As cyber threats and attacks mushroom, enterprises are increasing their cybersecurity. Yet the current solutions are not fully meeting customer demand for visibility, automation, and affordability, according to McKinsey. It’s at least a $1.5 trillion opportunity, with the greatest need for autonomous, intelligent cyber-defense platforms that don’t just detect dangers but also recommend action.
While it may not surprise you that those pioneering the industry have military backgrounds, it may surprise you that it is a woman leading the charge. Sivan Tehila is a former head information security officer in the Israel Defense Force. Women make up only a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce, according to BCG. The rate for women reaching the upper ranks is even lower: 18.6%, according to Zippia.
While starting Onyxia, Tehila is also ensuring that the industry has a robust talent pool and that women are a part of it.
Women approach problem-solving holistically and systematically. They create comprehensive solutions. You need to keep up with the chaotic and ever-changing world of cyber threats and attacks and develop an actionable plan quickly. The time to respond has a significant effect on your results.
“Traditional cybersecurity systems are reactive, burdening CISOs [Chief Information Security Officers—senior level executives who effectively monitor and maintain the security of their organization’s applications, databases, computers, and websites] with manual work. As a result, many vulnerabilities are ignored while pervasive cyber threats are becoming more complex,” says Tehila, CEO of Onyxia. “We built Onyxia to be a proactive solution to cybersecurity threats, aimed at keeping CISOs ahead of the curve by providing them with tailored insights based on real-time data, so companies properly prioritize and are best prepared.”
Using AI, machine learning (ML), and algorithms, the platform centralizes visibility tools the enterprise already uses and couples them with actionable insights that are prioritized and customized to the company in real time. Because information security leaders don’t have access to web-based dashboards on the go, Onyxia is mobile-based. Being mobile-based allows cybersecurity teams to address security threats and risks anytime and anywhere in real time.
As economic fears mount, companies are becoming more cost-conscious and are looking to reduce expenditures while improving capabilities. “We see that many companies are looking to consolidate some products and to be more sensitive to budget constraints,” said Tehila. “We think this is one reason this product will be relevant. It helps companies see how they can maximize their security stack and be more focused and strategic in managing their security efforts.”
The company started less than a year ago. Beta customers and design partners are using the platform and providing feedback. Onyxia launches mid-January 2023.
Tehila started the company less than one year ago and raised $5 million. The seed round was led by World Trade Ventures (WTV) with participation by Silvertech Ventures and angel investors.
Raising seed funding for a startup with no prior funding can take up to three to nine months (and sometimes much more). As a first-time female founder and CEO with no cofounder, raising money was daunting. “I felt that investors have all these boxes they want to check,” said Tehila. “I wasn’t falling into all their traditional expectations.” Yet, she did raise a seed round in the typical amount of time.
“I had to learn a lot,” said Tehila. “[In the beginning,] it was tough to explain to investors what I was trying to achieve and how we’re shaping a new category [in the cyberspace sector]. After I got the first check, it was easier.” She fine tuned her pitch based on what resonated with the first investor.
“Investors started to see that competitors were emerging,” Tehila said. A lack of competition in your market can be indicative of serious weakness, not strength. She is now seeing high interest from investors and customers.
After leaving the military, Tehila worked as a consultant specializing in cybersecurity. She moved to New York City four years ago and joined Perimeter 81. It is a cybersecurity startup that recently became a unicorn. There, she learned a lot about the cybersecurity startup world. “I worked with many other CISOs, and I learned the challenges of the market,” she said.
During this time, Tehila founded a group encouraging women to join the cybersecurity space. “It was super important to me to surround myself with other women professionals,” said Tehila. Before Covid, we ran a mentorship program with New York City Economic Development and Fullstack Academy. It offered full-tuition scholarships for qualifying NYC residents.
Tehila is also the program director and cybersecurity professor at Katz School of Science and Health, Yeshiva University. It is ranked No. 2 on Fortune’s list of the best online master’s in cybersecurity programs in 2022. “There is a huge talent shortage in the cybersecurity world,” she said. I’m trying to get more women into my program. We do offer scholarships for women, and we do provide them with mentors from the industry.”
How are you expanding opportunities for women in your field?