- The hot San Francisco cybersecurity startup Abnormal has joined forces with Microsoft to reach big enterprises with its email security platform.
- Under the partnership, Abnormal has moved some of its operations to Microsoft’s Azure cloud architecture.
- Microsoft now offers Abnormal’s product through the Azure Marketplace and Microsoft Sellers software markets on its platform. You can see the pitch deck that Abormal and Microsoft are using to sell to customers below.
- The partnership highlights how the cloud has expedited startups’ ability to compete for big enterprise’s business.
- Blackjack legend and entrepreneur Jeff Ma is now leading the program Microsoft for Startups.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Cloud-based cybersecurity startups have hurdled old industry obstacles like subway turnstile-hoppers. Perhaps none are on a faster express train than a 2-year-old company named Abnormal Security.
Thanks to a new partnership with Microsoft, the 100-person company is reaching big enterprises via one click on Microsoft 365 products.
The Microsoft for Startups program, started in 2018, was once a way for the company to see “interesting new solutions” running on its cloud. In a new incarnation of the program, a prominent Silicon Valley name is reaching out to hard-charging startups and hoisting them onto its platform where customers can buy the startups’ services with one click. The new trend shows how high startups have risen as competitors, and how much Microsoft is willing to hustle and do business with them — with Abormal, featured in the Wall Street Journal as the first startup chosen for the program, as the test case.
CEO Evan Reiser says his hot San Francisco startup “didn’t consider Azure at all” when the email security company was building its operations on Amazon Web Services’ cloud platform.
His engineers had worked on AWS for years, and which cloud provider to use – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google or another – was strictly “a technology conversation,” Reiser says.
But when Jeff Ma, the blackjack legend portrayed in the movie “21” and a former Twitter colleague of Reiser’s, pitched him over Zoom calls last spring on how the software giant could help Abnormal go to market, “a light bulb went on.”
Ma, who has rebooted the Microsoft for Startups program that he took over in May, was looking further downstream at how Abnormal could reach enterprise customers.
This captured the imagination of Reiser, whose startup already serves Xerox, Sur la Table and other big companies. “We’ve been really fortunate in that we’ve gotten a lot of traction with large enterprises. We saw this was a way to fast-track that.”
Abormal uses AI to spot trends
Velocity – not always a word associated with Microsoft and other big companies – is a core value at Abnormal, which has become an email security competitor quickly.
Founded in 2018, the company based in San Francisco’s tech-trendy SoMa neighborhood, now has 100 employees. Abnormal has raised just $25 million in a Series A round of funding, but Reiser says it doesn’t need more now due to incoming revenue (which he would not disclose).
Abnormal’s AI analytics weigh 1,000 data points in evaluating whether an email is a phishing attack – from when it arrives to what it’s asking to the grammar used. The AI can also be used to scrutinize chat streams and log-ins. If a user’s behavior contradicts the patterns of normal behavior that the AI algorithm expects, the discrepancies are flagged.
The innovation has rocketed Abnormal into competition with older and larger companies such as Forcepoint, Agari, and the legacy company McAfee. The market is lucrative. Business email compromise is the biggest cybercrime in the world, the FBI says. And most enterprise hacks come in through phishing emails that lure employees to click on a malicious link or download a malware-filled attachment.
“They can deploy the product with one click. They can purchase it in one click through an existing contract,” says Reiser of the benefits to customers under the new partnership between Microsoft and Abnormal launched this week. Abnormal has moved some of its operations to Azure with more to follow. And Microsoft is featuring the startup’s artificial intelligence email security to its Microsoft 365 customers – and pitching it in a slide deck the two companies are using. (See below.)
How Abnormal got Microsoft’s attention
If it seems unusual for the world’s biggest software maker to aggressively woo startups and pitch them to Microsoft’s vast populace of customers, you can chalk that up to the power of cloud computing.
In a prior era, a hot startup might never get past the “technology conversation” of what and where to build a company. Going to market with a product was a process that took years. With remote employees increasingly targeted by email scams, Abnormal’s cloud-based solution might be considered more favorably than an entrenched enterprise solution based on older technology.
“After that it was an easy decision,” Abnormal’s Reiser said Monday, wearing a brand-new Microsoft ball cap on a video conference call.
Startups are capable of “punching above their weight” in cloud-based cybersecurity catering to remote workers, and Microsoft is more like a startup in the highly competitive cloud market.
Microsoft for Startups has worked with thousands of startups, but Ma said Abnormal’s success with enterprise clients before the program increases the startup’s chances to “scale their business quickly,” and that Microsoft is “looking forward to joining forces to further accelerate, co-sell their security solution to our global customers.”
Here is the pitchdeck Microsoft and Abnormal are using to promote the startup’s AI email security solution through Microsoft’s platform: