Symantec Launches Symantec Ventures, CEO Says Creates New Opportunity For Partners

Symantec has launched a new venture capital arm and startup accelerator, a move that CEO Greg Clark told CRN would help move the needle for security startups and build an ecosystem of innovative technologies around Symantec's platform.

Symantec Ventures, launched Thursday, will invest in early-stage startups in the security market, with a particular focus on those in artificial intelligence, analytics, and machine learning, Clark said. The company said it could also invest in IoT security startups.

Symantec said is it not announcing a specific dollar figure it is looking to invest through Symantec Ventures; It will, instead, focus on finding the right projects to fund, giving its portfolio startups access to other support resources.

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The new investment arm will be different than traditional venture capital firms, providing not only capital but also access to the security vendor's extensive threat data, market insights, and integration into the company's Cyber Defense Platform. Clark said added value items beyond capital will help save startups money and accelerate their time to market maturity.

"We feel very good about being able to deliver high-quality data to this part of the ecosystem … to foster a bunch of innovation and drive the industry forward, Clark said. "We think there is a big era of cyber defense coming that is enabled by machine learning and artificial intelligence … We would like to offer an ecosystem where people who work on those do it in the context of our Cyber Defense Platform."

"This is more than just money. If you're working on these areas that we're interested in and customers are interested in, we can make it cheaper and get you to market quicker," he said.

Clark said Symantec Ventures will also be a "force multiplier" for partners, as it gives them new, integrated technologies to offer to customers that may have already bought Symantec or Blue Coat solutions. He said startups often offer partners strong margins on their technologies.

"We like to think it will drive a lot of incremental revenue through the channel. We are 100 percent committed to the channel … and we like a very healthy channel ecosystem. It's a huge part of our competitive advantage," Clark said.

Clark said Symantec and Blue Coat Systems, which Symantec acquired in August, have proven themselves to be reliable at picking early stage companies to invest in or acquire, evidenced by a long history of smaller, innovative acquisitions. That stamp of approval will help validate the startups funded by Symantec Ventures, he said.

The launch of Symantec Ventures comes as Symantec moves to become a platform vendor that is more open and sits at the center of a security ecosystem, including forming partnerships and sharing integrations, APIs, and threat data. Clark said Symantec Ventures is another example of Symantec looking to build an ecosystem around its Cyber Defense Platform to bring together best of breed security technologies, including with its competition.

"We have always been a very strong supporter of innovation … We are fierce competitors in the [total addressable markets] that we have core product in, but we are also committed to best of breed. We know security moves fast … and we see that as a benefit to us and the open platform matters," Clark said.

Clark said Symantec Ventures could be "helpful" for future mergers and acquisitions by Symantec, which the company has indicated are in its plan, but it is "definitely not required."

Jason Eberhardt, vice president of strategic alliances at Chicago-based Conventus, said the launch is "super exciting," saying it shows Symantec is willing to invest in innovation, particularly around emerging areas like artificial intelligence, data analytics and reporting.

"This is the kind of stuff that shows they're moving forward," Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt said he is also glad to see Symantec is willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes industry integration and creating a security ecosystem of third-party vendors.

"Symantec's portfolio has obviously expanded … but there are still some technologies out there that either customers want to work with or large companies want to deal with. Integrating that makes it easier to do the security posturing for those companies. It's just all around positive," Eberhardt said.