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Friday, August 12, 2016

Startup Spotlight: NewSky Security looks to disrupt hackers before nefarious plots are hatched

Scott Wu of NewSky Security
Scott Wu of NewSky Security

Hardly a day goes by without a high-profile security breach or nasty computer hack.

Scott Wu and Song Li — the co-founders of Redmond-based NewSky Security — want to stop those hackers in their tracks.

The longtime security professionals — Wu held engineering and research roles for Symantec, Microsoft and McAfee while “whitehat hacker” Li worked for Intel, eBay and Expedia — met as neighbors in Sammamish where they started kicking around the idea of better securing mobile apps and Internet of Things devices.

“We started sharing ideas about cybersecurity and internet hacking, and shared the same vision on mobile and IoT future,” said Wu, who in 2014 presented a research paper on mobile security risks at a conference in Australia.

Founded just a year ago, NewSky has already attracted attention — in part because of the track records of the founders. The company’s first product — a software-as-a-service offering known as AppRisk Scanner — has been deployed by PeoplePower, China Telecom and Baidu, not to mention strategic pilot customers such as Facebook and Inrix. For example, ComTechTel uses AppRisk to ensure that navigation apps meet security and privacy requirements.

It also has attracted about $600,000 in angel investment, with another capital raise underway. Competitors in the mobile security arena, include IBM, HP, which both have mobile app risk detection technology. Silicon Valley’s Bluebox also focuses on device protection, but Wu says the IoT security space is “wide open.”

“Our mission on IoT is a generic security containment to cut out man-in-the-middle attacks, and to provide customers threat intelligence of the adversary to their assets,” he said.

Based on early success of the AppRisk product, the 6-person company is now expanding its security offerings to attack the burgeoning Internet of Things arena, a market that Wu pegs at 28 billion devices and worth an estimated $1.9 trillion.

We caught up with the 45-year-old Wu for our latest installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Attackers are everywhere, anywhere and anytime in the age of mobile and Internet of Things. We disrupt the hackers’ business model before the attacks are plotted. This is the proactive risk management to solve the enterprise security nightmare.”

Inspiration hit us when: “When we report a vulnerability to an IoT vendor or an app developer, and they treat it as high priority to address the issue, that’s what inspire(s) us.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are blessed by angels who bet on our visions in battling the new threat landscape of mobility and Internet of Things. This accelerated us to ship our V1 AppRisk product in three months, signing a significant contract with top tier carrier to empower the security development lifecycle (SDLC) of their hundreds of thousand of developers. It has enabled us to accept the challenges from IoT vendors to spearhead IoT Risk solution for smart home, smart office, smart utility, and many other verticals.”

NewSky-Logo_2_largeOur ‘secret sauce’ is: “Think like hackers to understand adversary. Crawl to build minimal viable product for our pilot customers. Set our vision to secure internet of everything.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Being around the great thinkers. For example former F5 CEO, former Cisco SVP Manny Rivelo has continued to mentor us to run (our) startup as business instead of hobby.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Distanced ourselves with developer community. Security risks can and should be prevented by developers to reduce the burden of (chief information security officers) and IT professionals.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Yes;) Gates initiated trustworthy computing (TwC) and kudos to him to raise security awareness in the internet age. We challenge a TwC 2.0 from Zuckerberg and Bezos.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Lake Sammamish boating, Tiger Mountain hiking — clearing our mind to try next (proof of concept).”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Passion to break things and think as hackers.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Connect and brainstorm with peers in startup incubation.”

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