HacWare lands $2.3M to expand cybersecurity awareness training

If you work at a company above a certain size, you’ll understand just how little patience we all feel for internal phishing awareness, even despite the fact that phishing remains one of the leading causes of data breaches. HacWare, a New York-based startup and TechCrunch Battlefield finalist, tries to help employees hate phishing simulations a little less, and it just landed $2.3 million in seed funding to expand its cybersecurity awareness and training offering.

The idea behind HacWare is simple enough: It’s a service that integrates with your company’s Google Workspace or Office 365 and helps employees understand potential risks in incoming email and automates phishing simulations and cybersecurity training.

HacWare aims to give companies an easier onramp to provide meaningful and engaging cybersecurity training to their employees that they won’t hate or that gets in the way of their day-to-day work. The goal is to give employees the skills to protect their company from a growing range of inbound threats, many of which initially target their inbox in an effort to steal their passwords.

Tiffany Ricks, a former ethical hacker and HacWare founder, knows what it’s like to be a startup that has to do more with less. Starting out with just a handful of people on her team, Ricks told TechCrunch that she plans to use the seed round raise to build out the startup’s engineering and sales team to help protect companies from identity theft and phishing attacks.

“This funding will allow HacWare to execute our product strategy goals for making cybersecurity training super adaptive and seamless for global workforces. We are re-imaging workplace training to coach company employees on how to protect their identities and combat phishing attacks,” said Ricks.

Since HacWare’s Battlefield appearance in 2020, held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ricks said the company paused its seed-round fundraise, reinvested its revenues back into the company and re-focused on its product. Ricks said it was part of a promise to put out a new product feature every week for a year. “Initially, it seemed impossible but every week we were releasing a fully functional feature, and putting out video content explaining the features,” she said. Ricks said focusing on what its customers wanted helped attract investors back to the seed round she had put on hold.

The seed round was led by Elevate Capital, with participation from 2.0 Ventures, Aura Innovation Fund, Chai Angels and others.

The funding will also help expand the company’s developer network to offer more ways for companies to integrate their internal applications and HR platforms directly with HacWare’s API with just a few lines of code. Ricks said the developer network is a key component to the company’s product strategy, especially given the shift to remote work driven by the pandemic.

Elevate Capital founder and managing partner Nitin Rai, who invested in the round, is joining HacWare’s board.

Ricks notes that, according to Crunchbase, less than 1% of all venture capital funding went to Black female founders. By her count, Ricks is the 114th Black female founder to raise over $1 million in venture funding.

“I hope I am inspiring more Black women to dream and build big scalable businesses,” said Ricks.