Eagle Eye Networks and Brivo, two players in the world of physical cloud security — respectively video surveillance and access control systems to secure buildings and other physical spaces — are doubling down on their businesses… quite literally.
The pair of U.S. companies — majority owned by the same individual, security entrepreneur Dean Drako — are today announcing that they have raised a large, joint round of equity funding, $192 million from a single, strategic investor: Japanese security services giant SECOM.
Drako told TechCrunch in an interview that $100 million of the funding will be going to Eagle Eye and $92 million will be allocated to Brivo. Both companies plan to use the funds for R&D, and specifically to build more AI-based technology into their respective platforms. Eagle Eye works with some 20,000-30,000 customers — large enterprises and other big organizations — while Brivo has in aggregate some 20 million people using its access control services.
The funding is being made “majorly at an up-round,” Drako said, but he would not elaborate on the exact figures. Drako — who is the founder and CEO of Eagle Eye, is also the chairman of Brivo, which he acquired for just $50 million in 2015 after it passed through a series of other ownership structures. He has a fairly storied history as an entrepreneur beyond that: He was also one of the co-founders and the former CEO of IT security company Barracuda, which most recently (in 2022) was acquired by KKR in a $3.8 billion deal. He also has an eponymous electric car company.
The funding is coming at a key moment in the world of startup financing, a moment that has proven to be a windfall for a handful of companies and dire straits for many others.
In part due to macroeconomic and political events, and in part because of the ineluctable rise of malicious online activity, security has emerged as one of the standout categories that has risen above the fray and managed to continue growing revenues, attracting attention from investors seeking safer bets. While Eagle Eye and Brivo are far from the “cybersecurity” end of the security spectrum, they are nonetheless addressing a very salient and big part of the market with very technology-forward solutions.
“A lot of investors have woken up to the opportunity for the cloud conversion and the application of AI in the physical security market,” Drako said in an interview, citing data from research firm Omdia, which in 2021 forecast cloud-based solutions, called Physical Security as a Service, would grow between 19% and 21% year on year between 2021 and 2024. Eagle Eye, he added, is projecting 15% annual growth for the next several years.
Both companies, it should be pointed out, still offer and have a number of clients using hybrid solutions, with some video or access records stored on site and some in the cloud. The belief is that the future is in building more innovative solutions at the end point that will increase automation and detection, with much of the work carried out remotely, leaning on cloud infrastructure.
Although there are a profusion of startups now building (and raising money) for AI technology, for now Drako said that the two companies are focused on their own proprietary R&D in order to have better control on what is being built, and for what purpose. Areas like forensic search, he said, are too specific of use cases to rely on third-party data, at least for now.
While forensic search is already something that Eagle Eye offers (in fact it last raised money in aid of building that) the plan is to add more to that offering to more fully automate the process. “We will watch the cameras for you,” Drako said. “Smoke, fire, people running around doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” are all use cases that engineers are training Eage Eye systems to detect, he said, estimating that it will likely be another two-four years before automated security systems go online.
Brivo’s focus, he said, will be on using the funding to help develop better anomaly detection for authentication systems used to gain entry to buildings and other secure areas.
I asked Drako why he didn’t merge Brivo with Eagle Eye when he acquired the former, and his response was that the two cover salient enough areas of the physical security market that it made sense to keep them separate businesses, both to give customers more options for how they purchased security solutions, but also to keep the two companies’ R&D independent.
“I’m a believer in open systems, and in the business market, open platforms are going to win in the long run, that is what they demand and need so we wanted to make sure we built with that in mind,” he said, adding that the dynamics of merged companies are also not always in favor of innovation. “It’s hard because the engineering teams tend to take short cuts when they work at the same company.”
I also asked him how he squares the kind of technology that his companies build with the bigger issues around privacy and data protection: while most of the clients for both are private, closed-campus implementations, it’s notable that Eagle Eye, for example, also lists “Cities” as a target customer segment.
“We are a provider of technology and we don’t dwell on who is using it and for what,” was his simple answer. The more detailed one is that the company, in areas like facial recognition, runs its services on an opt-in basis, and it expects all customers to comply with local regulations around data protection and privacy.
In terms of market opportunities, physical security is a massively fragmented market in countries like the U.S. and across Europe, but in Japan, SECOM is a hugely dominant force, with at least half the market under its control, Drako said, so in part its choice to take this investment — which happened as a result of a proactive approach from SECOM itself — was a practical decision, a way of being able to break into Japan and adjoining markets.
“SECOM has a proud history of innovation going back to Japan’s first online security system for commercial use in 1966,” said Sadahiro Sato, SECOM managing executive officer, in a statement. “We’re committed to delivering services and systems that deliver safety, peace of mind and business efficiency. Our investment in Eagle Eye Networks and Brivo, the market leaders in cloud physical security, is an investment in the mission our three companies share: to provide the best technology possible to keep businesses and communities safe.”