Louisville startup Bounce.io making shift toward email security with ThreatWave

LOUISVILLE – Switch Labs Inc., the Louisville startup doing business the past two years as Bounce.io, has quietly undergone a major transition in recent months with a change in leadership and shift in primary focus toward email security.

The company, whose focus has been on improving the bounced email experience for end users, recently raised a new $2.2 million funding round for continued development, building to scale and taking to market its new venture, ThreatWave.

Co-founder Scott Brown, meanwhile, was replaced late last year as chief executive of the company by fellow co-founder Tom Bartel.

Bartel said Thursday that Bounce.io is not going away. Rather, it and ThreatWave will essentially be like two divisions of the company. But ThreatWave will be front and center.

The change in CEO, Bartel said, was a decision made by himself, Brown and the Switch Labs board after the decision was made to go after the ThreatWave opportunity. Bartel said his move into the CEO position was a logical one based on his background, which includes 10 years at New York-based email intelligence firm Return Path, where he served as general manager for certification services.

Brown, a veteran entrepreneur who retains an ownership stake in the company, declined to comment on the changes, referring all questions to Bartel.

“We think we have a good opportunity,” Bartel said. “The cyber-security market overall is expected to triple over the next three years.”

ThreatWave spun out of the work the company does with Bounce.io.

Bounce.io helps email providers clean up bounced email messages. So if a user sent an email that was kicked back to him, rather than an ugly text email with little useful information, Bounce.io generates clean-looking emails that explain the reason the email wasn’t delivered and possible solutions. The emails could also have ads placed in them.

In tracking billions of email messages per month, the majority of which came from spammers or other “bad actors,” as Bartel calls them, Bounce.io was gathering a giant data stream about the most dangerous emails, URLs and attachments being distributed.

ThreatWave is now selling that data stream via subscription to companies that provide antivirus software or platforms that keep email inboxes clean so that those companies can thwart threats before they reach their intended targets. Bartel said the data is collected and distributed in real time to help customers understand the biggest threats as recent as the last 10 to 15 minutes, “shortening the time to identify badness.”

Aside from just identifying malware, Bartel said the data stream is also valuable to businesses that want to know if their brands are being used nefariously in phishing schemes that try to get email recipients to click on bad links or attachments by making the emails appear to come from their company. Email service providers can also take such data and block messages before they get to their users.

Bartel said ThreatWave has been in a soft launch, and that a full market launch would likely come within the next quarter or two.

The new funding round came from previous investors. Early last year, Boulder-based firms Foundry Group and Bullet Time Ventures, which is now Techstars Ventures, participated in a $4.8 million funding round for Switch Labs.

Aside from the CEO change, Bartel said there haven’t been any employee changes directly related to the move toward ThreatWave. The company has 12 employees, and Bartel said he expects to eventually add some developers and sales staff as ThreatWave goes to market.

Bartel declined to comment on the revenue or profitability of Bounce.io.

“We’re still happy with the product,” he said. “It’s still part of what we do.”

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