Zimperium: Mobile Cat and Mouse

Let’s start with Wikipedia’s definition of “Cat and Mouse”…

“Cat and mouse, often expressed as cat-and-mouse game, is an English-language idiom dating back to 1675 that means a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes.”

Clearly, whoever came up with that phrase a few centuries ago, must have known about Internet Security. The smartest minds and billions of dollars later, we are still in the midst of an incredible “cat-and-mouse” game with no end in sight.

The Wall Street Journal boldly stated on July 31, 2014 that “Smartphones Become Next Frontier in Cybersecurity”*. This comes after Mobile Device Management (MDM) companies like Airwatch (acquired by VMware for $1.5B), Zenprise (acquired by Citrix for $400M) and MobileIron (Nasdaq: MOBL) have all garnered significant valuations and mobile security company Lookout has raised over $250M in funding. But are these really “security” companies or are we just scratching the surface of the problem?

We invested in Zimperium over a year ago because of our belief that this emerging problem is only going to get worse. And we are seeing this first hand at some of the implementations at enterprise customers. My first VC investment ever was an open source security company called Sourcefire (IPO followed by $2.7B acquisition by Cisco) and I can tell you that the pain feels very similar. I’m sure that’s what has compelled mobile industry leaders like Telstra and Samsung to invest in Zimperium.

We introduced Shridhar Mittal and the Zimperium team to a number of our Sierra CXO Advisory Board members. I have been pleasantly surprised (not really!) by the incredible response they have received. Everyone wants to hear more, many have started trials, and a number have begun deployments. The level of interest is not just from the CISO or security group, but at the CIO and executive level. Even the Telstra investment was spurred by their CEO’s David Thodey’s concern about the mobile security problem during one of our discussions.

Shridhar Mittal Zimperium CIO Summit 9

Why? Well, mobile security is a difficult problem to solve. No root privileges, host attacks (outside the vendors’ sandbox), network attacks (while roaming), and battery life are only a few of the problems that have to be addressed. And most importantly, you can’t mess with the user experience. And to oversimplify the current offerings, the mobile device management (MDM) players like Airwatch / VMWare, Zenprise / Citrix, and MobileIron don’t adequately address the security issue while the security vendors like Palo Alto, FireEye, and Sourcefire / Cisco are still getting their heads around mobile.

I’m excited about the road ahead for the Zimperium team as they define a new category in this “cat-and-mouse” world of cybersecurity.