Cybersecurity Company Agari Raises $22M For E-Mail Shield

Cybersecurity company Agari, which guards against hacker attacks initiated through fraudulent e-mails, announced today it has raised $22 million in a Series D fundraising round lead by Norwest Venture Partners.

Scale Venture Partners and other previous investors joined in the round, which brings San Mateo, CA-based Agari’s total fundraising to $44.7 million.

Agari CEO Patrick Peterson says the security industry needed new ways to combat e-mail cyberattacks when the company was founded in 2009. Hackers were constantly developing more sophisticated methods of tricking recipients of their malicious e-mails into sharing sensitive data or wiring their company’s money to the criminals’ accounts, he says. Even if security companies could track down some of the individual bad guys, Peterson says, that would be an endless game of whack-a-mole that wouldn’t staunch the ongoing tide of costly data breaches.

“The industry has been whacking moles for 20 years, and it’s gotten us nothing but alarming front page headlines and more chief information security officers losing their jobs,” Peterson (pictured above) says.

Agari’s technology is designed to thwart the hacker’s tactic of sending e-mails disguised to look like they come from trusted sources, such as large businesses with well-known brand names, or popular local stores. Agari monitors the stream of e-mail messages bearing its clients’ domain names, or similar “spoofed” variants that may have been created by criminals. It flags the messages sent by impersonators, allowing its clients to block those e-mails or alert their employees.

The Agari e-mail authentication system was created through a three-way collaboration that included e-mail service providers, such as Google and Yahoo, and large companies such as J.P Morgan Chase, Peterson says. Agari’s customers now include social media networks Facebook and LinkedIn as well as large banks and other companies ranging across e-commerce, healthcare, and business services.

With its new capital, Agari will expand its sales coverage in the U.S. and abroad, Peterson says. The company will also seek to integrate its service with more of the major cybersecurity companies. Agari is already integrated with Palo Alto Networks, Trend Micro, and Cisco, he says.

“Customers today are looking for integrated solutions,” Peterson says.

Large cybersecurity companies such as Cisco, Symantec, and Proofpoint make up Agari’s stiffest competition, Peterson says, rather than other startups that focus on securing e-mail traffic. But those large competitors haven’t solved the problem of e-mail vulnerability yet, he says.

Would Agari entertain acquisition offers from its big competitors? “At the current time, no,” Peterson says. He says he’s not interested in seeing Agari absorbed into a larger outfit and watching “our message diluted.”

“Our plan is to turn this company into something ginormous,” Peterson says.

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