Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Security Start-Up Bromium Debuts With $9.2 Million in Funding

In March, when it added Peter Levine (pictured), the former CEO of Xensource, as a partner, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz let it be known that it was starting to look for opportunities in the security business. Levine casually mentioned that AH had invested in a stealth-mode company called Bromium.

It is in stealth mode no more. The company today took the wraps off at least some of its plans and revealed the closing of a $9.2 million Series A funding round that also includes investments from Ignition Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Levine is joining Bromium’s board.

Its founders are Gaurav Banga, the former CTO of Phoenix Technologies; Simon Crosby, the former CTO of the Data Center and Cloud Division of Citrix; and Ian Pratt, the current chairman of and another Citrix veteran. Both Pratt and Crosby joined Citrix after it acquired the open source virtualization company Xensource in 2007.

Bromium is turning out to be a bit of a reunion of former Xensource execs: Frank Artale, a managing director at Ignition who was also a Xensource exec, is joining Bromium’s board as well.

So what does Bromium plan to do? It won’t say, but I got a few hints from Simon Crosby, Bromium’s CTO. “The timing of this is perfect to what is going on right now with all the attacks that have been going on recently,” he said.

The attacks against EMC’s RSA security products, and also on Google’s Gmail, he says, were carried out via the client — that is, end user devices like a PC, a smartphone or a tablet. “Bromium believes that getting to a secure era in cloud computing requires securing both the client and the cloud.”

And how to get there? Again, he wouldn’t say exactly, but he did point the way: Virtualization. The technique of creating numerous “virtual” computers that run concurrently on a single physical host computer has been a fundamental development in the evolution of cloud computing. “Everyone I think knows that virtualization can help with security, but no one has really delivered an elegant solution that enhances security through the use of virtualization,” Crosby told me. “This is where I think we can strike a blow for the good guys.”

For another hint, look at Intel’s recently closed acquisition of security software concern McAfee. “Intel gets that security needs to move closer to the hardware, and we would agree with that,” Crosby said. McAfee’s CTO, George Kurtz, is on Bromium’s board.

Bromium marks the second security start-up that Andreesen Horowitz has invested in recently. The other was Silver Tail Systems. And it probably won’t be the last. As AH founder Marc Andreesen said in his appearance with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at D9, he loves security. Why? “The threats keep morphing.” Indeed they do.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work