Shujinko — yes, like the Mortal Kombat character — is emerging from stealth today after raising $2.8 million in seed funding from Unusual Ventures, Defy, Vulcan Capital, PSL Ventures and Vas Ventures.
The Seattle-based cloud security compliance platform is rolling out of startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, which itself recently raised $15 million to expand its incubation program.
Founded by a former director and a manager of Starbucks’ cloud engineering team, Scott Schwan and Matt Wells, Shujinko automates the auditing process for cloud-based IT businesses with at least 50 million users.
Here’s how Schwan explained it to me: “When you pay taxes through an accountant, basically you end up collecting all these receipts, you have all this evidence that you collected over time and you end up having to talk through it with an auditor to prove you don’t have any issues. That is a painful process … In IT, they are doing those on a regular basis, sometimes multiple times a year they are going through the equivalent of an IT audit.”
“When companies go through an IT audit they generally spend months manually gathering evidence, like screenshots of a firewall configuration or an [operating system] configuration,” Wells added. “That takes months of manual effort and what we are trying to do is alleviate that pain by automating that process.”
Schwan and Wells have a long professional history. They met in 2008 at Tommy Bahama, where Schwan was a security and PCI program manager and Wells was an application system administrator. A few years later, Schwan joined Cardfree, a software platform for merchants. Not long after, he encouraged Wells to follow him.
“What I saw in [Wells] was someone who had this real drive to continue to learn,” Schwan said. “It’s something I felt I had as well.”
Wells ultimately agreed to join Cardfree, and when Schwan left the startup in 2015 to join Starbucks’ cloud engineering team, Wells, once again, followed suit.
For both of them, the experience of working at such a massive enterprise was transformative.
“What we saw there were the trends in the industry and how other competitors in the space were struggling with their cloud migration and specifically with the compliance needs in the cloud,” Wells said.
Wells and Schwan left Starbucks in January, joining Pioneer Square Labs as entrepreneurs-in-residence to work on what would become Shujinko.
As for the name, Shujinko — aside from its Mortal Kombat affiliation — is Japanese for hero or protagonist.
“Matt and I have worked in infrastructure and security for a long time and we are never that main character,” Schwan said. “You can’t really see what we do, but it’s really important … With Shujinko, we’re really looking to step out and become that main character in our story.”