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1Password acquires Dutch startup to hone secret-keeping

April 13, 2021, 6:07 PM UTC

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AgileBits, the Toronto-based maker of a popular password management tool, 1Password, has acquired SecretHub, a Dutch cybersecurity startup.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Jeff Shiner, AgileBits’ chief executive, told Fortune the acquisition can be considered an “acqui-hire,” meaning a small deal focused on bringing aboard a new set of people and skills. The price tag for such deals rarely exceeds the single-digit millions of dollars.

Founded six years ago, SecretHub never raised outside venture capital, according to PitchBook, a startup tracker. The company employed about a dozen people, all of whom have since joined AgileBits to help bolster 1Password’s secret-keeping chops for businesses. The team has “a lot of experience and talent,” Shiner said.

Marc Mackenbach, SecretHub’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement that his company was “approached by numerous suitors,” but that 1Password stood out for sharing his core belief that “security and convenience should go hand in hand.” He is taking the title “principal product manager” at 1Password.

Keep it secret, keep it safe

1Password is best known for its flagship password manager of the same name. The tool helps people eliminate the headaches of creating, storing, and manually entering login credentials, much like rival applications Dashlane, LastPass, and Keeper.

But techies face similar hassles when it comes to managing a variety of similarly sensitive “secrets.” These can be private cryptographic keys, which programmers use to “sign”—or digitally attest to the authenticity of—software. Or they can be so-called access tokens, which connect to cloud services, among other things.

On Tuesday, 1Password announced a new subscription service, priced at $29 per month, called 1Password Secrets Automation. Similar to the way 1Password automates password management, the new service is designed to “secure, orchestrate, and manage your company’s infrastructure secrets,” like the ones described above.

Shiner said the new product gains urgency in the wake of COVID-19. “There’s more machine-to-machine connections, more multi-cloud solutions, than ever before, and with that there’s just a vast number of secrets to secure,” he said. “A midsize business may be dealing with hundreds of secrets, but a larger enterprise is going to be dealing with tens of thousands of secrets.”

Plomp—and away we go!

Joey Coleman, an IT systems director at Kira Systems, a company that develops machine learning–infused software for law firms, started providing AgileBits with feedback on early iterations of its secrets-automation product a year ago.

When Kira implemented a test version of the feature in its workplace in February, Coleman said it instantly made his life easier. “We have had cases where we missed one of the services when we did a password rotation, and then it can’t connect, and we’ve got alerts flying around,” Coleman said. “But with this, we are not worried about that now, because we change that password, and it just trickles out.”

Coleman imagined how machines equipped with 1Password’s new service might speak to one another behind the scenes; like when, say, an attorney-customer using Kira’s application fetches information from a remotely hosted database. “The next time the service needs to connect, it just goes, ‘Okay, what’s the password? Here it is—plomp—and away we go!’” he said.

Akshay Bhargava, who joined AgileBits in February as chief product officer, said the acquisition of the SecretHub team will buttress 1Password’s new technology. “That’s going to really help us accelerate our road map and solve the most important challenges for developers,” said Bhargava, who previously worked at MalwareBytes, Oracle, and FireEye.

For much of AgileBits’ 16-year existence, the company was bootstrapped by its founders. The company raised an unusually large first round of outside investment for the first time in November 2019 worth $200 million, led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel.

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