Reno tech startup aims to revolutionize data security – all from inside an 18-server garage
Tech startup’s software could change cybercrime dwell times from 197 days to 197 seconds
RENO, Nev. — There’s a long history of young entrepreneurs growing their tech startup out of a garage. Some have even exploded into game-changing tech titans. Think: Apple, Google and Amazon.
A small startup led by a group of seasoned tech experts are looking to change the game in data security — and they’re doing so out of a garage in Reno.
“We are truly a startup in a garage,” said Kerry Nemovicher, 74, co-founder and CEO of Crytica Security. “We’ve got 18 servers sitting in there that are development and test machines.”
Founded in fall 2018, Crytica Security was previously running out of an office space in Reno. But, when COVID-19 shut down the state in mid-March, the startup moved to Nemovicher’s garage, where 18 servers have been humming ever since.
Nemovicher, who has more than 40 years of experience in data security, founded the company in Reno with Steve Trollope, who has 30 years of experience in finance and computing.
“Right now, everybody is working from their homes, but we are still developing this product,” he said.
‘DWELL TIME’ EFFECT
Crytica Security’s product is seeking to tackle the growing spread of cybercrime attacks hitting companies, big and small.
After all, the greatest threat to companies worldwide is a cyber attack, the fastest growing crime in the U.S. Cybercrime damages — from the destruction of data to stolen money to lost productivity — are predicted to cost businesses more than $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.
The biggest challenge with cybercrime, Nemovicher said, is “dwell time” — the amount of time malware and viruses sit on a machine before they are detected.
“I call this the hidden tiger in the room,” he said. “It’s not even just the elephant (in the room). It’s the tiger; it’s nasty. The longer a virus dwells undetected on a server, the more time a cybercriminal has to sit quietly on a network, watching, learning, propagating more copies of the virus throughout the network, and waiting for the right moment to attack.”
Nemovicher said the average dwell time of a virus is more than 197 days, citing a study by Ponemon Institute. And if dwell time could be reduced to one day or less, cyber losses would be reduced close to 96%, according to the Aberdeen Group.
This, Nemovicher said, inspired the development of Crytica Security’s patent-pending detection software, which is designed to shrink dwell times from months to minutes.
“With Crytica, it’s not 197 days,” Nemovicher said. “We will detect almost any kind of attack in under 197 seconds. It’s a different way of detecting. We have built a detection engine that is going to change the way cybersecurity systems work.”
TURNING A CORNER
Investors are taking notice.
The startup completed their first round of funding in 2019, raising $210,000 from Incline Village-based Sierra Angels, nearly tripling their seed investment goal of $80,000.
The company used the funds to hire a team of software engineers and develop and test its minimum viable product (MVP), according to Nemovicher.
In 2019, Crytica Security also grew its management team, board of directors and advisory board, bringing on a wealth of experience. Case in point: Board Chair Lloyd Mahaffey worked under Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple from 1983-1990, running and growing the education division to $3 billion of annual revenues.
With a length history in the tech industry, Mahaffey, 65, recognized the benefits of solving the dwell time problem companies face every day.
“It’s kind of interesting that the industry accepted that it takes 197 days to spot something. They just accepted it,” Mahaffey said with a shrug in a video interview with the NNBW. “Now, we’re about to create whole new benchmark, that says, let’s find it fast and then we can figure out what it is. Our theme is: if you can’t detect, you can’t protect.”
He went on to add that Crytica’s collective experience enabled the company to crack the code on detecting viruses early and often.
“This is not a solution set that could be developed by a young team of 21-year-olds,” he explained. “You’ve got to understand the enterprise functions, and have lived with all of these different derivative elements unfolding to understand where the sweet spot is and then build the technology.”
Mahaffey said the company is in its “sand box phase” of beta testing with several strategic customers. All the while, Crytica Security is seeking a second round of seed financing between $500,000 and $1 million to get the company through the sandbox phase and launch its first product.
Mahaffey said the company’s goal is hit the market with its first product by the start of the fourth quarter or end of the year.
“We really designed this to be an incremental solution-set for everybody,” he said. “If we can help everybody detect fast, it’s a win for everybody. Whether you’re a CISCO or Kaspersky, we think that all of them would like to use this platform.”
Construction could begin next year and require about 500 to 600 workers, with a permanent workforce starting at 150 to 200 people with potential to expand.