Pwnie Express Wrangles $8M, Names Board Member DeSisto CEO

[Updated 11/29/17, 4:56 pm. See below.] Pwnie Express, a Boston cybersecurity company that helps businesses detect rogue devices on their networks, has pulled in more venture capital and appointed a new CEO.

Pwnie (pronounced “pony”) announced Wednesday it received an $8 million investment and named board member Todd DeSisto as its chief executive. DeSisto takes over for Paul Paget, who will remain with the company as executive vice president focused on strategy, according to a press release.

The investment was led by previous Pwnie backers .406 Ventures, Ascent Venture Partners, and Fairhaven Capital. The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies also contributed. Pwnie says it has raised $28 million from investors to date.

Pwnie was started in 2010 by Dave Porcello, who originally developed a device to do penetration testing for his Vermont insurance company’s IT system. Pwnie’s products now include sensors and software that help businesses sniff out unauthorized or suspicious devices that are on or near a company’s network, track where the devices are located and what they’re doing, and send alerts if the system detects a threat.

When Pwnie closed a $12.9 million Series B funding round in May 2016, Paget told Xconomy his company had 40 employees and was serving 100 customers in finance, healthcare, government, hospitality, retail, and entertainment. (In an e-mail, a spokesman says Pwnie is “hiring and growing,” but he didn’t share specifics.) [This paragraph updated with spokesman’s comment.—Eds]

A bank branch, for example, might use Pwnie’s technology to detect someone trying to hack the Wi-Fi from the parking lot. Retailers could detect Bluetooth card skimmers near credit card machines. Many threats are more innocent, like office printers whose default settings make them an open network access point.

The explosion of connected devices and the increase in employees bringing their own devices to work are two trends that also create more openings for hackers to inflict damage upon businesses. That should, theoretically, mean plenty of demand for products like Pwnie’s, but it’s hard to tell how well the business is doing. Other companies working on connected device security include and Lexumo, another Boston-area startup that hired a new CEO earlier this year.

Pwnie’s C-suite has gone through some big changes over the past year, in addition to the CEO transition. Porcello transitioned from chief technology officer to an advisory role in July 2016, when the company brought in Artur Adib, a former software engineer at Twitter and Mozilla, as CTO. But Adib’s time at Pwnie was apparently short-lived—according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s now vice president of software engineering at Beta Air in Vermont. Pwnie’s website lists Edwin Marin as VP of engineering and product management.

Now, we’ll see what DeSisto—who joined Pwnie’s board last year—does with a larger leadership role at the company and an extra $8 million in the bank. He previously led connected device software maker Axeda, which was sold to PTC for $170 million in 2014. He also held leadership roles with Network Intelligence, New River, and Atlantic Cellular Company, and was a partner with Aloha Partners, a wireless spectrum holder acquired by AT&T.

Paget led Pwnie for about four years. Before that, he was CEO of Savant Protection and Core Security Technologies. Earlier in his career, he held marketing roles at IBM and Lotus.

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