Monday, February 13, 2006
Interview with Steve Berens, Privacy Networks
Our interview this morning is with Steve Berens, CEO of Privacy Networks (www.privacynetworks.com), a Fort Collins-based firm providing tools for the network security space. I spoke with Steve about the firm.
Techrockies: What does Privacy Networks do, and where do you fit into the security space?
Berens: Privacy Networks has a unique vision of the market. We looked at what was going on with email security and email hygiene, which is reducing the viruses and spam coming into people's mailboxes, and other threats and annoyances. We're combining that with what people call vaulting or content management of email, the indexing and archiving of what comes into a business for compliance or regulatory reasons. Basically, these were two different worlds until our architecture, and done with multiple point products. We can do this with one product. The customer only has one thing to manage, which is easier and less costly to manage. That's really how the concept of the company came about. Since then, there has been a lot of validation for that model, with lots of companies trying to acquire bits and pieces to create something like this.
Techrockies: What's different from Privacy Networks email management platform from existing hosted email filtering services, and email software?
Berens: We've built each of the subplatforms for our product. We didn't just try to bundle freeware that's available. Instead, we built an anti-spam engine and vaulting and tied it under our architecture—the Email Integrity Suite (EIS). We have a single management point to do all of this, and are eventually also going to release and encryption product that fits into the same suite. PrivacyLock, PrivacyPost, PrivacyLock, and PrivacyMobile are the four modules that make up our suite.
Techrockies: Do you provide your own anti-virus module?
Berens: We can use anyone's anti-virus module. It's a pretty mature space, and people are trusting of the applications that are using. We integrate with those anti-virus programs using APIs, which allows them to tie into the application. We use everything from ClamAV to a host of other antivirus applications.
Techrockies: How about your archiving application? Our PrivacyVault module does this. It indexes every word and allows you to search every email in the company. We've got a patent pending on that technology, which is a relatively simple approach to a complex problem.
Techrockies: How does your spam filtering module work?
Berens: We use three different models of spam filtering – we use a Bayesian heuristic, which we then use in combination with and objectional word list and a blacklist. We put it all together to be much more powerful. All of our applications require a plugin to email clients, because we are sitting above the email server.
Techrockies: I see that you raised a round of funding in October. How did you find Aweida, and what was their interest in Privacy Networks?
Berens: Aweida Ventures has been investing more and more in software companies. The foundation of their investments used to be storage products. The interest in Privacy Networks came out of the fact that the market itself is growing at astronomical rates. Companies are spending more and more, and there is an dependence on email by business. IDC states 70% of business is conducted over email. What that means is that companies want email to be more secure and less threatening. It's a fast growing market. Privacy Networks not only has the technology architecture but customer support, from people like HP, who is repackaging our product with their appliances. We also sell through managed server providers, and also sell software directly. We have multiple ways to deliver the opportunity.
Techrockies: It sounds like you do have OEM customers?
Berens: Yes, we have an OEM relationship and we are pursuing others.
Techrockies: You're fairly new to the firm – why did you decide to join Privacy Networks, and what did you see in the company?
Berens: I joined in beginning of November, and I joined because I saw this as a unique opportunity. It's a combination of a simple architecture that solves lots of problems for customers. I saw that the product would appeal to end user customers and that we have the ability to execute. We have a channel to get there, and have a platform for the future. I saw that the team brought an excellent, diverse background to the table, that gives us the ability to really empathize with customers and understand their problems, since many of our code developers have been on the IT side. I was very intrigued by the product, market, but most of all on the ability of the team to execute.
Techrockies: How big is Privacy Networks now?
Berens: We're 20 people, growing slowly. Getting the right kind of people is key for us. A little more than half are developers, the rest are in sales and overhead.