Duo Security bolsters region’s technology profile

May 7, 2016 | By John Gallagher | Detroit Free Press

Dug Song, left and Jon Oberheide co-founders of Duo Security, at their Ann Arbor office on Friday, May 6, 2016

Dug Song first met his future business partner, Jon Oberheide, when the latter hacked into the computer system at a firm where Song was working at the time.

Not a malicious hack, though, just a little exploring so that Oberheide, a PhD graduate from the University of Michigan, could flex his cyber muscles.

Instead of getting angry, Song was so impressed with Oberheide’s skills that the two teamed up.

The result: In 2009 the pair founded Duo Security, an Ann Arbor-headquartered computer security firm that is one of Michigan’s fastest growing technology stars.

Duo Security’s cloud-based security systems protects a growing list of clients against digital invaders, ensuring that only those authorized to enter and use data can get access. Duo’s security supports clients and users in organizations like Accenture, Boston Medical, Emblem Health, Facebook, NASA, Toyota, Twitter, Virginia Tech, Yelp and others.

“If a 15-year-old kid can wipe out half the internet, that’s bad,” Song said last week at his Ann Arbor headquarters. “Every organization has information. This information that used to be stored in our heads is now stored in many other places that makes it possible for the wrong people to get to it in ways that are really damaging.”

Today Duo Security ranks among Michigan’s fastest-growing tech start-ups, with some 250 employees in Ann Arbor, Texas, California, and London, England. In late April, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $2.5-million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant that will allow Duo Security to expand in Ann Arbor.

The firm plans to hire up to 300 new workers there over the next three years, including sales, engineering, security and product development professionals.

While not releasing specific figures, Song said the firm has achieved 300{79a647cca87b12cf96891231d015f720afa7c77d4a1b5a84763cbac83075a421} increases in revenue for three years running. State officials point to Duo Security as one of Michigan’s shining examples of tech success.

“Duo’s expansion in Michigan rather than Silicon Valley means excellent, well-paying jobs for Michigan residents and underscores the strength of the talent in the state’s technology sector,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Chris Rizik, a venture capitalist based in Ann Arbor, said Song is nationally respected as a CEO and technologist, and that his vision for making Ann Arbor a hub of cyber security is attracting great talent. That makes it easier to keep U-M grads in this area.

“Through Duo and a few other companies, there’s an opportunity that didn’t used to be, to stay here and have a great career and be in a town that young talented people want,” Rizik said. “There’s a lot of people who want to work at Duo.”

Song said that the culture of innovation and collaborative learning in Ann Arbor was central to Duo’s success.

“Everyplace is about something,” he said. “LA’s about fame. Ann Arbor’s is about learning. That’s what we do. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a designer or a teacher or whatever. What makes us different is that we learn faster, more effectively. Our culture is engineering the business, learning together, all built around how a team develops.”

The partners chose the name Duo Security to reflect what Song calls the “duality to what we do … taking security, which about saying ‘no’ and usability, which is about saying ‘yes’ and smashing them together.”

Central to their mission is to make digital security as painless as possible for their clients.

“We wanted to build the next great security company by delivering security in an effective way. And to be effective, the most important thing is that it would have to be easy,” Song said.

Growing up in Baltimore,  Song was just 8 when he started playing with early version computers in his father’s liquor store. Soon he was joining friends who shared his love of “Dungeons & Dragons” for good-natured hacking for the sheer joy of learning all about the digital world. Fortunately for society, Song turned his talents to protecting companies and institutions from malicious computer hacking. He also attended UM to hone his computer skills.

View full article at Detroit Free Press

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