Sep
26
2019
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Battlefield vets StrongSalt (formerly OverNest) announces $3M seed round

StrongSalt, then known as OverNest, appeared at the TechCrunch Disrupt NYC Battlefield in 2016, and announced a product for searching encrypted code, which remains unusual to this day. Today, the company announced a $3 million seed round led by Valley Capital Partners.

StrongSalt founder and CEO Ed Yu says encryption remains a difficult proposition, and that when you look at the majority of breaches, encryption wasn’t used. He said that his company wants to simplify adding encryption to applications, and came up with a new service to let developers add encryption in the form of an API. “We decided to come up with what we call an API platform. It’s like infrastructure that allows you to integrate our solution into any existing or any new applications,” he said.

The company’s original idea was to create a product to search encrypted code, but Yu says the tech has much more utility as an API that’s applicable across applications, and that’s why they decided to package it as a service. It’s not unlike Twilio for communications or Stripe for payments, except in this case you can build in searchable encryption.

The searchable part is actually a pretty big deal because, as Yu points out, when you encrypt data it is no longer searchable. “If you encrypt all your data, you cannot search within it, and if you cannot search within it, you cannot find the data you’re looking for, and obviously you can’t really use the data. So we actually solved that problem,” he said.

Developers can add searchable encryption as part of their applications. For customers already using a commercial product, the company’s API actually integrates with popular services, enabling customers to encrypt the data stored there, while keeping it searchable.

“We will offer a storage API on top of Box, AWS S3, Google Cloud, Azure — depending on what the customer has or wants. If the customer already has AWS S3 storage, for example, then when they use our API, and after encrypting the data, it will be stored in their AWS repository,” Yu explained.

For those companies that don’t have a storage service, the company is offering one. What’s more, they are using the blockchain to provide a mechanism for sharing, auditing and managing encrypted data. “We also use the blockchain for sharing data by recording the authorization by the sender, so the receiver can retrieve the information needed to reconstruct the keys in order to retrieve the data. This simplifies key management in the case of sharing and ensures auditability and revocability of the sharing by the sender,” Yu said.

If you’re wondering how the company has been surviving since 2016, while only getting its seed round today, it had a couple of small seed rounds prior to this, and a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, which replaced the need for substantial earlier funding.

“The DOD was looking for a solution to have secure communication between computers, and they needed to have a way to securely store data, and so we were providing a solution for them,” he said. In fact, this work was what led them to build the commercial API platform they are offering today.

The company, which was founded in 2015, currently has 12 employees spread across the globe.

Dec
04
2018
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Forethought scores $9M Series A in wake of Battlefield win

It’s been a whirlwind few months for Forethought, a startup with a new way of looking at enterprise search that relies on artificial intelligence. In September, the company took home the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield trophy in San Francisco, and today it announced a $9 million Series A investment.

It’s pretty easy to connect the dots between the two events. CEO and co-founder Deon Nicholas said they’ve seen a strong uptick in interest since the win. “Thanks to TechCrunch Disrupt, we have had a lot of things going on including a bunch of new customer interest, but the biggest news is that we’ve raised our $9 million Series A round,” he told TechCrunch.

The investment was led by NEA with K9 Ventures, Village Global and several angel investors also participating. The angel crew includes Front CEO Mathilde Collin, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev and Learnvest CEO Alexa von Tobel.

Forethought aims to change conventional enterprise search by shifting from the old keyword kind of approach to using artificial intelligence underpinnings to retrieve the correct information from a corpus of documents.

“We don’t work on keywords. You can ask questions without keywords and using synonyms to help understand what you actually mean, we can actually pull out the correct answer [from the content] and deliver it to you,” Nicholas told TechCrunch in September.

He points out that it’s still early days for the company. It had been in stealth for a year before launching at TechCrunch Disrupt in September. Since the event, the three co-founders have brought on six additional employees and they will be looking to hire more in the next year, especially around machine learning and product and UX design.

At launch, they could be embedded in Salesforce and Zendesk, but are looking to expand beyond that.

The company is concentrating on customer service for starters, but with the new money in hand, it intends to begin looking at other areas in the enterprise that could benefit from a smart information retrieval system. “We believe that this can expand beyond customer support to general information retrieval in the enterprise,” Nicholas said.

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