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CyLon was founded in January 2015 and its first programme aimed at fostering a homegrown community of cyber security companies was run from April to July 2015.
“We set up CyLon to address the fact that there was no specific project to support early-stage cyber security entrepreneurs trying to create commercially viable businesses,” said Jonathan Luff of Epsilon Advisory Partners, a co-founder of Cyber London.
“We decided to do what we could to support this sector of the economy given the deep IP involved, the complexity of doing this kind of technology well, the usually long sales cycles and the complex customers this technology attracts,” he told Computer Weekly.
Six startups, three from the UK and three from elsewhere in Europe, and two more mature companies were selected to take part in the first programme.
The 14-week programme is designed to provide entrepreneurial teams access to professional training and guidance from an accomplished network of mentors and investors.
At the end of the programme, the companies get the opportunity to present their businesses to potential customers, investors and partners.
In addition to training, mentorship and fully furnished office space, the teams selected to participate in the programme receive a £15,000 investment in return for 3% equity.
CyLon’s business incubator is hosted in facilities provided by Winton capital in Hammersmith, West London, offering office space, breakout and meeting areas, a 130-seat auditorium and on-site catering.
“We wanted a real, physical space where entrepreneurs could base themselves and operate rent-free for a period, which is often one of the biggest challenges facing a developing business,” said Luff.
Office space and collaboration
The accelerator programme combines intensive collaboration, professional training and mentorship, and draws on the expertise of seasoned entrepreneurs, academic cyber security researchers, government officials and senior executives of customer organisations.
CyLon advisory board members include former GCHQ director Iain Lobban, investing partner in Passion Capital Eileen Burbidge and former managing director of Techstars London Jon Bradford.
“There are a small number of high quality programmes for cyber security startups in other parts of the world such as the US and Israel, but most initiatives in Europe tend to be virtual in nature and relatively low touch in terms of support and input,” said Luff.
“We wanted to differentiate our programme by having a specific, dedicated, physically located programme where the team receive not just financial support, but also office space and all the facilities they need to develop as companies.
“We also believe the interaction between participants is an important element of the experience – I am not aware of any other programme in Europe that does all those things,” he said.
Applications are open to startups and growth-stage companies from across Europe for the second incubator programme, which is due to start in early December 2015.
“We believe London is a great place to develop and set up any technology business particularly one related to cyber security, but this programme is open to any European entrepreneurs who are willing to commit to being in London for the duration of the programme,” said Luff.
Applicants may include early-stage teams, through to established companies seeking support as they seek to accelerate development and reach customers and markets.
Cyber London is seeking applications from entrepreneurs working on any technology with security applications and with the ambition to build a successful business.
Seven of the eight teams selected for the first programme have been fast-tracked onto the next stage of their growth path.
Luff said the eighth team had been seeking to move forward with a hardware-based project, but had decided to move to other things.
“Hardware-based projects are typically more difficult to progress because barriers to entry are higher and things did not work out for them. All the other teams are making good progress in their commercial development and are significantly advanced from where they were when they entered the programme,” said Luff.
One of the successful companies that took part in the first CyLon programme is Intruder, which aims to help organisations focus on the threats to their particular business.
“CyLon gave us the platform and the rocket fuel we needed to launch our business,” said Chris Wallis, co-founder and chief executive of Intruder.
“From the network of people we were introduced to, through to the mentoring and review sessions that kept us on track and pushing forwards, the whole experience taught us more than we would have learned from years of going it alone.
“The opportunities that have opened up through being involved with the accelerator have been mind-blowing,” he said.
Alex van Someren of Amadeus Capital Partners, a co-founder of Cyber London, said the success of the first programme has proven the value that can be derived from bringing together startups in a “hothouse environment” and providing the skills, knowledge and contacts they need to get to the next stage of their evolution.
Two of the companies that participated in the first CyLon programme have moved on to raising investment, one has moved on to Y Combinator and two others have formed partnerships with large financial services firms in London to pilot their technology.
Based on the success of the first programme, CyLon has committed to at least another three cycles in the next 18 months.
“We hope the standard of applicants for the next cycle are at least as good as those for the first round. We are confident the second programme will be every bit as good as the first, if not better, thanks to feedback from our first-round participants,” said Luff.
“The first group greatly appreciated the strong technology input from mentors who have set up, run and invested in cyber security related technologies. The group also benefitted from the diverse network of contacts we brought in to engage with them, so we will double up on that in the next cycle,” he said.
In the second programme, Luff expects to see innovation in cyber security around cloud-based computing, mobile computing and insider threats.
Read more about technology incubator programmes
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- Odine – an open-data incubator involving the Open Data Institute – has awarded €650,000 to seven European businesses.
- More than 20 startups have presented their pitches to John Lewis executives in the first round of this year’s Jlab accelerator.