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Bigleaf Networks raised some major cash to help small- and medium-sized business avoid downtime and stay connected to their most important cloud-based software and apps.

The company, based in the Portland, Ore. suburb of Beaverton, raised $21 million. The Series B round, led by Updata Partners with participation from the Oregon Venture Fund, SeaChange Fund and other existing investors, brings the 40-person company to a total of $28 million raised in its lifetime.

Bigleaf calls itself a “Cloud-first SD-WAN,” which means it helps companies connect across significant geographic distances, including linking up to data centers and keeping branch offices on larger networks online. Most networking technology caters primarily to large enterprises, Bigleaf says, leaving out smaller companies that depend on cloud-powered business applications but don’t have the IT budget to manage complicated connections.

Bigleaf Networks CEO Joel Mulkey. (Bigleaf Photo)

“These (small-medium businesses) and mid-size enterprises are struggling to address their connectivity issues with traditional networking technologies,” Joel Mulkey, founder and CEO of Bigleaf Networks said in a statement. “The other solutions available on the market today aren’t effective for many SaaS and cloud apps, require too much management, and aren’t intelligent enough to adapt to the pace of change in today’s businesses.”

Bigleaf patterned its technology after the natural architecture of a leaf, the company said. The same way nutrients travel across multiple veins of a leaf, Bigleaf funnels traffic through a company’s many internet connections to increase redundancy.

Bigleaf protects its average customer from 3.5 hours of downtime and 23 hours of unusable performance per month, Mulkey said. It allows companies to stay connected to important technologies, such as point-of-sale systems, electronic health records, Voice over IP, customer relationship management software and more. Today, Bigleaf has more than 1,000 customers.

Here’s what Mulkey said about the company’s secret sauce:

“In a market full of complex, caveat-filled networking solutions built for legacy site-to-site networking, Bigleaf has stood apart from the beginning as the best possible platform for public cloud and SaaS connectivity,” he said. “We use intelligent software rather than complex manual policies to direct and prioritize traffic, freeing our customers’ IT staff to focus on needs other than network problems. Our unique security posture enables best-of-breed SD-WAN performance without compromising the customers’ security perimeter created by their preferred firewall, which is especially important to our MSP partners. And lastly, our unique core network architecture protects all applications from disconnections or brownouts autonomously without any user configuration needed.”

The company was founded in 2012 by a group of network and telecom veterans. Before Bigleaf, Mulkey worked for a regional internet service provider and ran into issues with traditional industry solutions for implementing multiple internet connections into a single service.

The lightbulb really went off when he tried to give a free backup Internet connection to his church, Mulkey said in a 2015 interview with GeekWire.

“The IT director of the church didn’t want it due to his previous bad experience trying to implement internet redundancy,” Mulkey recalled. “He had hired an expensive Cisco consultant, purchased an expensive Cisco router, and yet the failover didn’t work. This was unfortunately a common story in the industry — internet redundancy and optimization was hard, complex, and expensive.”

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