterprises and major ISACs reflects its unique ability to bring together all key security functions to seamlessly anticipate, contextualize and remediate threats. We look forward to drawing on our experience in this sector to help the talented Cyware team make its Virtual Cyber Fusion platform the gold standard technology for enterprises around the world.”


By Ingrid Lunden

McAfee sells enterprise biz to Symphony Technology Group for $4B

Security firm McAfee announced this morning that will be selling its enterprise business to a consortium led by the private equity firm Symphony Technology Group for $4 billion.

It should pair well with RSA, another enterprise-focused security company the private equity firm purchased last February for $2 billion.

McAfee President and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Leav says that his company has decided to direct the firm’s resources to the consumer side of the business. “This transaction will allow McAfee to singularly focus on our consumer business and to accelerate our strategy to be a leader in personal security for consumers,” he said in a statement.

The company has been some moves in the last year, returning to the public markets after a decade as a private company. In January, the company reportedly laid off a couple of hundred employees and shut down its software development center in Tel Aviv.

Although Symphony did not point directly to the RSA acquisition, the two investments create a large combined legacy security business for the firm, both of which have strong brand recognition, but might have lost some of their edge to more modern competitors in the marketplace.

Looking at McAfee’s latest earning’s report, Q42020, which the company reported on February 24, 2021, the consumer business grew at a much brisker rate than the enterprise side of the house. The former was up 23% YoY, while the latter grew at a far slower 5% rate.

As for the entire year, the company reported $2.9 billion in total FY2020 revenue, up 10% YoY. That broke down to $1.6 billion in consumer net revenue up 20% YoY, and $1.3 billion in enterprise net revenue, an increase of just 1% for the full year.

The company has a complex history, starting life in the 1980s selling firewall software. It eventually went public before being purchased by Intel for $7.7 billion in 2010 and going private again. In 2014, the company changed names to Intel Security before Intel sold a majority stake it to TPG in 2017 for $4.2 billion and changed the name back to McAfee.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year subject to regulatory oversight.


By Ron Miller

Xage introduces Zero Trust remote access cloud solution for hard-to-secure environments

When a hacker broke into the computer systems of the Oldsmar Florida water supply last month, it sent up red flags across the operational tech world, whether that’s utilities or oil and gas pipelines. Xage, a security startup that has been building a solution to help protect these hard-to-secure operations, announced a Zero Trust remote access cloud solution today that could help prevent these kinds of attacks.

Duncan Greatwood, CEO at Xage, says flat out that if his company’s software was in place in Oldsmar, that hack wouldn’t have happened. Smaller operations like the one in Oldsmar tend to be one-person IT shops running older remote access software that’s vulnerable to hacking on a number of levels.

“It’s not difficult to compromise a virtual network computing (VNC) connection. It’s not difficult to compromise a stale account that’s been left on a jump box. What we started to do last year was deliver what we call a Zero Trust remote access solution to these kinds of customers,” Greatwood told me.

This involves controlling access device by device and person by person by determining who can do what based on them authenticating themselves and proving who they are. “It doesn’t rely on knowledge of a device password or a VPN zone password,” he explained.

The solution goes further with a secure traversal tunnel, which relies on a tamper proof certificate to prevent hackers from getting from the operations side of the house — whether that’s a utility grid, water supply or oil and gas pipeline — to the IT side where they could then begin to muck about with the operational technology.

Xage also uses a distributed ledger as a core part of its solution to help protect identity policies, logs and other key information across the platform. “Having a distributed ledger means that rather than an attacker having to compromise just a single node, it would have to compromise a majority of the nodes simultaneously, and that’s very difficult [if not impossible] to do,” he said.

What’s more, the ledgers operate independently across locations in a hierarchy with a global ledger that acts as the ultimate rules enforcer. That means even if a location goes offline, the rules will be enforced by the main system whenever it reconnects.

They introduced an on premise version of the Zero Trust remote access system last October, but with this kind of technology difficult to configure and maintain, some customers were looking for a managed solution like the one being introduced today. With the cloud solution, customers get a hosted solution accessible via a web browser with much faster deployment.

“What we’ve done with the cloud solution is made it really simple for people to adopt us by hosting the management software and the core Xage fabric nodes in this Xage cloud, and we’re really dramatically reducing that time to value for a remote access solution for IT,” Greatwood said.

You might be thinking that CISOs might not trust a cloud solution for these sensitive kinds of environments, and he admits that there is some caution in this market, even though they understand the benefits of moving to the cloud. To help ease these concerns, they can do a PoC in the cloud and there is a transfer tool to move back on prem easily if they are not comfortable with the cloud approach. So far he says that no early customers have chosen to do that, but the option is there.

