As we pondered naming the firm and looked at how the prior venture capital firms chose names, there were some obvious patterns:

  • Names of trees (Sequoia, Sierra)
  • Meaningful places/events
  • Excitement adjectives (growth, inflection, scale, catalyze)
  • People’s last names

Since we are doing what we believe to be the industry’s first fund solely focused on security, we wanted our naming methodology to speak about the employees, founders and customers of our security portfolio companies. In the end we picked Ten Eleven for many reasons, no one reason in particular, but here is the foundation of the name Ten Eleven Ventures:

  1. The use of ten and eleven are a nod to the importance of numbers as the building blocks of digital security. Many of the foundational algorithms of security, including the famous RSA algorithm, all are heavily based on numbers. When numbers interact with each other like a+b – dare I say, “numbers social networking” – it becomes the domain of mathematics. Mathematics shows up in the most fundamental conversion of data to bits of only 0/1, transpositions such as “encryption/decryption,” hash functions, cryptography, communications protocols, the little lock in your browser – all are based at some level on numbers and mathematics.
  2. The combination of the 0’s and 1’s as the only inputs into two-digit representations of “10” and “11” are examples of the most fundamental piece of everything in technology such as voltage on/off, switch open/closed, memory magnetized north/south, all are “1/0.” But long combinations of 0’s and 1’s can be taken together and summed, averaged, transposed to form more sophisticated things. Taken to extremes, with millions and billions of simple 0’s and 1’s, pioneers in technology have created magical devices and services like mobile phones, laptops, games and software. From the combinations of simple things comes the beautiful – and herein lies the most interesting elements of technology: the intersection of human creativity with the mathematics and physics to form today’s beautiful digital world.   Just as the greatest artists take simple oil and canvas and create great works, great engineers can convert bit streams into delightful and secure products and services.
  3. When selecting good examples of bit strings to demonstrate what binary means, two characters are usually too short and eight gets too long, but four characters are just right. When choosing the best example of base-four strings amongst the 16 possible options (2 ^ 4 = 16), bad examples are the ‘all 1’s,’ ‘all 0’s,’ anything that starts with zero as the leading zero can get dropped accidentally, and anything that repeats itself like “1010” or “0101.” All of these tend to focus the example on the relative sequence of bits rather than the simple fact that there are four independent bits. The particular sequence of “1011” happens to be a good example of four bits that has little meta data contained, and highlights the notion of bits being independent of each other and does not start with zero.
  4. Many security companies and press articles use iconography that contains bit strings for visual representation of security stories. Building on points 2 and 3 above, as designers think about visually impactful representations of digital, technology and security, they tend to select icons and graphics that contain strings of “1011.” Nearly every data breach article in the past year contains a graphic of a hacker with black mask and some bit strings as the “wallpaper” in the background. So we have managed to pick a firm name that will be present, even if just subliminally, in nearly every article that ever has been written and will be written on security. See if you think of Ten Eleven Ventures the next time you read an article that has bit strings as visual icons. I bet many of you who read this blog will think of us, which was the whole point of our brand name. That was kind of tricky, huh!
  5. We reached important milestones towards the formation of the firm around October 11th, which happens to conveniently have 10.11 in the date. We look forward to celebrating our firm’s founding on this date every year. If you’re one of those types who has a hard time remembering birthdates, we made it easy on you – ours is in the name!
  6. At a very personal level, October 11 happens to be my grandfather’s birthday. Dominic Louis Pucci was born in 1899 (not a typo), which I have always thought was so cool since I was a kid. I only wished I knew him longer as he passed when I was just seven years old. I carry his name as my middle name and have passed it on to one of my children as well. He got his Ph.D. from Harvard during the Depression studying Dante’s Inferno in Italian and the “seven levels of hell,” which I always thought was a fascinating book. It reminds me every day of the importance of doing good things, not bad! It also reminds me of the importance of balance between right-brain and left-brain skills, and the magic that can happen when you harness both. Math and Dante don’t always show up together too much on the same pages.
  7. If you write my last name “Doll” and put some clever shading on the first letter/number, “1011” is kind of a subtle/encrypted form of “Doll.” I admit the first 1 representing a “D” takes a little creativity on the vision/shading side, but you gotta give me the “oll” and “011” being pretty clear line.
  8. 1011, that is “one thousand and eleven” now, is a great example of the value of the “Sieve of Eratosthenes.” This is an algorithm that allows you to determine if a long list of numbers starting with 1 to a larger number x are prime. Prime numbers happen to have a very special place in the hearts of cryptographers and cryptanalysts, as they form the basis of the inputs into useful transpositions of data that result in things being able to be sent securely over open channels. This is becoming pretty important in democratic societies that are open by design.Spoiler Alert: Read this next section in order and don’t peek ahead if you want to “test yourself.”
  9. Speaking of prime numbers, is 1011 a prime number? Well that happens to be a great example of one of the mathematical bases of cryptography, which is premised on the simple fact that multiplication is easier than division.

    Division – Is 1011 a prime number or can it be factored by something other than 1 and itself?

    [tick, tock, tick, tock … you could use the Sieve of Eratosthenes or if you are a laser brain math guy, you might have figured it out by now. Make a note of how long that took you.]

    Multiplication – What is 337 x 3 = xxxx

    [bang / in nearly every case, the human brain/computer/otherwise, the answer to multiplication problems is obtainable much quicker than the division problem.]

    The answer is, of course, 1011, but you probably got that out of context, not pure math anyway. And now if you don’t have kids that you are tutoring in recent years on mathematics, you are reminded again that division is harder than multiplication.

    In cryptography the two numbers that can be multiplied together to transpose a data blob are two really long prime numbers roughly correlated with public and private keys. The fact that the transposed blob has to then be divided or factored as one of the shortcuts to be “broken” makes it really hard, even for computers, to try every example via a proverbial dictionary attack or find any factoring algorithms (shortcuts).

    Even computers can do multiplication of these really long numbers much easier than they can be factored – this is one of the tenants or mathematical foundations of digital security today.

  10. or maybe this one should be 11.I have been asked if I ever watched the somewhat iconic movie “Spinal Tap.” There is a famous scene where the electric guitar’s amplifier knob, instead of simply going from 1 to 10, is relabeled to go from 1 to 11. It’s very funny and probably was subliminally involved in picking Ten Eleven, but not really a major consideration.

In the end we picked the name of the firm for lots of reasons – personal, business impact, reflection of our beliefs and some cool anecdotes. But we also just loved the way the logo designs looked and the branding/iconography potential that lies ahead.

We look forward to how the next wave of security leaders, executives and companies will help shape the impression of “Ten Eleven” and to establish the firm as the world’s leading platform dedicated to helping build great security companies.