Mobile security company Lookout is all about protecting user’s mobile devices against malicious threats, a business that today has 45 million customers. Today it’s raising its own profile a little bit more. The startup is announcing another $55 million in funding, led by strategic investor Deutsche Telekom, parent of T-Mobile. This will be used to help the company keep building out its service in Europe and other international markets, as well as towards the growth and launch of its enterprise services, specifically Lookout for Business, later this year.
Some of this could also involve acquisitions, CEO John Hering told me in an interview today. “We’ll absolutely consider acquisitions going forward. We have the capital to do so,” he said. These will be both on the level of technology acquisitions to enhance Lookout’s security services, and those to enter new markets, geographically and product-wise.
All of this is part of the company’s bigger ambition to become not just the Symantec of the mobile world, but the default security provider for all of your devices. “It’s become more than just a mobile application,” Hering said. “It’s a cloud platform.”
Other big names in the round included Qualcomm Ventures, Greylock Partners and Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management, as well as existing investors Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. It takes the total raised by the company to $131 million.
DT is not the first carrier to take the lead in a Lookout round. In December 2012, France Telecom invested “up to” $20 million in the company and inked a deal to preload Lookout’s software on its Android devices. At the time we noted that Deutsche Telekom, as well as Verizon, were already key partners of the startup.
Interestingly, at that time, Lookout was still touting its services as a non-enterprise offering, and Xavier Perret, VP of partnerships for Orange, calling it specifically a “consumer play.” Today, Hering told me that while it wasn’t a direction that Lookout had specifically intended to take, the company had been “pulled into the enterprise” anyway. He puts this down to the trend of consumerization, where employees have brought in their devices from home, which are already using the Lookout app, and now are using those devices in the workplace, for work communications.
The partnership that Lookout announced with Samsung in September, to partner with the OEM on its Knox enterprise platform, was a natural progression from that. “It’s the opportunity to leverage that consumer footprint to accelerate into the enterprise,” he said today.
Indeed, enterprise customers widen the opportunity for Lookout to gain more business. With more sensitive, and often commercial, requirements around data, they are probably one of the most natural customers for mobile security solutions, and one that would pay a premium for it.
It also opens the door to Lookout extending into other cloud offerings that bring in devices beyond mobile handsets and tablets — these two, with their reduced on-device storage space — are natural complements to cloud services, but of course the potential for this can extend to other end points like laptops and whatever other hardware a business or consumer might use.
Lookout’s security platform is based around a “mobile threat dataset,” that it uses to weed out potentially harmful viruses, worms and so on, which has proven to be a problem particularly on Android devices. It’s also based on a collective, big data approach that improves as more people sign up. “As more people and devices connect to the network, Lookout’s platform becomes more intelligent, providing a safer experience for everyone,” the company notes. Or, as Hering put it to me today, “Our model and vision is leveraging big data to solve the security problem. The majority of that is in the cloud today, with the power of our user base contributing significantly to our threat intelligence. We think of ourselves as a big data company as much as anything.”
As with Telefonica’s news earlier today to offer a Pinterest widget on Android handsets, this is also a story about a carrier looking for an edge over competitors by offering a special service. Germany has been a particularly strong guardian of consumer rights on the internet and this goes also in the realm of mobile services.
“With the huge uptake of smartphone penetration, the ‘security for mobile devices’ topic has become much more important. It’s critical that we offer services that our customers trust,” said Heikki Mäkijärvi, SVP global strategic partnerships Deutsche Telekom, in a statement. “Lookout’s experience in developing leading-edge security applications for this new dynamic environment makes them the ideal partner for us in this category of device solutions. By partnering with Lookout, we’re investing in the future of mobile to make sure it’s a delightful, secure experience for everyone.”
This is also behind the interests of other investors. “We like to sponsor technologies that can reset established markets,” said Peter Thiel, Mithril’s investment committee chairman, in a statement. “Ajay Royan and I see Lookout connecting three platforms crucial to the future of computing: mobile, big data, and security. We were really impressed by Lookout’s leadership as well as their mobile security expertise and their data-driven approach to security positions.”
We’re hopefully speaking with the company in a bit and will update as we learn more.
Post updated with comments from an interview after publication.