Startup Avinti Acts on Zero Day

The startup's Zero Day approach might give it an early exit strategy

April 7, 2005

4 Min Read
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Security startup Avinti Inc., one of a number of vendors promising to tackle "Zero Day" threats to users systems, has just clinched $7.2 million in Series B funding.

Zero Day is a term used to describe what happens when someone takes advantage of a security vulnerability on the same day the vulnerability becomes generally known.

Avinti appears to be taking a new approach to the Zero Day problem. Many existing Zero Day technologies monitor suspicious behavior on network devices to identify threats, but Avinti’s software isolates emails and checks for malicious content.

David Ferris, president of analyst firm Ferris Research, believes this is unique. “No one else now, I think, is taking that approach,” he says. “It’s a good approach because it will catch a lot of viruses.”

Avinti’s core offering is iSolation Server software, which is resold with security appliance vendor MailFrontier Inc.’s Gateway data center device. This sits in front of an email server and effectively quarantines incoming emails. Avinti’s software creates “virtual machines” on the appliance, opens the emails, and runs any attachments, which are then checked for threats such as spyware and Trojan horses.Avinti’s approach differs from that of fellow startup eEye Digital Security and big-hitter Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which offer products that monitor the initial effects of an attack. For example, Blink, a product from eEye, works by installing a software agent on devices such as laptops, PCs, and servers (see Is Zero Day a Cash Cow?).

Cisco’s offering in this space is its Security Agent product, which works by analyzing the behavior of servers and desktops. In a previous incarnation it was Okena’s StormWatch product. After acquiring the security vendor in 2003, Cisco relaunched it as CSA (see Cisco Completes Okena Buy and Is Zero Day a Cash Cow?).

Ferris believes the unique nature of Avinti’s technology could make it an acquisition target. “I would anticipate that they could get purchased by a larger player,” he says. This could include anyone from Trend Micro Inc. to Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) or even Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), he adds.

But, in the short term at least, Avinti’s biggest challenge is one of visibility. “They will have to get their name out and execute well technically,” says Ferris.

This is where the money comes in. The current round was led by Sequel Venture Partners, with existing investors vSpring Capital and Wilson Sonsoni Investments also participating. A second new investor, Staley Capital Advisors, also participated in the round.The Series B dwarfs the $775,000 Series A that Avinti received when it was founded back in 2002. CEO Terry Dickson tells NDCF that the new influx of cash will boost the company’s sales and marketing efforts. Specifically, this involves opening more sales offices throughout the U.S. and expanding into Europe during the summer and Asia later in the year.

Avinti currently has around 30 employees and four U.S. sales offices. Dickson was unwilling to provide specific figures on how much these will grow. However, he was more forthcoming on the company’s partnership plans. Avinti currently has 30 resellers and now expects to triple that number.

The vendor has already announced one OEM partnership, with MailFrontier, and Dickson says more are in the pipeline: “We have several others that we will announce in the next quarter."

Avinti was founded by former Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) exec Dickson and one-time Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) exec, Wally Marsden. Both founders also spent time at software vendor Vinca, which was eventually sold to Legato Software Systems Inc. for $94 million in 1999.

To date, Avinti has amassed around 100 customers. Although Dickson is unwilling to name names, he claims they include “a couple of large universities and several financial institutions.”Dickson says the company will be launching the next generation of its iSolation Server later this year, although he declines to say what the specific enhancements will be.

In the meantime, Dickson and his staff will be enjoying the mountains around their Lindon, Utah, headquarters, which is 20 minutes away from Sundance. “We’re all very avid snowboarders or skiers. When we’re not programming, we try and take advantage of the great outdoors.”

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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