Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cisco Deal Is Big Win for Local Tech Entrepreneurs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cisco Deal Is Big Win for Local Tech Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt

Back in 2011, Patrick Crowley realized that the spread of encryption and cloud computing created big problems for traditional cybersecurity setups.

The way Crowley, a Washington University professor of computer science and engineering, solved those problems will soon cause networking giant Cisco Systems to have a development team in the St. Louis area. Cisco agreed this month to buy Observable Networks, the firm Crowley founded to pursue his cybersecurity ideas.

The deal should help put St. Louis, which has already received favorable national press for its tech-startup scene, on the map for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technology workers. It also may boost the national profile of Arch Grants, the St. Louis nonprofit group that handed Observable $50,000 just because the company looked promising.

The purchase price wasn't disclosed, but Crowley and Bryan Doerr, Observable's chief executive, said keeping Observable's 14-person team, of whom 11 are based in St. Louis, was an important part of discussions.

"Cisco was excited to have the whole company come on board and keep on doing what we were doing," Crowley said. "We will be able to do that with far greater resources now."

What Observable's software does is to enhance security by monitoring all devices attached to a network. The traditional approach of scanning data for malware had become less effective, Crowley explained, as the use of encryption spread.

Observable uses an approach called end-point modeling, which creates a profile of each device and detects when it's behaving unusually. It would raise an alarm, for instance, if someone tried to download sensitive files on a laptop.

Crowley founded Observable in 2011 with an investment from Peter Finley, co-founder of Clayton private equity firm Thompson Street Capital Partners. Winning the $50,000 in 2012 was an important early break; Doerr, who previously was chief technology officer at Savvis, said the Arch Grants recognition helped persuade him to join the company in 2013. …

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