Boeing’s Anti-Spam Spin-Off Takes Flight

The Boeing Company has spun-off a new company that it claims does a better job of blocking unwanted email such as spam, pornography and other malicious content, while making sure valid business email gets through.

Called MessageGate, the company was nurtured by the Seattle, Wash.-based aviation giant to develop and market the technology originally for internal use.

Now, the Bellevue, Wash.-based start-up’s first product, MessageGate Security Edition, is on the market, and promises protection for enterprise email systems by filtering and securing inbound, outbound and internal email from unwanted and potentially harmful content.

“We’re more than a spam-blocking company,” Doug Turner, MessageGate senior vice president, marketing and business development, told InternetNews.com. “We provide more flexibility and target the produce to use for corporate email policy, security audit and investigation and regulatory compliance.” Turner said that MessageGate Security Edition uses a unique approach to understanding messages, combining the results of different analysis techniques into the decision process for dealing with a particular email. He said this approach would let large corporations set and comply with their own email policies.

The company was developed through Boeing’s Chairman’s Innovation Initiative (CII), which gives employees the opportunity to develop new business ideas from the company’s proprietary technologies and processes. CII launched in September 2000 and has received more than 800 ideas from employees to date. Boeing said that it has several more ideas ready to be spun-out, while others have been spun-in to Boeing business units.

David Weld, MessageGate’s president and chief executive officer, is the former president and COO of digital media software vendor Loudeye Corp. Polaris Venture Partners was the lead investor; Boeing Ventures and Northwest Venture Associates also kicked in to give the company a piggybank of around $5.1 million. Turner said the company has a portfolio of potential patents in process.

This is not Boeing’s first trip off its beaten path. In 2000, it launched Connexion, a wireless subsidiary that plans to provide two-way Internet connectivity to airplanes in flight. In May, it signed a deal with Lufthansa to become the charter customer, after testing the service earlier this year. The agreement calls for the Connexion by Boeing service to be installed on Lufthansa’s fleet of approximately 80 long-haul aircraft beginning in early 2004.

“MessageGate is launching at a time when spam and email security and compliance are major issues for corporations,” Miller Adams, vice president of Boeing Ventures, said in a statement.

After this week’s spread of Sobig, a blended threat of spam and virus threat, that’s putting it mildly.

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