Amazon Web Services has stealthily acquired San Diego-based cybersecurity startup Harvest.ai to bolster cloud security for its end-users, according to an investor in that company.
AWS bought the company in early 2016, said Fred Wang, a general partner with Trinity Ventures, which had invested just under $2 million in Harvest.ai. The purchase had not been reported before today. Wang declined to disclose or confirm the purchase price but said in a phone interview that “it was a good win for the investors and for the management team.”
An anonymous tipster with knowledge of the deal told GeekWire that the purchase price was $19 million. Amazon in an email declined to confirm even the fact of the acquisition.
The two companies have a relationship dating back to 2015, when AWS featured Harvest.ai in a blog post that was part of spotlighting “startups all over the world building . . . businesses on top of cloud infrastructure.” Harvest.ai built its app using multiple AWS services, the post says.
Harvest.ai, founded in September 2014, uses AI algorithms, including neural nets and natural-language processing, to classify and protect documents, email and data that companies store in cloud services, including Google G Suite and Office 365, from targeted cyber attacks and inadvertent exposure of information, according to its website. It tracks where critical data resides and who has access to it, then helps search for changes in behavior of users, key business systems and applications caused by targeted cyber attacks.
“The company works in an area called data-leakage prevention,” Wang said. “At one time a lot of companies got into it, but most of them didn’t get much traction. Harvest.ai automated looking at file-access patterns to detect which are normal and which are not.”
Harvest.ai was founded by CEO Alexander Watson, who had 10 years of experience with the U.S. intelligence community, including seven years with the National Security Administration, according to the company’s website and an earlier press release. Formerly known as 405Labs, Harvest.ai has received $2.71 million in venture funding, partly from Trinity Ventures and Moonshots Capital, according to Crunchbase.
AWS moved the company’s team of roughly 12 employees to Seattle from San Diego, Wang said. “I know AWS is selling” Harvest.ai’s technology, he said, “but I’m not sure if it’s been rolled into AWS’s own offerings.” AWS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first purchase Amazon has made under the radar. Merger documents uncovered by GeekWire suggest that Amazon in 2015 stealthily acquired Biba, a San Francisco-based company that makes chat, video and audio conferencing tools for businesses.