Five in five: Step by step… how to build a better cybersecurity company

Image: Kelly Hannan

In January 2017, I co-founded Darktrace in my laboratory at Cambridge University. Since then, we’ve spent all year in the trenches fighting cybersecurity threats, while scaling our team and business. We’ve dealt with break-ins, cyberattacks, and low-grade irritants such as email phishing attacks.

The earliest days, I admit, were pretty terrifying. We came very close to giving in to those who preached the viciousness of our adversaries. All it took was one single incident – a reported one at that – that I wanted nothing to do with: When the Uber hacker, who stole the personal information of 57 million users and drivers, was sentenced in October 2017.

But then it dawned on me: the world’s most ambitious attackers couldn’t have been so successful and bold if they didn’t have confidence in the tools we developed. If we had become complacent, we would have fallen flat on our faces.

We did not replace our antivirus software – we had an alternative – but we never stopped building new products. Darktrace is continually refining its methods for detecting and reacting to cybercrime events. Our current approach is highly focused on three primary areas:

Expertise: In every single geography where Darktrace operates, we have one or more dedicated people working with security analysts in each country to adapt our tools to their unique problems. We leverage that expertise and co-brand our new products with the local local partners. This means Darktrace’s customers stay within their country, and Darktrace is able to continue investing in development and expansion, while not having to move overseas.

Focus: By exclusively relying on one vendor to do all of the work of security analysis, Darktrace is able to focus on where it really excels. To keep it simple, we turn a room of scientists into analysts and recommend their work to the enterprise.

Distraction: An alarm sounds and we warn a customer of the threat. They’ve been distracted by other priorities and so have stopped working on the following problem altogether. We counter the distraction by sharing its details with our partner’s security teams. We watch for the incident recurring later, and hopefully provide advice on how to adapt.

Darktrace is the only company we know that is focused on this kind of analysis and a holistic approach to cybersecurity. The research and development team exists to drive the technology, while the security analysts work with the client to develop the right solutions, under the strategic guidance of the security decision analyst, who is otherwise focused on other strategic priorities. No other company can claim that.

Image: Kelly Hannan

Today, we’ve raised $50 million in Series B funding, that takes the total investment raised to date to $89 million. Darktrace’s product is used in over 100 countries, with more than 500 private and public sectors clients, at more than 10,000 business locations.

The company’s new CFO, Stephen Weeks, joined in early October, and was previously the head of financial management at Microsoft. We now have three directors, including Gavin Russell, previously at Microsoft and adGent, who will help us scale our business. So far this year, we’ve reached revenues of more than $30 million, and expect revenues to reach more than $60 million this year.

Some of the funding is focused on international expansion, which will focus on the key markets of Europe, North America, and Latin America. This is a growth strategy in the truest sense of the word: building the business, growing the customer base, and raising capital for the next phase of the business.

We are raising funds to gain a global scale-up. Our ambitions are high – we need to expand the business by roughly 50% each year. The growth in international markets is a natural way to achieve this, and perhaps the hardest. We are now fully focused on rolling out more services for our customers, and adding more capabilities to the suite.

It’s hard to see the bigger picture when you are under stress, working to protect a company and its data from external intruders. When we meet with our customers, on the other hand, it’s quite easy to look forward – we often find them feeling as if they are at the beginning of a new era of cybersecurity. This is very exciting and motivating, and something that I love.

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