Cybersecurity / Funding / Startups

Falls Church cyber company HushMesh just raised $5.2M to develop ‘the Mesh’

The NoVa startup is developing a new strategy for automated encryption key management to help create a more secure web environment.

Manu Fontaine, founder and CEO of Hushmesh. (Courtesy photo)

Hushmesh wants to change the way we think about cyber — and it just got a few million to make it happen.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company just raised $5.4 million in an early-stage financing round led by Paladin Capital Group. Akamai Technologies also took part in the round. With the funds, Hushmesh will be developing its “Mesh” product, which is a secure internet space that includes automated and encrypted security for safe internet use.

Founder Manu Fontaine, an alum of AOL, said that he initially thought of the idea to encrypt everything, but was stuck on how folks could protect and keep track of their own encryption keys.

“The problem with Web3 is: What do you do with your private key? Where do you keep it? How do you secure it?” Fontaine told “So, if you could have an unlimited number of keys to encrypt all your data, then you would have privacy, you would have confidentiality. And then you could connect with others and exchange keys, and secure your communications and your stored data — with nobody else having access to it but the people with access to the keys.”

Managing keys on behalf of someone else was impossible until a few years ago, he noted, when confidential computing and trusted environments became available commercially. He began working on the company in 2017, but it formally launched in its current iteration in 2019 following an angel round. The HushMesh team first developed a version of the Mesh on a physical device but knew that it would have to rebuild on an infrastructure level and get rid of the hardware, which is what it’s currently working on.

The Mesh, Fontaine said, is something that he’d like to see trickle all the way down to the individual consumer. But right now, it’s working on the building blocks that help companies secure their own applications and services. It works kind of like logging into Facebook via a Google account, he said, where consumers “mesh in” to an application instead of logging in. That establishes a connection between the user, their keys and the application; the application can thus communicate with the Mesh and get keys to encrypt data on the consumer’s behalf.

“Any company that wants to adopt the Mesh as an identity provider, every piece of information that they have on your account can now be encrypted with keys that you have control over,” Fontaine said.

From there, HushMesh also has a second encryption layer, where data itself can be encrypted (it hopes to launch this later this year or early next). This will look like a very simple message system, where messages and documents can be shared and completely encrypted end-to-end.

This funding round will be put toward the development of the Mesh itself. The five-person team currently operates remotely, and Fontaine plans to add another one or two employees by September. Following this, he plans to raise a Series A in 2024 or 2025.

But as he builds out the technology, he hopes the Mesh will be a true solution to identity theft, data breaches, frauds and fakes.

“All of those problems go away in the Mesh because you can chain everything to a specific human, a specific organization. You can secure everything in a way that is provable,” Fontaine said.


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