Enveil, a provider of crypto-focused, privacy-focused research and analytics tools, raises $25M – TechCrunch
Collectively, as we mature as a digital society, many of us are becoming more aware of and more suspicious of how our profiles and information exist and are used (and misused) online. A similar theme is also playing out in the corporate world, where organizations have also developed their security and data protection profiles to defend against malicious activity. Today, a B2B startup called Enveil, which aims to create a new line of data products – based on homomorphic encryption and secure multiparty computing – to ensure the privacy of their users’ data, is announcing a round of funding that includes a number of big-name strategic funders, highlighting the market demand for such tools among companies and the upcoming opportunities.
The startup raised $25 million, a Series B led by insurance and financial services giant USAA, with Mastercard, Capital One Ventures, C5 Capital, DataTribe, the strategic investment arm of CIA In-Q -Tel, Cyber Mentor Fund, Bloomberg Beta, GC&H and 1843 Capital are also participating.
You’ll notice that the list includes a number of very large, high-profile organisations, and Ellison Anne Williams, Founder and CEO of Enveil, confirmed to me that these were not just funders, but also paying customers. They, along with a number of others like them, have led to a 300% increase in revenue since Enveil raised its Series A in February 2020. It has now raised $40 million in total.
Enveil’s big selling point is that it’s one of a very small handful of security startups working to commercialize the concept of homomorphic encryption. It is an approach to data privacy that was originally developed in a hypothetical context by researchers – it is essentially a cryptographic approach that involves encryption with mathematical calculations to allow companies to analyze and use encrypted data without needing to decrypt it – and to some it’s most notable as a kind of holy grail concept that for many years seemed impossible to execute.
Williams notes that Enveil has proven these naysayers wrong by actually finding ways to apply the concepts, along with those of other privacy-enhancing tools such as secure multiparty computing, in commercial products. (Note: it’s not the only one: others include Duality, IBM and Paris-based Zama.)
“Skepticism is great because it gives us a lot of opportunities to prove them wrong,” she said. “Our IP and what’s special is how you take addition and multiplication at the heart of encryption and integrate it into complex business functionality.
Enveil currently offers two products, both marketed under its “ZeroReveal” brand: first, an encrypted search tool that allows users to retain encryption in searches even when performed outside of their own app network; and second, the Machine Learning Tool, which the company says “enables advanced decision-making through collaborative and federated machine learning in a secure and private capacity.”
Since one of the problems with working with machine learning algorithms has been the true anonymization of data; and that another has been for companies and regulators to adhere much more strictly to data silos to protect information – while seeking more benefits for collaboration – this is potentially a critical breakthrough.
The idea with the investment is that it will go toward the startup expanding that list of products, though Williams isn’t set on what those might be. It will also invest in sales and marketing to expand its customer base.
The illustration above illustrates where a company like Enveil builds a much-needed set of tools: data silos are fine and good when exchanging data involves information and work that directly affects other people within your team or potentially larger organization, but there remain many challenges in determining how to obtain data or provide information when talking to people or entities outside of your organization, whether other businesses or consumers, when you cannot account for their own security profiles.
This is especially important for companies that deal in sensitive financial or health-related services. (And companies like USAA face it every day, with a host of scammers posing as organizations like these preying on low-income users.) That leaves a small opportunity to develop new kinds of approaches that essentially allow organizations to adopt an approach where security remains intact despite everything, although it will probably be years before we can develop an infrastructure capable of circumventing bad judgment.
“Data is the backbone of the digital economy, but the marketplace is experiencing a crisis of confidence that limits the ways data can be used,” said Nathan McKinley, vice president of development at USAA, in a statement. “Enveil’s ZeroReveal solutions are changing the data usage landscape enabling mission-sensitive business and mission functions at scale today, and we are excited to help advance those efforts with this investment.”