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McAfee and Symantec have had their day. Now a startup called Sentinel Labs wants a shot at the antivirus market.

Sentinel started last year, picked up some seed funding, and quietly released software to protect individual devices against advanced threats.

Then, customers told Sentinel what they wanted next was new antivirus software for all their devices, co-founder and chief executive Tomer Weingarten said in an interview with VentureBeat.

“We know the market is ripe for disruption, so we went with that vision back to our existing investors,” Weingarten said.

“We told them basically that we had already built the hardest parts here, which is an antivirus engine. Now we just need to build on that and built that entire offering for antivirus.”

The investors must have liked the pitch, because now Sentinel has completed a new $12 million funding round.

The funding hints at the value of bolstering security on the devices that lots of employees use — smartphones, tablets, desktops — rather than the networking devices that a few data center administrators might have access to. Funding for companies like Lookout Mobile and CrowdStrike, as well as FireEye’s Mandiant acquisition, also hint at the sensibility of keeping watch on individual client devices.

Even if Sentinel strives to keep all devices covered, it doesn’t want to slow down the performance of those devices. Its technology aims to use less than 1 percent of CPU and memory resources on a given device. Sentinel supports Mac OS X and Android, and it expects to announce support for iOS and Linux soon, Weingarten said.

But each operating system takes time because each one faces different attack vectors. Apple mobile devices could face man-in-the-middle attacks and malicious profile attacks, while Windows machines might deal with malware or Trojan horse attacks.

Sentinel can cover such threats, but Weingarten said, “For us that’s a very small portion of the entire picture.” Devices on many operating systems can remain protected even when they’re offline and unconnected to a network, he said. And the system is constantly tracking new patterns and making predictions based on threat intelligence it collects from devices it’s charged with protecting.

The company works with about 15 customers today in different stages of the sales process, Weingarten said.

Tiger Global led today’s round in Sentinel, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif. Accel Partners, Data Collective, Granite Hill Capital Partners, and the Westly Group also participated. To date Sentinel has raised $14.5 million.


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