Anti-bot startup Kasada raises $7M in Series A from CIA’s venture fund In-Q-Tel

Kasada, an anti-bot startup we profiled earlier this year, has raised $7 million in its Series A with In-Q-Tel, the non-profit venture arm of the intelligence community, as the startup’s latest investor.

The Sydney and Chicago-based company helps to fight online bots using its proprietary anti-bot platform Polyform.

Bots don’t just pummel websites with junk traffic to try to knock them offline, they’re used to automate fraudulent purchases and scraping content from sites like airlines and entertainers to try to undercut prices. Bots cost businesses in unnecessary web server and bandwidth costs each year.

The company’s anti-bot platform puts an unsolvable cryptographic challenge on the outer edges of a customer’s website. The platform uses fingerprinting technology to determine if a visitor is a human. If the platform detects a bot, it tricks the bot into trying to solve the impossible math puzzle, churning up server and memory resources on the server from which the bot operates and costing the bot operator in excessive cloud resources.

Kasada’s chief executive and co-founder Sam Crowther said the venture firm’s backing was a “strong validation” of its technology and its team.

The company, which launched in 2015, said it has doubled its engineering and customer-facing teams in the past year, and appointed Pascal Podvin, a former field operations executive, to help ramp up its revenue operations.

In-Q-Tel’s Peter Tague said he was “impressed” by Kasada’s technology. It also marks In-Q-Tel’s first investment in Australia after the venture firm opened an office in Sydney late last year. To date, In-Q-Tel has invested in enterprise data cloud platform Cloudera, cybersecurity giant FireEye, open-source database maker MongoDB, and surveillance software firm Palantir.

The $7 million round will help Kasada grow and expand its customer base, as the company faces increasing competition from its rivals. The fundraise comes hot on the heels of networking and content delivery giant Cloudflare launching its own anti-bot “fight mode” feature — a free opt-in offering to its customers — which the company said will help “frustrate” bots from targeting and attacking its customers.

Crowther said Cloudflare’s own efforts was a “testament” to the importance of ant-bot services, but said that Kasada covers ground where others haven’t.

Corrected to note that In-Q-Tel is the latest investor, but did not lead the round.