Seattle cybersecurity startup Rubica shuts down after running out of cash – GeekWire

Seattle cybersecurity startup Rubica shuts down after running out of cash – GeekWire

Seattle cybersecurity startup Rubica shuts down after running out of cash – GeekWire

Frances Dewing. (Rubica Photo)

Cybersecurity threats are on the rise amid the pandemic. But that wasn’t enough to convince investors to put more cash behind Rubica, a 4-year-old Seattle startup that aimed to help businesses and consumers stay safe online.

Rubica shut down last month after it was unable to reel in more investment and keep its business alive. The company had raised $15 million since launching in 2016 and was not yet profitable. It is in the process of liquidating its business assets.

“We are all heartbroken,” said Rubica CEO and co-founder Frances Dewing. “It’s particularly sad and frustrating because consumers need advanced cybersecurity more than ever.”

Rubica began as a research-and-design project focused on advanced cybersecurity within Concentric Advisors, a company that provides physical and digital security to prominent and high-net-worth families. In 2016, Concentric spun out its cyber division to become Rubica.

Rubica initially focused on individual consumers and small businesses, selling an app used on various devices that automatically protected internet traffic via a built-in VPN and blocked or flagged potential threats, with the help of human experts. The idea was to offer something that was more sophisticated than antivirus software and was easy-to-use for individuals, families and teams. The company made money by selling monthly subscriptions on a per-user basis.

Revenue took a hit during the pandemic with customers pulling back on spending. As companies shifted to remote work, Rubica saw an opportunity to target larger businesses that needed help keeping workers safe.

But investors still weren’t on board. Dewing said the new strategy may have been too early in its go-to-market process. Otherwise she didn’t fully understand why investors weren’t willing to put cash behind the company.

“We were all really surprised given how relevant and needed this is right now,” Dewing said. “Investors didn’t agree with that or see it in the same way.”

Earlier this week SEC Chairman Jay Clayton told CNBC that cybersecurity risks for both companies and consumers are more pressing than ever. Akamai CEO Tom Leighton noted that remote workers are more exposed as they work from home.

Tope Aladenusi, head of cyber risk services for Deloitte West Africa, wrote that cyber criminals are capitalizing on distractions as the world focuses on the ongoing economic and health crisis.

“Not only are businesses being targeted, end-users who download COVID-19 related applications are also being tricked into downloading ransomware disguised as legitimate applications,” he wrote.

Dewing said she’s convinced there is a “huge market” for a company such as Rubica.

“I hope that something more like Rubica comes along because I need it, and my family needs it,” she said.

The Rubica team in 2019. (Rubica Photo)

Dewing, previously an exec at Concentric, co-founded Rubica with Roderick Jones, a cybersecurity expert and former colleague at Concentric. The company’s investors include Upfront Ventures, Slow Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Expa, and others. It raised its last round in 2018.

Rubica employed 24 people, with a majority of its workforce in Seattle. It was a Startup of the Year finalist in 2019 at the GeekWire Awards.

Reflecting back on Rubica’s 4-year journey, Dewing said she’s proud of what her team was able to accomplish.

“We knew we were wading into uncharted territory in trying to bring advanced cybersecurity to consumers and to people in this way,” Dewing said. “When you’re early, a lot of times there’s no playbook. You have to figure out things as you go and make mistakes along the way.

“We were really trying to change things for the better in the world,” she said. “And I think that’s always going to be worthwhile regardless of what the outcome is.”

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