Darktrace, The Cyber Security Startup Backed By Mike Lynch, Raises Further $18M

Cyber security startup Darktrace, which is already backed by Autonomy founder Mike Lynch’s Invoke Capital, has picked up $18 million in new funding, at a valuation of $80 million. Investors this time around include Invoke Capital, along with Talis Capital, Hoxton Ventures and unnamed private individuals. The UK-based company says it will use the new capital to help fuel growth, including expansion into Asia Pacific.

Calling itself the leader in “Enterprise Immune System technology”, Darktrace was founded in late 2013, and is based on new mathematics and machine learning developed at the University of Cambridge. It claims to be able to address “advanced” cyber threats, whether insider or external, by detecting previously unseen threats in real-time.

“Based on the biological principles of the human immune system, Darktrace’s technology is capable of learning ‘self’ – what constitutes the normal pattern of life for the organisation, its users and devices – and detecting subtle deviations from this normal behaviour, which suggest a compromise, breach or cyber-attack,” is how the company explains it.

This is very different from traditional approaches to cyber security, which tend to employ rule-based systems and are based on the premise that putting up walls around your network is the best approach to keeping cyber-threats at bay. But as network behaviour gets more complicated, it’s increasingly hard to stay one step ahead.

Or, put more simply, Darktrace offers a box that sits in your network and listens to what’s going on combined with software that makes sense of that traffic and alerts IT managers when there is suspicious behaviour, as well as sending them a regular ‘Threat Intelligence Report’.

“There have been a range of attacks inside the network, e.g. Sony Pictures, Target, JP Morgan. If they had Darktrace, those enterprises wouldn’t have been flying as blind. That’s one of the real drivers of growth as everyone is aware that this is a growing problem,” Hoxton Ventures’ Hussein Kanji tells me.

Asked why Hoxton Ventures decided to invest, Kanji cites the startup’s team, noting that it comprises a number of Autonomy’s original team, including backing from Invoke Capital, combined with “GCHQ and NSA talent.”

In addition, the startup is growing super fast. “I’ve seen fast growing companies and this may be one of the fastest growing startups I’ve come across in my life,” he says. Darktrace boasts customers such as Virgin Trains, BT and Drax, to name a few.

Adds Kanji: “The space is interesting; there is a scarcity of security products that can help enterprises figure out what’s going on in their networks. This problem is only going to get worse over time with a proliferation of devices, usage, etc. There’s some real tech under the hood to help make companies get smarter about what’s going on, and there is real-world data (unfortunately too confidential to share) that demonstrates how Darktrace helps.”