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Former NSA? No prob. Security player Virtru hauls in $6 million

NSA SMS collection
Image Credit: Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

The former National Security Agency cryptographers at Washington DC-based Virtru raised $6 million to grow their security startup Tuesday.

Virtru, co-founded by former NSA cloud architecture specialist Will Ackerly and his brother John, raised the cash. As they have previously, Bessemer Venture Partners led the round. With this new $6 million infusion, Virtru has raised a total of $10.2 million since emerging from stealth in 2012.

The funding illustrates a rising demand for email security in the face of the Edward Snowden revelations and more than shows that venture capitalists like the space despite many of the new crop of security startups being helmed by former NSA alumni, many with deep knowledge of intercepting communications — and how to build systems to countermeasure them.

Lending credence to Virtru’s vision, VeriSign and Defense.net co-founder David Cowan joined the startup’s board in addition to Scott Petry, chief of security player Authentic8. Cowan is a security heavyweight and respected by many in the space.

“Having David Cowan on the team is a really big deal for us,” Will Ackerly told VentureBeat.

“We got our number-one draft pick.  David has an incredible reputation and track record particularly in the security space and a deep understanding of the issues we are tackling.”

Will and John Ackerly

Above: Will and John Ackerly

Image Credit: Courtesy Virtru

Virtru’s AES-256 encryption, a gold standard for U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon, focuses on the secure sending and transmission of email across all major email platforms, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Virtru encrypts the contents on your device then sends the transmission to the recipient but separates the encryption key from the message. The technology is patented.

The number of email users grows daily, as a Virtru spokesperson told VentureBeat via email in March.

“Despite the popularity of other messaging apps, email is still the most widely used form of electronic communications.  According to market research firm Radicati Group, people send 182 billion emails each day around the world. The number of active email accounts swelled to 3.9 billion last year from 3.3 billion in 2012. Newaccounts are expected to grow by 6 percent in each of the next four years.”

Cowan said he’s delighted to be a part of Virtru, as the startup uses the money to build out their business:

“Bessemer set out to find a simple, user-friendly solution, and so I was delighted to discover a brilliant team with the right vision, crypto skills, and unwavering commitment to privacy,” Cowan said.

For Virtru to be successful, Ackerly and company need to focus on keeping the very complex encyption underpinning their platform simple to use. And they’re doing it. I downloaded Virtru encryption for email and there was no friction. Simply write, click the wrap button, and send.

Virtru reps said it’s the only privacy tool that “empowers individuals or enterprises to encrypt attachments, revoke messages, restrict forwarding, and set expiration dates. These features can be activated even after the messages have already been sent to users of different email systems.”

Virtru employs 12 full-time employees and 13 contractors, many, if not all, with NSA backgrounds.

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