IDG Contributor Network: Smyte wants to get biblical on all those bad online actors

It’s really hard to come up with good startup names, especially names for which the URL is still available, so it is interesting to see startups go back, way back, to find names. One of those is San Francisco security startup Smyte.

Smyte’s reason for being is to smite (see what I did there?) bad online actors. Its SaaS software is already used by a number of peer-to-peer marketplaces and social apps to combat spam, scam, online harassment and credit card fraud. In other words, Smyte fights pretty much everything social media has, alas, come to be known for. Smyte is a graduate of Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 program.

The company was founded in 2014. Its founders include Pete Hunt, who was an original member of Facebook’s React.js team; Julian Tempelsman, who worked on anti-abuse, fraud and spam for Google Wallet, Gmail and Google Apps; and Josh Yudaken, who was a member of Instagram’s core infrastructure team. This is a team well-versed in the realities of web-scale behavior management.

Smyte initially targeted peer-to-peer marketplaces and social apps—among the most common targets of scammers and spammers—with its trust and safety platform. Its customers include GoFundMe, Meetup, Quora and TaskRabbit. Going forward, Smyte has indicated that it will broaden its focus and will also target SaaS providers, financial services companies and healthcare organizations.

Smyte uses an ensemble of techniques, including manual heuristics, unsupervised anomaly detection and supervised machine learning, to analyze a claimed 5 billion online actions every month. Its service identifies potentially malicious activity based on known signals, such as commonly used account profile pictures.

Smyte customers then use the information to help thwart scams, spam, credit card fraud and other devious activities. Because Smyte’s service is constantly watching and learning, customers can reduce or eliminate use of credit cards, phone numbers and other information typically deployed to authenticate users, thereby minimizing “friction” in the engagement process.

Smyte secures $4 million in Series A funding

In terms of that stated ambition to broaden its franchise, Smyte is announcing a fundraise to fuel that growth. The company has secured a $4 million Series A round, led by Avalon Ventures, with participation from new and existing investors, including Baseline Ventures, Founder Collective, Harrison Metal, Upside Partnership and Y Combinator. Smyte has now raised $6.25 million overall.

Smyte is all-too aware that security and behavior management is an ongoing process:

“Companies are getting smarter about the online security and abuse risks posed to their businesses, but attackers are constantly changing tactics. What worked in terms of fraud, spam and harassment prevention last year or even last week may not be effective today,” says Hunt. “That’s why companies need a service that ritualistically consumes and analyzes massive amounts of online account data—and gets smarter as it goes. We’ve made significant progress in product development over the past two years, and customers have reported cost savings, reduced customer friction and churn, and fewer incidents of fraud and spam.”

Smyte looks like an interesting platform, and it certainly fulfills a sadly necessary requirement. It will be interesting to see their progress as they try and land more general customers.

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