Ina Fried

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Lookout: Mobile Security Picks Up Funding Steam

Lookout Mobile Security, a firm that specializes in buttoning up wireless devices, is announcing that it has scooped up another $19.5 million, marking the second time this year it has taken on additional capital.

The new funding comes from previous backers Accel Partners and Khosla Ventures, with Index Ventures being added to the mix this time around. Index partner Mike Volpi, a former Cisco executive, will join Lookout’s board.

Lookout raised $11 million in Series B funding back in May.

The company was launched in 2007, with its founders taking 18 months to develop a new core technology focused on mobile devices. While some of the big-name security firms are in the mobile arena, their approaches are brought over from desktop and PDA security efforts, CEO and co-founder John Hering told Mobilized.

“I think there’s a very reasonable opportunity to create the next Symantec but built around the mobile platform,” Hering said, noting that over the next three to seven years mobile devices will become the primary computing device for millions of people.

Although threats to mobile devices are still comparatively rare, their highly mobile and always connected nature makes them an increasingly attractive target for those seeking to do harm. A year ago, Hering said that most attacks were proof-of-concept or attacks for notoriety. This year, though, has seen the rise of financially motivated malware, including an attack on Android where an app posing as a movie player sent premium SMS messages costing infected users $5 a pop. A separate attack in China infected more than one million phones, Hering said.

Lookout aims to stop those kinds of attacks and also allow capabilities like device tracking and remote wipe capabilities. Its software currently works on Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile (but not the new Windows Phone 7) operating systems. Hering said the company plans to expand to other popular operating systems and said some of the new funding will be used to expand to new platforms.

Ping Li, a partner at Accel and a board member at Lookout said the company’s approach of splitting work between the device and the cloud to more efficiently work on a mobile device is part of what attracted him to the company. He also pointed out that Hering and his co-founders are in their twenties and just have a different awareness of the devices than their older competitors.

“They grew up hacking mobile phones,” Li told Mobilized. “They never grew up hacking PCs.”

Part of growing as a security company is having the right product in place when a new threat emerges, Li said, pointing to Webroot, which came out of nowhere to become a significant business when spyware emerged as a major security issue.

The company has more than four million users of its software, although the vast majority are getting the software for free. The company recently launched a $3 per month premium service, but Hering won’t say how many customers it has.

Hering said Lookout’s model aims to follow that of desktop antivirus firm AVG, which has a popular and well-known free product but makes money by selling a premium service.

As for whether the company could make an attractive acquisition target for another security company looking to jump-start its mobile efforts, Hering was noncommittal.

“We’re just trying to keep up with the growth,” he said.

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