It has been a big week for cybersecurity investments, and the latest such startup to announce a notable tranche of funding is California-based Agari, which uses predictive artificial intelligence (AI) to thwart email attacks.
Founded in 2009, Agari’s platform detects potential email breaches, identifies malicious inbound messages, and establishes the authenticity of a sender before delivering an email to its intended recipient. The company claims a number of big-name clients, including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
Agari has announced a fresh $40 million in financing, led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. Participation from existing investors includes Norwest Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, Greylock Partners, First Round Capital, and Alloy Ventures. Prior to now, the company had raised $48 million, and with another chunk of cash in the bank Agari plans to expedite its growth in Europe and Asia.
“Safeguarding against sophisticated email deception attacks and account takeover has become a boardroom-level mandate, with business email compromise costing companies billions of dollars each year,” noted Agari CEO Ravi Khatod. “This investment led by Goldman Sachs will fund a new, critical growth phase for Agari, as we deepen our product, data science, and go-to-market investments to deliver success to every Agari customer and partner globally.”
The funding comes as cybersecurity rivals Cylance and CrowdStrike raised north of $300 million between them to help thwart online attacks through AI-powered automation. Other AI-infused cybersecurity platforms that have raised big bucks in recent times include Fortscale, Jask, and Darktrace. And a more direct rival to Agari in the email security realm would be Valimail, which raised a $25 million round of funding exactly a month ago.
So AI-cybersecurity platforms remain a hot area for investment in 2018, which can be partly explained by an anticipated shortage in cybersecurity personnel. After all, if you can’t get the staff, why not automate the jobs?
Though email has been dented to a degree by the likes of messaging apps in the consumer realm, it still remains a popular communications conduit overall. Estimates last year put the number of global email users at around 3.7 billion, which is expected to rise to around 4 billion by 2021, according to research firm Radicati. For further context, some 270 million emails were sent each day in 2017, a figure that is estimated to grow to 280 million this year. But phishing scams are proliferating, and email is an easy way for bad actors to infiltrate businesses — it’s estimated that such email scams cost U.S. businesses $500 million each year.
“The overwhelming majority of cyberattacks still originate via email, and are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” added Olga Kaplan, vice president at Goldman Sachs’ merchant banking division, who will also now join Agari’s board of directors. “Agari takes a fundamentally different approach by leveraging identity modeling and machine learning to prevent cyberattacks that legacy technologies simply do not stop.”