Another Anti-Spam Vendor Joins The Fray

Eric Hahn, former chief technology officer for Netscape, this week launches his messaging infrastructure venture, Proofpoint.

Tony Kontzer, Contributor

July 23, 2003

2 Min Read

Launching an anti-spam software company might seem risky these days. As the spam problem has grown to epidemic proportions, new vendors have been sprouting weekly, and vendors that specialize in other areas, such as E-mail management and antivirus software, have thrown their muscle into the mix. But that's not keeping Eric Hahn, former chief technology officer for Netscape Communications Inc., from joining the fray.

Hahn this week launches his messaging infrastructure venture, Proofpoint Inc., on the basis that too many message-management product categories have developed, forcing customers to purchase too many tools to handle regulatory compliance, archiving, indexing, security, virus protection, and, oh yeah, anti-spam efforts. "The customers are ahead of the vendors here," Hahn says. "They're quick to point out that these stovepipes are out of control."

Still, with its Proofpoint Protection Server, the company is aiming its sights most clearly at spam. Hahn says Proofpoint's combination of machine learning and statistical analysis will trump other anti-spam vendors' offerings by focusing on filtering at both the content and connection levels to counter the constant adaptation of spammer techniques.

For instance, anti-spam filters that scour the content of messages looking for hot-button terminology aren't able to detect tactics such as E-mail spoofing, in which spammers will make a message look like it's coming from a known E-mail address. "Rules-based vendors are good at detecting what's already known to be spam, but they're terrible at catching spam that's yet to come," he says. "Frankly, customers are more interested in the latter."

Proofpoint is backed by $7 million in first-round venture funding from the likes of Mohr, Davidow Ventures, Benchmark Capital, and Stanford University. The company's pricing--an annual subscription model that starts at $20 per mailbox for a deployment of 500 users--is tailored for huge deployments. There's no charge for the server software, ensuring that customers can count on continuous software updates without needing to budget additional expenditures.

Proofpoint joined two other anti-spam vendors that revealed VC funding Monday. IronPort Systems, founded by former Hotmail exec Scott Weiss, said it had received $15 million, led by Menlo Ventures, and Cloudmark revealed a $4.5 million infusion from Ignition Partners.

The bottom line, Hahn says, is that companies want to get a handle on the spam problem rather than face a never-ending game of catch-up that threatens future use of E-mail. "If we don't stop these guys, we'll be killing the goose that lays the golden egg."

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