Developers have a problem. It used to be the case that only large enterprises needed to worry themselves with security, but today, every startup is capable of holding huge amounts of customer data. That means developers across the board have to worry about how secure their platform is, and they often find themselves grappling with complicated tools to manage security.

Now, Aikido, a small startup in Ghent, Belgium, thinks it has an answer to that dilemma: A no-nonsense, open source, developer-facing security platform. And the startup has just raised a $17 million Series A to further build out its product.

“There have been security tools for three decades, but I think we’re the first where the buyer is the user. With other tools, the CSO is the buyer, but then some poor developer is the user. We are the ‘no BS’ platform,” Aikido’s founder and CTO, Willem Delbare, told TechCrunch.

He has a point.

Aikido’s main competitors tend to make tools that are aimed at larger enterprises than the people who actually have to deploy the tools. Enterprise platform Snyk, for example, used to resemble Aikido, but pivoted to larger firms some time ago. Other competitors include JIT, which caters to small-to-mid market customers. In the middle market, you have Endor Labs and Guardrails, and then you have larger companies like Mend, Qwiet, Oxeye, Ox, Arnica and Apiiro.

Delbare told me that Aikido’s main differentiators are that it has a freemium model and it actively open sources new products. “This makes us flexible, fast and affordable,” he said.

The company also offers all-in-one security, flat pricing and a lot less notifications. “We only bother developers when something ‘real’ is wrong. We aggressively triage alerts to cut noise and false-positives,” he said.

That logic seems to have worked fairly well: The company already has 3,000 small-to-midsize customers. And this Series A, led by European venture firm Singular, comes less than six months after the company raised a $5 million seed round. The company has now raised a total of $22.5 million.

Another aspect that sets Aikido apart is that it’s based in Ghent. The security industry is dominated by Israeli and U.S. incumbents, and their veterans (the security industry’s version of the “PayPal Mafia” is called “the Checkpoint Mafia“).

Delbare said there’s a certain “playbook” that U.S. or Israeli security startups follow: “They take a very technically advanced security feature, become really good at it, raise a ton of cash, and then two years later, get bought by Palo Alto Networks or Cisco. And then they just repeat that playbook over and over.”

He stressed that Aikido doesn’t follow that pattern. “We’re not doing that kind of playbook. We’re not one single feature. If we ever get bought, it will just be for our customer base and the revenue. Not for a platform that fixes a feature gap,” he said.

“These tools basically look like the inside of an F-16’s cockpit. They make you feel dumb. A developer just wants to fix problems and move on with building fun features, right?” Delbare explained.

Delbare said Aikido decided to go with Singular after meeting its partner, Henri Tilloy. “I think he’s the first VC I’ve talked to in a long time who actually understood the product. Most VCs look at your company and they just see a spreadsheet,” he said.

Also in the team are co-founders Roeland Delrue (CRO and COO) and Felix Garriau (CMO). The company has brought on Madeline Lawrence, who left her role as a partner at Peak VC to join the startup as its chief brand officer.

The round also saw participation from Notion Capital and Connect Ventures, both of which co-led the previous seed round.

Aikido is tackling a large market. The network security software market is expected to increase from $24.21 billion in 2023 to $27.33 billion in 2024.

At the same time, security risks are mutating and growing rapidly, with the average cost of a data breach reaching record highs of $4.45 million in 2023, according to UpGuard.

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