Tech Transformers

Ashton Kutcher-backed cybersecurity start-up SentinelOne raises $70 million


SentinelOne, a cybersecurity company that detects suspicious behavior of devices in an organization, has raised $70 million from a number of high-profile investors including actor Ashton Kutcher's investment fund.

The Silicon Valley-headquartered start-up specializes in so-called "endpoint security" which refers to the many devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, that a company will have connected to its network. These endpoints, if hacked, offer attackers a way into an organization's network from which they could steal valuable information.

Redpoint Ventures led the round along with investment from Ashton Kutcher's fund Sound Ventures. Existing investors Third Point Ventures, Data Collective, Granite Hill Capital Partners, Westly Group, and SineWave Ventures also participated in the round, bringing the total investment in SentinelOne to more than $110 million to date, the company said.

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"The endpoint market is going through major disruption. There are loads of people looking to replace antivirus vendors with something new, better and more effective," Tomer Weingarten, CEO of SentinelOne, told CNBC by phone.

Expanding into Asia

SentinelOne is going after the markets where companies like Symantec, Trend Micro and McAfee have a strong hold. Older antivirus software works by having a blacklist of known viruses that it can block. But SentinelOne claims to be able to detect even unknown pieces of so-called "malware" – of malicious software – by using behavioral analysis of an endpoint. So if there is something untoward happening on that machine, then SentinelOne can block it.

Cybersecurity investments by venture capitalists has been strong over the last couple of years, although funding fell off dramatically in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to KPMG. Still, the capital invested has led to cybersecurity becoming a very competitive area. Companies like Digital Shadows, Darktrace, Deep Instinct, CrowdStrike, as well as established security vendors are challengers to SentinelOne.

Weingarten said that the latest funding round will be used to boost sales and marketing staff, particularly outside of the U.S. as it looks to expand internationally. Currently, the Europe accounts for about 20 percent to 25 percent of SentinelOne's total revenue while North America makes up most of the rest. Asia is roughly 5 percent, something Weingarten said he is expecting to "change rapidly".

"We are planning expanding into Singapore, Japan is being set up. We have identified go to market partners in these countries. We are trying to increase the work force on the ground," Weingarten told CNBC.

IPO ahead?

SentinelOne began selling their core product at the end of 2015. This year the company is targeting 400 percent revenue growth, thanks to the projected sales it has already secured with companies.

While the company is still young, and investing, Weingarten is thinking ahead to profitability as well as where the company can go. The CEO told CNBC that he hopes the company can be cash flow positive in two-and-a-half-to-three years, and an initial public offering (IPO) could be on the cards.

"We are growing at an outstanding pace. For us we would like to take this public, we would like to see ourselves two years from today preparing for an IPO. We have healthy dynamics, we have not grown in a way that's non scalable, we have kept our operation lean, and that's' the way we scale," Weingarten told CNBC.