Xage was founded in 2017 and has raised $16 million so far, according to Crunchbase data.


By Ron Miller

Axonius nabs $100M at a $1.2B valuation for its asset management cybersecurity platform

Remote work has become the norm for many businesses in the last year, and today a startup that has built a cybersecurity platform to help manage all the devices connecting to organizations’ wide-ranging networks — while also providing a way for those organizations to take advantage of all the best that the quite fragmented security market has to offer — is announcing a major round of funding and a big boost to its valuation after seeing its annual recurring revenues grow ten-fold over 15 months.

Axonius, which lets organizations manage and track computing-based assets that are connecting to their networks — and then plug that data into some 300 different cybersecurity tools to analyse it — has closed a round of $100 million, a Series D that values the company at over $1 billion ($1.2 billion, to be exact).

“We like to call ourselves the Toyota Camry of cybersecurity,” Axonius co-founder and CEO Dean Sysman told me in an interview last year. “It’s nothing exotic in a world of cutting-edge AI and advanced tech. However it’s a fundamental thing that people are struggling with, and it is what everyone needs. Just like the Camry.” It will be using the funding to continue scaling the company, it said, amid surging demand, with ARR growing to $10 million last year.

This latest round — led by Stripes, with past investors Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), OpenView, Lightspeed, and Vertex also participating — represents a huge jump for the startup.

Not only is this the company’s biggest round to date, but last year’s $58 million Series C — which closed just as the Covid-19 pandemic was kicking off and remote working, to better enforce social distancing, was starting to take off with it — valued the company at just over $302 million, according to PitchBook data. Axonius has now raised around $195 million in funding.

Last week BVP announced a new pair of funds totaling $3.3 billion, with one dedicated to later stage growth rounds: this indicates that this money is already getting put to work. Amit Karp, the BVP partner who sits on Axonius’ board, describes the startup as one of the “fastest-growing companies in BVP history.”

When I last covered Axonius, one of the details that really struck me is that its platform is especially useful in today’s market, not just because of its focus on identifying devices on networks may well — and today genuinely do — extend outside of a traditional “office”, but also because of how it views the cybersecurity industry.

It’s a very fragmented market today, with hundreds of companies all providing useful tools and techniques to safeguard against one threat or another. Axonius essentially accepts that fragmentation and works within it, and it has its job cut out for it. Last year when I covered the company’s funding, it integrated with and ran network assets through 100 different cybersecurity tools; now that number is 300.

The crux of what Axonius provides starts with a very basic but critical issue, which is being able to identify how many devices are actually on a network, where they are, and what they do there. The idea for the company came when Dean Sysman, the CEO who co-founded Axonius with Ofri Shur and Avidor Bartov, was previously working at another firm, the Integrity Project (now a part of Mellanox).

“Every CIO I met I would ask, do you know how many devices you have on your network? And the answer was either ‘I don’t know,’ or big range, which is just another way of saying, ‘I don’t know,’” Sysman told me last year. “It’s not because they’re not doing their jobs but because it’s just a tough problem.”

He said part of the reason is because IP addresses are not precise enough, and de-duplicating and correlating numbers is a gargantuan task, especially in the current climate of people using not just a multitude of work-provided devices, but a number of their own.

Axonius’s algorithms — “a deterministic algorithm that knows and builds a unique set of identifiers that can be based on anything, including timestamp, or cloud information. We try to use every piece of data we can,” said Sysman — are built to bypass some of this.

The resulting information then can used across a number of other pieces of security software to search for inconsistencies in use (bringing in the behavioural aspect of cybersecurity) or other indicators of malicious activity.

The fact of that platform play — and how it can grow with both the range of devices that are added, as well as technology built to counteract increasingly sophisticated threats — is what attracted investors. 

“It’s always exciting to invest in fast-growing, innovative, category-creating companies, but what Axonius has accomplished in such a short time is remarkable,” said Stripes founding partner Ken Fox in a statement. “With its commitment to solving a fundamental challenge with a simple, powerful platform that collects and correlates data from hundreds of products its customers already use, Axonius has built one of the most beloved products in security. We look forward to partnering with the Axonius team as they continue to invest in technical innovation and grow to meet global demand in 2021 and beyond.” Fox will join the Axonius board of directors with this round.


By Ingrid Lunden

SailPoint is buying Saas management startup Intello

SailPoint, an identity management company that went public in 2017, announced it was going to be acquiring Intello today, an early stage SaaS management startup. The two companies did not share the purchase price.

