With more than $100 million in venture funding behind it, IronPort is a heavily bankrolled startup company that provides perimeter security appliances to protect enterprise customers against email- and Web-delivered malware and other malicious content.
As I’ve written previously, San Bruno, Calif.-based IronPort had been expected by its investors to dominate the space for email-security appliances and to eventually enjoy a successful initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ. The contingency plan was for the company to be acquired by one of the industry’s security behemoths — Symantec, McAfee, Cisco, or even Microsoft.
Neither exit scenario is looking bright at the moment. The venture-funded startups that pioneered and once led the email-security marketplace have been challenged and surpassed by the major players, who, more often than not, have built rather than bought their way into the market.
Whereas IronPort’s erstwhile primary competitors were fellow startups — Proofpoint at the high end, CipherTrust (acquired by Secure Computing recently, for a price that could not have brought joy to the investors of IronPort) in the mid market, and Barracuda in the SME segment — now IronPort faces industry titans such as Symantec, Trend Micro, and Microsoft, among others. These companies have a lot more marketing muscle, and they have channel partners with more market coverage and relationship cache, than IronPort can ever hope to match.
Today, the road to an IPO got bumpier for IronPort, as Trend Micro introduced several models of its InterScan Gateway Security Appliance (IGSA), which incorporates antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, content filtering, and URL filtering into one relatively easily managed box. Trend’s new appliances are designed for mid-sized organizations seeking a content-security that solution that offers extensive functionality and low-stress maintenance.
The IGSA product family spans six models, with the entry-level offering priced from $4,490
As bigger competitors, such as Trend, strengthen the depth and breadth of their offerings in the messaging- and content-security space, IronPort will have no choice but to modify its product strategy.
What it’s done in the past is increasingly untenable. It needs to remake itself, moving into growth segments where it can dominate again. To reach that objective, don’t be surprised to see the company emerge as an acquirer rather than as an acquired party.
My guess is that its investors, recognizing the circumstances in which the company finds itself, will support any reasonable proposal from the company’s executives to put it on a course that offers more promise than the one on which it is traveling.