First cyber security startups graduate from GCHQ accelerator

The first group of companies has completed a government-led cyber accelerator programme aimed at helping UK startups take the lead in producing the next generation of cyber security systems, with another round to be announced in 2017

Seven cyber security startups have graduated from the first UK government-led accelerator programme to boost initial sales and business development and secure follow-on third-party investment.

The accelerator facility was run by Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future, in collaboration with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence and cyber security agency.

The UK government announced the partnership with tech startups to develop cutting-edge, world-leading cyber security technology in September 2016 as part of the £1.9bn National Cyber Security Programme.

The accelerator is part of government efforts to boost the UK’s £22bn cyber security sector, which currently contributes around £2bn a year in exports to the UK economy. It is also the first step in delivering the Cheltenham Innovation Centre, the first of two planned innovation centres, with a second innovation centre set to open in London later in 2017.

Participants in the three-month accelerator programme received support to help them scale all aspects of their businesses, including high-quality mentoring and business services, office space and access to GCHQ and Telefónica’s world-class personnel and technical expertise.

Results include security contracts with government agencies and projects with major corporations, as well as developing products and embarking on funding rounds.

The entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to pitch their startups to an audience of stakeholders and leading investors.

GCHQ, DCMS and Wayra UK have announced that later in 2017, they intend to issue a call for cyber startups to join the accelerator for an extended version of the programme.

Digital minister Matt Hancock said the cyber accelerator is helping to deliver the aim of creating a world-leading digital economy by supporting entrepreneurs and innovators as they turn great ideas into cyber security products and services. “I congratulate all those who have taken part in the first programme and contributed to its success,” he said.

Read more about UK cyber security innovation

Gary Stewart, director at Wayra UK, said the programme has been a textbook exercise in how to accelerate companies extremely quickly.

“We’ve been able to take our strengths and marry them to GCHQ’s world-leading cyber expertise, creating a perfect petri dish for these startups to scale,” he said.

“I’m immensely proud that we’ve been able to realise the promise of this collaboration, and enthused about moving the partnership forward in an even bigger and better way through a new call for cyber startups to join the programme.”

The cyber accelerator initiative is helping to identify and develop innovative systems to meet the cyber security challenges the UK faces today, said Chris Ensor, deputy director of cyber skills and growth at GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

“I hope to see some of the companies we have worked with become household names in the future, providing things that will help keep us safe in an ever more connected world,” he said.

Programme accomplishments

Company successes during the accelerator programme include:

CyberOwl

CyberOwl, an early warning system that provides real-time actionable intelligence and takes the hard work out of active cyber defence strategies.

CyberOwl secured a proof-of-concept project with Cisco to provide early warning on data theft attacks. The company was also awarded Innovate UK funding of £75,000, and will collaborate with Qinetiq to solve the challenge of reducing the time and effort to detect data breaches in increasingly complex environments, such as the internet of things (IoT).

StatusToday

StatusToday is an AI-powered intelligence platform to understand human behaviour in the workplace, which works on boosting security against insider attacks and detecting inadvertent mistakes.

Status Today aims to substantially progress commercial deals with some of the world’s largest defence and security companies. It is working with Cisco on a proof-of-concept project investigating advanced behavioural analytics. It is also working with Microsoft on platform support and pre-release access, and exploring opportunities with Microsoft’s National Safety Team for sales collaboration in the public sector.   

Elemendar

Elemendar, previously known as Futurescaper, is a machine intelligence platform that reads cyber threat reports by humans and turns them into industry-standard structured information.

Elemendar secured a contract that enables the company to continue to develop its machine intelligence platform, which reads cyber threat reports produced by humans and turns them into industry-standard structured information.

Spherical Defence

Spherical Defence has begun a pilot programme with one of the largest payments providers in India. It is also undergoing its first seed funding round; the company is seeking $600,000, and the round will be led by a major Silicon Valley investor.

Spherical Defence is a web application firewall for banks that uses deep learning to detect hacking attempts by establishing a baseline of normal communication, with an intrusion detection score of 99.92%.

CyberSmart

CyberSmart went from a minimum viable product (MVP) and not only developed, but also launched, its security compliance platform into beta. It also got its first customers and is now preparing for a public roll-out.

CyberSmart is a platform that automates implementation, certification and compliance with cyber security standards.

Verimuchme

Verimuchme completed its MVP while part of the accelerator, and is now reaching out to enterprise clients to customise it to better meet their requirements.

Verimuchme is a digital wallet and exchange platform to secure, verify and re-use personal information. Through ID-bound encryption, individuals and multiple enterprises are linked to personal information that can be shared many times over.

CounterCraft

CounterCraft received unbeatable technical mentoring and was able to use GCHQ’s and Wayra”s contacts to position its product strategically in the UK market.

CounterCraft, a counter-intelligence company, protects large organisations with a cyber security deception platform, fooling their adversaries with decoy computers, false data and fake identities.

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