SailPoint believes that by helping its customers locate all of the SaaS tools being used inside a company, it can help IT make the company safer. Part of the problem is that it’s so easy for employees to deploy SaaS tools without IT’s knowledge, and Intello gives them more visibility and control.

In fact, the term ‘shadow IT’ developed over the last decade to describe this ability to deploy software outside of the purview of IT pros. With a tool like Intello, they can now find all of the SaaS tools and point the employees to sanctioned ones, while shutting down services the security pros might not want folks using.

Grady Summers, EVP of product at SailPoint says that this problem has become even more pronounced during the pandemic as many companies have gone remote, making it even more challenging for IT to understand what SaaS tools employees might be using.

“This has led to a sharp rise in ungoverned SaaS sprawl and unprotected data that is being stored and shared within these apps. With little to no visibility into what shadow access exists within their organization, IT teams are further challenged to protect from the cyber risks that have increased over the past year,” Summers explained in a statement. He believes that with Intello in the fold, it will help root out that unsanctioned usage and make companies safer, while also helping them understand their SaaS spend better.

Intello has always seen itself as a way to increase security and compliance and has partnered in the past with other identity management tools like Okta and Onelogin. The company was founded in 2017 and raised $5.8 million according to Crunchbase data. That included a $2.5 million extended seed in May 2019.

Yesterday, another SaaS management tool, Torii, announced a $10 million Series A. Other players in the SaaS management space include BetterCloud and Blissfully, among others.


By Ron Miller

Logging startups are suddenly hot as CrowdStrike nabs Humio for $400M

A couple of weeks ago SentinelOne announced it was acquiring high-speed logging platform Scalyr for $155 million. Just this morning CrowdStrike struck next, announcing it was buying unlimited logging tool Humio for $400 million.

In Humio, CrowdStrike gets a company that will provide it with the ability to collect unlimited logging information. Most companies have to pick and choose what to log and how long to keep it, but with Humio, they don’t have to make these choices with customers processing multiple terabytes of data every single day.

Humio CEO Geeta Schmidt writing in a company blog post announcing the deal described her company in similar terms to Scalyr, a data lake for log information:

“Humio had become the data lake for these enterprises enabling searches for longer periods of time and from more data sources allowing them to understand their entire environment, prepare for the unknown, proactively prevent issues, recover quickly from incidents, and get to the root cause,” she wrote.

That means with Humio in the fold, CrowdStrike can use this massive amount of data to help deal with threats and attacks in real time as they are happening, rather than reacting to them and trying to figure out what happened later, a point by the way that SentinelOne also made when it purchased Scalyr.

“The combination of real-time analytics and smart filtering built into CrowdStrike’s proprietary Threat Graph and Humio’s blazing-fast log management and index-free data ingestion dramatically accelerates our [eXtended Detection and Response (XDR)] capabilities beyond anything the market has seen to date,” CrowdStrike CEO and co-founder George Kurtz said in a statement.

While two acquisitions don’t necessarily make a trend, it’s clear that security platform players are suddenly seeing the value of being able to process the large amounts of information found in logs, and they are willing to put up some cash to get that capability. It will be interesting to see if any other security companies react with a similar move in the coming months.

Humio was founded in 2016 and raised just over $31 million, according to Pitchbook Data. Its most recent funding round came in March 2020, a $20 million Series B led by Dell Technologies Capital. It would appear to be a decent exit for the startup.

CrowdStrike was founded in 2011 and raised over $480 million along the way before going public in 2019. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, and is subject to typical regulatory oversight.


By Ron Miller

Base Operations raises $2.2 million to modernize physical enterprise security

Typically when we talk about tech and security, the mind naturally jumps to cybersecurity. But equally important, especially for global companies with large, multinational organizations, is physical security – a key function at most medium-to-large enterprises, and yet one that to date, hasn’t really done much to take advantage of recent advances in technology. Enter Base Operations, a startup founded by risk management professional Cory Siskind in 2018. Base Operations just closed their $2.2 million seed funding round, and will use the money to capitalize on its recent launch of a street-level threat mapping platform for use in supporting enterprise security operations.

The funding, led by Good Growth Capital and including investors like Magma Partners, First In Capital, Gaingels and First Round Capital founder Howard Morgan, will be used primarily for hiring, as Base Operations looks to continue its team growth after doubling its employe base this past month. It’ll also be put to use extending and improving the company’s product, and growing the startup’s global footprint. I talked to Siskind about her company’s plans on the heels of this round, as well as the wider opportunity and how her company is serving the market in a novel way.

