Sonrai Security, an enterprise cybersecurity company launched by senior executives from Q1 Labs, has closed a US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million) round of venture capital funding, likely the largest VC round in Atlantic Canadian history.
With a development team based in Fredericton, Sonrai was established in 2017 to help large corporations organize and protect their data on the cloud, which is a network of remote, independently owned servers. The company has officially launched today with a variety of clients, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.
In late December, the company closed its first round of financing, led by Boston-area VC firms Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures. They both named representatives to the Sonrai board. New Brunswick Innovation Foundation also invested US$246,000 in the round.
“This is a big opportunity and we want to make sure we have the dollars to do the engineering in Fredericton,” said CTO Sandy Bird in an interview. “We want to make sure we can do all the machine learning . . . We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise and to do that we needed capital.”
Sonrai has its origins in Q1 Labs, a cybersecurity company that Bird co-founded in Fredericton. As Q1 grew, it took on Brendan Hannigan as CEO and expanded into Waltham, Mass., maintaining its development team in New Brunswick. The company sold out to IBM in 2012, reportedly for more than $600 million. Bird and Hannigan became the heads of IBM Security, Big Blue’s cybersecurity division that grew to a $2 billion-a-year operation.
The two execs left IBM in the past few years and came together again to quietly develop Sonrai. With a bit of initial funding, they assembled a team of cybersecurity engineers in Fredericton. That eventually led to a total round equal to C$24.6 million. The only larger funding rounds in the Atlantic Canadian tech space were more private equity deals than VC: a $60 million deal by St. John’s-based Verafin in 2014; and a $30 million raise by Unique Solutions of Dartmouth in 2011.
The problem they set out to solve arises from the wave of corporations moving their data on to the cloud from their own servers over the past decade, often in a haphazard way. These companies can have hundreds of cloud accounts running across Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Their IT groups don’t know some accounts exist, what’s in them, or who has access to them, Bird said.
Sonrai (the Irish Gaelic word for “data”) addresses these problems by tying together identity and search solutions so these corporations can organize and protect their cloud-based data. As well as offering comprehensive data security, Sonrai enhances the quality of an organization’s compliance. It also allows DevOps teams – in which development and operations teams work closely to produce solutions quickly – to work more efficiently with data spread across different accounts and cloud providers.
Most of Sonrai’s 16 employees are now with its development team in Fredericton, and the company also has offices in New York and Austin, Texas. Hannigan, the company president, said in the interview that the goal for the coming year is to launch a major sales expansion, and that the company envisages doubling its staff this year and every year thereafter for the foreseeable future. On the development side, Sonrai aims to improve the machine learning in its solutions.
“Cloud adoption affords us a unique opportunity to reimagine how we secure corporate data, and to make a clean break from the limitations of device, data center and perimeter centric security," Hannigan said in a statement. "By putting data and identity at the center of a security model that spans cloud-providers and third-party data stores, Sonrai Security offers a level of control and security never possible in a traditional enterprise network.”