A Portland-based startup that promises affordable protection from cyber attacks plans to expand its sales and product development efforts with $1.6 million in early stage funding it received from the Maine Technology Institute and a private investment firm.

The company, called Defendify, is positioning itself to help small businesses affordably take on the daunting task of averting cybersecurity disasters, which can be cost-prohibitive. Cybersecurity consultants can charge upward of $200 an hour.

Defendify co-founders Andrew Rinaldi and Rob Simopoulos say their company gets around the cost problem by packaging the necessary components of a cybersecurity program into a simple-to-use, cloud-based subscription service that is largely automated. Prices for the basic subscription service start at $100 a month, they said.

Rinaldi, whose expertise is website building, and Simopoulos, a 20-year veteran of the cybersecurity industry, teamed up to found Defendify in September.

“We decided that there was a desperate need for small businesses to have proper cybersecurity protection in place, so we got together and we started this business to help solve that problem,” Simopoulos said.

Over half of small businesses in the U.S. said they’ve experienced some kind of cyberattack within the past 12 months, according to the 2019 Cyber Readiness Report by Bermuda-based commercial insurer Hiscox. Defendify’s service for that growing problem has grabbed the attention of investors.

On Thursday, the company announced that it received $1.6 million in pre-seed funding, led by private investors with participation from the Maine Technology Institute and 3dot6 Ventures, a boutique investment firm specializing in early stage cybersecurity firms.

“(Small and medium-size businesses) are under immense pressure to find cybersecurity solutions that help meet regulatory needs and satisfy requirements coming from their customers,” said Jonathan Dambrot, an investment partner at 3dot6 Ventures. “Finding a way to do that holistically and at a reasonable price point has been very challenging, until now.”

For businesses, a big part of defending against cyberattacks is teaching employees not to click on suspicious email attachments or website links, Simopoulos said. So in addition to the usual anti-malware applications and other tools, Defendify also offers its customers training videos and “phishing simulation” tools that send suspicious-looking but benign emails to employees to test their vigilance.

“We’re really spending a lot of time educating the employees on cybersecurity through these two different tools,” Simopoulos said.