Grotech Ventures and Pittsburgh, Pa.-based 412 Venture Fund have co-led a $15 million seed round for Vali Cyber, a Charlottesville, Va., startup building exclusive cybersecurity products for Linux systems. Other investors in the round included Riverfront Ventures, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Tampa-based Florida Funders.
“With a 75% increase in ransomware attacks alone on Linux systems in the first half of 2023, the general mindset around having effective security for Linux is quickly transitioning from ‘nice-to-have’ or ‘good-enough’ to ‘must-have’,” said Steve Fredrick, general partner at Owings Mills, Md.-based Grotech.
While cyberattacks cost money and disrupt operations, the real cost is to a brand’s integrity, said Fredrick, who was previously a partner at Novak Biddle Venture Partners. “People are trusting companies with personal information more than ever, and companies need to be able to prove that information is adequately protected on the cloud,” he said.
Platforms like ZeroLock, Vali Cyber’s flagship product, will allow companies to better protect consumer data, added Fredrick, a former IBM engineer and also the founder of an IT consulting firm, Martin Scott.
Vali Cyber was founded by the father-son duo of Anthony and Austin Gadient. Anthony, who serves as the CEO, is an engineer with a Ph. D from Carnegie Mellon University. He previously founded three startups including Voci Technologies. Austin, who is Vali Cyber’s chief technology officer, is an expert in Linux security. He was former team lead for USAFA hacking team Delogrand and former member of MIT hacking team Galhacktic. Austin received degrees in computer engineering and computer science from United States Air Force Academy and MIT.
Using DARPA-funded research from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, Vali Cyber has developed ZeroLock, its flagship product. ZeroLock combines sophisticated lockdown capabilities with proprietary behavioral detection algorithms to secure Linux — the “most critical component underlying systems in public clouds, private datacenters, and embedded/ IoT devices,” according to Vali Cyber. ZeroLock can be deployed to protect as many as 20,000 devices.
The seed round “investment validates the ability of our team and our technology to disrupt the Linux security markets,” said Vali Cyber CEO Anthony Gadient. “It is the first step in our journey to make ZeroLock the trusted platform of choice for Linux systems, from the cloud to the edge,” he added.
“We believe the comprehensive, low power/high efficacy product suite will quickly become the go-to solution to protect the broad commercial and defense needs in this space,” said Florida Funders partner Ryan Whittemore.
Vali Cyber’s “leadership has a proven track record with multiple successful start-ups and acquisitions under their belts, and you can see similar levels of dedication, experience, and vision throughout the rest of the team. When you add a platform as groundbreaking as ZeroLock, the pathway to success is unquestionable,” said Andrew Rabin, co-founder and general partner of 412.
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Founded in 1984, Grotech Ventures has raised over $1.4 billion, and made over 150 portfolio investments and 40-plus exits. It eyes opportunities to invest between $500,000 and $5 million in cybersecurity, fintech, supply chain, logistics and software startups. Its recent portfolio investments include Cognota, Datasembly, Incentivio, Fount Global and pgEdge. Grotech’s recent exits include Perishable Shipping Solutions, of Youngstown, Ohio; Urjanet, of Atlanta, Ga.; and Youreka, of Baltimore.
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Industry veteran Lawson DeVries has served as Grotech’s managing general partner since 2020. He has been closely associated with a number of Grotech portfolio companies that have been acquired, among others, by giants such as Cisco and Oracle.
DeVries started his career with equity research at Deutsche Bank, and later managed sales at Buckingham Research Group. He has a BA in English literature from Harvard University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.