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Agari raises $40 million to grow its AI-powered email authentication platform

It has been a big week for cybersecurity investments, and the latest such startup to announce a notable tranche of funding is Agari, a California-based startup that uses predictive artificial intelligence (AI) to thwart email attacks.

Founded in 2009, Agari’s platform detects potential email compromises, 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, with participation from existing investors including 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 it 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.”

Cyber-investments

The funding comes in the same week 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 FortscaleJask, 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 of cybersecurity personnel in the coming years. After all, if you can’t get the staff, why not automate it?

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. Last year, there was thought to be around 3.7 billion email users globally, 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 rife, and email is an easy way for bad actors to infiltrate businesses —  it’s estimated that 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 cyber attacks that legacy technologies simply do not stop.”

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