Photo by Rockman Law

Why the perfect time to start a cyber security company is now

Here’s something for you to ponder; how did a British magician who lived over a hundred years ago have an impact on cyber security companies of today?

If you thought 2016 was a bad year for cyber security breaches (Yahoo, LinkedIn, Tesco Bank, the US election) then just you wait for 2017, this will be the year where cyber security risks intensify. With talks of increased cyber espionage, new attack vectors springing up in the most unlikely of places, and more Internet of Things (IoT) devices being compromised, there is no better time to start a cyber security company. It’s a growth industry and as long as we will continue to generate digital data, that data will need to be protected.

However it can be daunting to start a company, I know from experience, so you might ask what do you normally need when starting out? There’s no right or wrong way to build a company but most will need the following; money, time and guidance to figure out where your idea or technology fits in the bigger picture.

Here are some resources that have helped us along the way:

1. The Defence and Security Accelerator

You need funding? A good source to consider is the Defence and Security Accelerator. The name is a bit misleading, it’s not setup like a traditional accelerator but more of a Government funding vehicle. Previously called the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE), it is part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) of the UK Ministry of Defence and they focus on innovations which can provide advantage to defence and national security to protect the UK.

It funds the development of innovative ideas such as new drone designs to big data techniques to smart fabrics, and provide support through to potential application. They hold regular themed competitions to address specific defence and security challenges but they also hold what they call an enduring competition for novel proposals of technology development across a wide of areas. Successful proposals are fully funded and they encourage the commercial exploitation of project outputs. In previous years, they have held Marketplace events to showcase the results from their funding competitions to potential investors and customers.

2. Innovate UK

Need more funding? Check out Innovate UK, they are basically the UK’s innovation agency. They figure out which science and technology developments will drive future economic growth and then they fund the strongest opportunities. You can apply for funding to test the feasibility of your idea, research and develop it and demonstrate it in a prototype.

Fundamental research is fully funded and as the technology or idea is derisked it becomes partially funded. They have a range of funding routes which you can find here.

3. Accelerators

If you are looking for investment, mentors and a bit of exposure then joining an accelerator might be a good option.

Cyber London (CyLon)

Based in Hammersmith, this is a three-month programme including office space, a network of mentors and concludes with a Demo Day to potential investors and customers. It is more geared towards companies who already have an early stage product or service but be prepared to give away equity to join. It is backed by the likes of BAE Systems, Winton Capital, Raytheon and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

It’s also worth noting, this accelerator was co-founded by Alex van Someren who started nCipher, who led the company to a listing on the London Stock Exchange then sold it to Thales, and he is now a General Partner at Amadeus Capital.

GCHQ Cyber Accelerator

This accelerator is backed by the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future initiative. Successful applicants will gain access to GCHQ’s technological expertise to improve and refine their ideas as well as gain insight into real life use cases. In addition, you will receive a £5,000 grant and office space for the duration of the programme.

HutZero

So this is not an accelerator but more of a pre-accelerator. This is designed to transform early stage ideas into workable proposals and potential new businesses so if you are still forming your idea and figuring out what your value proposition is, this might be a better starting point.

The programme includes a five-day bootcamp with workshops on technical development, business fundamentals and team building. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to continue to work on their ideas in their newly-formed teams, and will be invited to reunite for an alumni event.

This is run by the fine folks at CyLon and the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT).

4. Cyber Exchange

This initiative, run by techUK, provides good resources for all things cyber security related.

By joining the Cyber Exchange, you’ll receive the latest news in the industry, upcoming events and raise your company’s profile. It’ll be useful to get on their Cyber Map and the Cyber Demonstration Centre might be worth considering as well if you need a platform to showcase your technology.

5. Meetups

There are many worthwhile meetups out there but I’ll focus on the ones that are London-based and cyber security and technology-related.

Cyber Tech London - Probably the most established cyber security meetup in London and the topics for talks are usually very interesting. Sponsored by the likes of Digital Shadows, Panaseer and Winton Capital.

Hacker News London - Very much catered for techies and developers but they set a high bar in terms of quality of speakers. Previous speakers include Philip Su, Director of Engineering for Facebook London and the Monzo team.

Product Tank - I highly recommend going to this one if you are building a product. We got some really good insight into product design, development and management, business modelling, metrics and user experience from this event.

The British magician mentioned at the start of the post was named Nevil Maskelyne who happens to have a background in wireless telegraphy and is considered one of the first modern hackers. He was a public detractor of Guglielmo Marconi in the early days of the wireless radio and used Morse code to disrupt a public demo of Marconi’s wireless telegraph. He justified his actions as he believed revealing the security holes in the system is for the public good.

So when you are starting your cyber security company, take a moment and think of Nevil Maskelyne because he showed the world what the potential could be.

Engineer turned founder, now Associate at Ascension + Venture Scout @AdaVentures + Co-founder at Ceerus 🇭🇰 🇳🇿 🇬🇧