Aside from Silicon Valley, cybersecurity innovation often comes from Israeli startups whose staff have strong military backgrounds. But, slowly, this is changing. Two years ago this week, Europe’s first cybersecurity accelerator opened in London aiming to change this.
Based in Hammersmith, not-for-profit CyLon has seen more than 38 companies come through its doors since it opened in July 2015.
“The UK wasn’t producing as many standout cybersecurity companies,” says Jonathan Luff, one of CyLon’s co-founders. The accelerator has a network of 150 mentors and a selection of industry partners. “Our original thesis, that there was a need for something like CyLon has been borne out,” Luff adds. “We feel we have enough data points now to say this is something that did fill a gap”.
The programme works by investing £15,000 in each firm that is accepted into its system. This investment is intended to help the startups through a three-month programme that helps them to build their technologies. And, slowly, the ecosystem in growing. In early 2017, Telefonica’s Wayra partnered with intelligence agency GCHQ to launch its own cybersecurity accelerator. It was the first time GCHQ offered-up its expertise to work directly with startups.
Want to be in-the-know? Here are some of CyLon’s top graduates.
Immersive Labs is trying to “plug the cyber skills gap,” says CEO James Hadley. To do this it immerses its users in browser-based cyber labs. One scenario simulates ransomware attacks, allowing companies to develop responses to it. “For our commercial customers we’re improving reporting and committed to developing an increasing number of labs in malware analysis, security investigation and secure coding,” Hadley says about the next 12 months.
“We’re also launching a Digital Cyber Academy in September, which will be free to all students in every university in the UK, US, Australia and Singapore”.
Irra Ariella Khi, the CEO of VChain, is working on passenger safety for the aviation industry and issues around border patrol and national security. The work uses the blockchain to validate data.
The biggest challenge? Education. “Some of our clients really ‘get’ the need already, some clients are only just learning about the power of blockchain, GDPR and the need for privacy by design which all drive new processes in information and security,” Khi says.
Having raised a significant-but-undisclosed investment in May 2016, RipJar is looking to further develop its intelligence platform. The firm helps its customers understand large data sources to create informed analysis.
Cyberlytic’s CEO Stuart Laidlaw says the firm is trying to cut through the noise of cyberattacks by using artificial intelligence to analyse the biggest threats. “We’re moving from a reactive to proactive defence,” he says.
“Developing and marketing a cutting-edge cyber security product that uses AI, together with the prospect of working on some interesting R&D projects with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), makes us stand out from some of the other startups in our space”. Within the next 12 months the firm is looking to close a funding round and build on its work with the MoD.
The winner of WIRED Security’s 2016 startup competition, CheckRecipient looks to reduce the risk of confidential emails being sent to the wrong person. “Our use of machine learning means that we’re the only solution in the marketplace which requires zero admin from IT and security teams and no change to the way in which end users send and receive emails,” says CEO and co-founder Tim Sadler.