Citrix Acquires Mobile Security Start-Up Zenprise

By NICOLE PERLROTH

Citrix will announce Wednesday that it has bought Zenprise, a mobile security start-up company whose backers include Greylock Partners, Shasta Ventures, the Mayfield Fund, Rembrandt Venture Partners and Bay Partners. The deal terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition may come as a surprise to many who expected that Zenprise might try to go it alone with an eventual initial public offering of stock. The start-up, which has raised over $60 million from venture capitalists, has been a darling in the red-hot mobile security sector. That industry continues to attract more interest, and dollars, from corporations struggling to manage their data in the era of “Bring Your Own Device” to work, or as the industry calls it, B.Y.O.D.

Zenprise is a mobile application that lets companies wrap extra security around employees’ iPhones, iPads, Android devices and other personal devices so employees can use them safely for work.

It spots unusual activity, such as a hacker trying to break into the phone. It also separates employees’ personal files from corporate data so employees do not have to worry about giving their employers full access to personal material. And it lets companies remotely wipe the data on a personal device should, say, the employee leave a phone at a bar– apparently a frequent occurrence in Silicon Valley. The start-up’s technology is on well over a million devices. Its clients include Monsanto and the Boston Red Sox.

Zenprise, which is seven years old, was about to raise another round of financing from venture capitalists when it began discussing a potential deal with Citrix. Citrix, which is familiar to chief information officers looking to streamline their desktop computing systems and to provide employees with ways to work remotely from home, has turned its focus to mobile offerings. In the last year, the company has expanded those offerings with applications for e-mail, calendars and productivity, as well as applications that traditionally were available only on desktop computers, like Excel, PowerPoint and those from SAP. With Zenprise, Citrix can wrap its mobile offerings in better security.

“This is the first truly comprehensive mobile offering for the enterprise,” Sumit Dhawan, a vice president and general manager at Citrix, said in an interview on  Tuesday. “No one else has put together one solution that can be easily absorbed by customers.”

Chief information officers are often frustrated by the fact that they are inundated by vendors but still have no universal remote device for corporate security, mobility and storage. Mr. Dhawan said he hopes the acquisition of Zenprise might provide such a universal remote.

Amit Pandey, chief executive of Zenprise, said the start-up had not been looking to be acquired. He said company officials initially met with Citrix to explore partnerships.

“We didn’t really know Citrix had moved as far ahead in mobile management apps as they had,” Mr. Pandey said. “It started to become more and more clear that an acquisition made sense.”

The partnership may pose another challenge for BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, which is losing its stronghold on the enterprise. One major selling point for the BlackBerry has long been that it is more secure than other mobile devices. A combined Citrix-Zenprise offering may make that point moot.

Mr. Pandey said Zenprise currently supports BlackBerry’s and plans to support the BlackBerry10, RIM’s newest smartphone, which will debut early next year– unless RIM rolls out a new security offering of its own.

“We support their product just like we do any other player,” said Mr. Pandey. “But it’s interesting. We cooperate on some fronts. On other fronts, there is less cooperation.”