IT security is a safe job? Tell that to Norse staff laid off this week

Life in the VC lane

Exclusive One of the more promising security startups of recent years has laid off a sizable chunk of its staff, citing business pressures.

Norse – which you may remember from its FreeBSD fault finding or its global cyber-attack map – is one of a growing number of firms that uses a worldwide network of sensors and server racks to track online threats and give advance warning to paying customers.

Threat intelligence is seen as one of the hottest sectors in IT, with VC money pouring in to sponsor promising startups in the hope of a big payoff later. Just in September, Norse secured $11.8m in funding from KPMG Capital, and has around $42m in VC funds raised so far – which makes the layoffs a little surprising.

"Norse, like every other business in the world, had to let some employees go in order to better serve customers with quality products," a spokeswoman told The Register.

"Letting employees go doesn't mean it was driven by poor corporate health. The company waited until after the holidays, and it was a difficult but necessary decision, with solid business reasons behind it."

She confirmed 20 staff were let go, but wasn't able to say how many workers Norse employed in total, claiming the change in headcount was a "non-issue."

Glassdoor thinks the private California-based firm has between one and 50 employees, whereas LinkedIn reckons 50-200, which sounds a lot more realistic. So it looks like between a 10-50 per cent headcount reduction, with 20 per cent most likely.

Having just received a big cash infusion, you'd expect Norse staff to be feeling rather secure. The firm – founded in 2010 – is still advertising for 16 "open gigs," including security analysts, PHP and JavaScript programmers, and an Internal Recruiter whose job description is to "come up with and execute sourcing strategy so as to meet aggressive hiring goals."

To make matters even more perplexing, a person familiar with the matter told El Reg that there have been reductions in senior management. According to our source, the senior vice presidents of sales, products, and marketing left the firm towards the end of last year as part of a management cull.

Life as a VC-funded company can be a very precarious business, with funding dependent on the will of others until a reasonable cash flow can be sorted out. Norse has done some sterling work in the security sphere, but if you think an IT security job is a sure ticket – think again. ®

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