Duo Security Snags $2.5M Grant, Will Hire Up to 300

Ann Arbor, MI-based startup Duo Security announced that it has received a $2.5 million grant from the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund and, as a condition of the grant, plans to hire up to 300 new employees over the coming months. Economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK has pledged to assist Duo in its employee recruitment efforts.

The announcement comes after a year of solid gains for Duo. In April 2015, the company closed a $30 million Series C round led by Redpoint Ventures, for a total of more than $50 million raised since Duo’s inception in 2009. In addition to its Ann Arbor headquarters—Duo recently signed the lease on a second Ann Arbor office in the Allmendinger Building—Duo now has operations in London, Silicon Valley, and its newest location in Austin, TX, which CEO Dug Song said opened about a month ago.

Duo develops software tools to protect some of the world’s biggest companies, which it counts as customers, from hackers. Its flagship product is cloud-based, two-factor authentication technology that, once installed and activated on a smartphone, provides secondary verification of the user with the tap of a button.

Duo’s system is designed to protect against identity theft attacks by sending a private key to the user’s mobile device to authenticate the user’s credentials, while the public key verifies the signature on the server side. So, even if Duo’s database is compromised, an identity thief wouldn’t be able to bypass two-factor authentication and gain access to sensitive information.

Two-step authentication is a way to add an additional layer of security to online communications by confirming that you are who you say you are, since passwords can be easy to guess and many people re-use them for multiple sites. As large corporations continue to experience ever-worsening data breaches, Duo’s product offerings have never been more important.

Song said he’s been to Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia, and other places around the world to recruit tech and business development talent, but he’s eager to improve Duo’s recruitment efforts at home, as well. In March, Duo partnered with the Global Talent Retention Initiative to hold an international talent fair, and Song said his company will use part of the grant money to host additional community events.

“Hiring 300 people is a big challenge,” he said, adding that Duo recently invited Digerati Girls and Girl Develop It to its offices in an attempt to expose young women to tech careers. “We have to start building our workforce even though those students won’t be ready for a job at Duo anytime soon. We also have internal training programs so we can fill our pipeline with people who want to grow with us.”

That’s part of Duo’s culture, Song said. “Our culture is about learning, and that’s what drives our growth,” he explained. “We spend a lot of time on development.”

Song said while Duo was in early startup mode a few years ago, this dedication to constant improvement fostered a somewhat introverted culture. In the coming year, he said the company is going to focus on being “a lot more outbound” by hosting and attending community events.

“We’re planting the flag for ourselves and Michigan, and making sure we’re helping to contribute to growing talent here—what can we do to show up and amplify the work being done?” he said.

Song is also committed to increasing diversity both inside his company and in the region at large, and he said he’s considering installing a group of Duo employees at one of Detroit’s co-working spaces.

“It’s not just about the folks who hold the wallets—we need to intentionally build a more diverse business community and network of founders,” he said.

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