Ionic Security nabs $9.4M and narrows its cloud security focus on the enterprise

By Richard Nieva , written on April 19, 2013

From The News Desk

Enterprise is in. You've heard us say that before. And right now it’s so sexy that Ionic Security, which previously served both consumers and businesses, is going all enterprise.

The Atlanta-based cloud security company, formerly known as Social Fortress, is rebranding with the very corporate sounding new name. The company also announced a $9.4 million investment led by Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, and included participation by TechOperators and security veterans Ken Levine and Paul Judge. Ted Schlein of KPCB and Tom Noonan of TechOperators will join the company’s board.

The service focuses on cloud and mobile security, a hot sector since enterprise employees have been stricken with the "bring your own device" (BYOD) bug. The idea is: people like social enterprise software such as Jive, Yammer and Chatter (sometimes), and they like to use them on their mobile devices. But exchanging data on those apps is inherently risky, if only because they are run by third parties, and users really have no control over data. For example, a data center could get hacked, or someone could intercept important information as it’s traveling from the cloud and back. Ionic makes sure the company’s data stays in the control of the company itself.

One thing it does is encrypt things like Yammer messages. For example, if you typed in: “Here’s the shipment number and my credit card info.” The folks at Yammer see something like this: “THoeklOPE98873jOHEehboEJUjhn” (Although not quite. It’s actually AES 256, or advanced encryption standard, and I just mashed around on my keyboard.) It also lets companies monitor device usage secure sign on processes.

Schlein of Kleiner says the biggest difference between Ionic and other products is that it’s comprehensive. He mentions three areas that make enterprises nervous about the cloud: data at rest (when it’s in the cloud), data in transit (when it’s going to whoever’s accessing it) and authentication (allowing the right people to access it). “Almost all of the rest of the market focuses on just one of those problems,” CTO Adam Ghetti says.

It’s not hard to understand why the company would want to focus on the enterprise. Consumer markets are fickle, and large companies have large built-in user bases. Many consumer companies try to go enterprise and struggle – Dropbox is trying the experiment now -- but because Ionic has already been straddling the line, just focusing on one market could be a smart move. Ghetti would not disclose customers, but said his biggest customer was defense-oriented.

Still, it’s no easy task to serve the enterprise. And convincing a company that your product cuts through the noise is always tough. CipherCloud is a formidable competitor, but Schlein argues that Ionic is more robust, while just focuses on giving access to data in the cloud. The company currently has 15 employees, and Ghetti hopes it will have 50 by the end of the year. Indeed, some of the new funding will be used to expand the sales and marketing team for an earnest push into the enterprise market.

[Image courtesy: FutUndBeidl]