Avast gets hearty investment

Summit Partners has acquired a $100m stake in free anti-virus software firm AVAST Software.

AVAST’s flagship offering, the Avast (in lower case) antivirus and Internet security product range, was launched in 1988. The company claims that it is now installed on 20 per cent of the world’s PCs. The system is predicated on AVAST’s CommunityIQ system of user-submitted data on viruses and infected websites.

The investment endorses the market validity of AVAST’s so-called ‘freemium’ business model, which combines a free product with a premium one, according to the Czech company’s CEO Vince Steckler: “This approach is upsetting the traditional antivirus market,” he says. “Instead of paying for advertising or installation on new computers, AVAST [grows] as its fans recommend our products to friends. The word-of-mouth of our customer base is the most effective –and lowest-cost – form of advertising.”

Private equity and venture capital provider Summit Partners firm has invested growth equity, recapitalisation, and management buyout financing, to more than 300 companies. Its investments in the security market include McAfee, Postini (later acquired by Google), SafeBoot Holdings BV (later acquired by McAfee), and Sybari Software (later acquired by Microsoft).

“‘Freemium’ is the wave of the future,” Steckler insists. “We have no plans to change our approach, and conform to the classic retail positioning model.”

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