“What we do at Base Operations is help companies keep their people in operation secure with ‘Micro Intelligence,’ which is street-level threat assessments that facilitate a variety of routine security tasks in the travel security, real estate and supply chain security buckets,” Siskind explained. “Anything that the Chief Security Officer would be in charge of, but not cyber – so anything that intersects with the physical world.”

Siskind has first-hand experience about the complexity and challenges that enter into enterprise security, since she began her career working for global strategic risk consultancy firm Control Risks in Mexico City. Because of her time in the industry, she’s keenly aware of just how far physical and political security operations lag behind their cybersecurity counterparts. It’s an often-overlooked aspect of corporate risk management, particularly since in the past it’s been something that most employees at North American companies only ever encounter periodically, when their roles involve frequent travel. The events of the past couple of years have changed that, however.

“This was the last bastion of a company that hadn’t been optimized by a SaaS platform, basically, so there was some resistance and some allegiance to legacy players,” Siskind told me. “However, the events of 2020 sort of turned everything on its head, and companies realized that the security department ,and what happens in the physical world, is not just about compliance – it’s actually a strategic advantage to invest in those sort of services, because it helps you maintain business continuity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, and global political unrest all had significant impact on businesses worldwide in 2020, and Siskind says that this has proven a watershed moment in how enterprises consider physical security in their overall risk profile and strategic planning cycles.

“[Companies] have just realized that if you don’t invest and how to keep your operations running smoothly in the face of rising catastrophic events, you’re never going to achieve the the profits that you need, because it’s too choppy, and you have all sorts of problems,” she said.

Base Operations addresses this problem by taking available data from a range of sources and pulling it together to inform threat profiles. Their technology is all about making sense of the myriad stream of information we encounter daily – taking the wash of news that we sometimes associate with ‘doom-scrolling’ on social media, for instance, and combining it with other sources using machine learning to extrapolate actionable insights.

Those sources of information include “government statistics, social media, local news, data from partnerships, like NGOs and universities,” Siskind said. That data set powers their Micro Intelligence platform, and while the startup’s focus today is on helping enterprises keep people safe, while maintaining their operations, you can easily see how the same information could power everything from planning future geographical expansion, to tailoring product development to address specific markets.

Siskind saw there was a need for this kind of approach to an aspect of business that’s essential, but that has been relatively slow to adopt new technologies. From her vantage point two years ago, however, she couldn’t have anticipated just how urgent the need for better, more scalable enterprise security solutions would arise, and Base Operations now seems perfectly positioned to help with that need.


By Darrell Etherington

SentinelOne to acquire high-speed logging startup Scalyr for $155M

SentinelOne, a late-stage security startup that helps customers make sense of security data using AI and machine learning, announced today that it is acquiring Scalyr, the high-speed logging startup for $155 million in stock and cash.

SentinelOne sorts through oodles of data to help customers understand their security posture, and having a tool that enables engineers to iterate rapidly in the data, and get to the root of the problem is going to be extremely valuable for them, CEO and co-founder Tomer Weingarten explained. “We thought Scalyr would be just an amazing fit to our continued vision in how we secure data at scale for every enterprise [customer] out there,” he told me.

He said they spent a lot of time shopping for a company that could meet their unique scaling needs and when they came across Scalyr, they saw the potential pretty quickly with a company that has built a real-time data lake. “When we look at the scale of our technology, we obviously scoured the world to find the best data analytics technology out there. We [believe] we found something incredibly special when we found a platform that can ingest data, and make it accessible in real time,” Weingarten explained.

He believes the real time element is a game changer because it enables customers to prevent breaches, rather than just reacting to them. “If you’re thinking about mitigating attacks or reacting to attacks, if you can do that in real time and you can process data in real time, and find the anomalies in real time and then meet them, you’re turning into a system that can actually deflect the attacks and not just see them and react to them,” he explained.

The company sees Scalyr as a product they can integrate into the platform, but also one which will remain a stand-alone. That means existing customers should be able to continue using Scalyr as before, while benefiting from having a larger company contributing to its R&D.

While SentinelOne is not a public company, it is a pretty substantial private one, having raised over $695 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company’s most recent funding round came in February last year, a $200 million investment with a $1.1 billion valuation.

As for Scalyr it was launched in 2011 by Steve Newman, who first built a word processor called Writely and sold it to Google in 2006. It was actually the basis for what became Google Docs. Newman stuck around and started building the infrastructure to scale Google Docs, and he used that experience and knowledge to build Scalyr. The startup raised $27 million along the way, according to Crunchbase data including a $20 million Series A investment in 2017.

The deal will close this quarter, and when it does Scalyr’s 45 employees will be joining SentinalOne.


By Ron Miller