Tessian: Where Are They Now?

Organized by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the annual Cyber Security Innovation Competition sees some of Europe’s most disruptive and entrepreneurial security companies pitch to win a place in the Cyber Innovation Zone at Infosecurity Europe.

Tessian – at the time named CheckRecipient – was named the UK’s Most Innovative Small Security Startup in 2017. We caught up with CEO Tim Sadler to see how the business has developed since its win.

How has the business changed in the last two years?

It’s been fantastic; we’ve gone from strength to strength. In 2018 we raised $13m in Series A funding led by Balderton and Accel, then in February this year we raised a further $42m in Series B funding, backed by Sequoia.

The threat and regulatory landscapes have changed a lot with the arrival of GDPR, and the rising number of phishing and spear-phishing attacks. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of protecting their people in order to secure their most sensitive data. We responded by introducing Tessian Defender in 2018, which uses machine learning to protect employees from strong form spear-phishing emails. Consequently, we can now protect data from threats caused by human error via both inbound and outbound emails.

The Tessian platform has been deployed across hundreds of world-leading enterprises. We grew by more than 300% in 2018, and opened our first US office, in New York. Tessian now employs more than 100 staff, and this number will continue growing in 2019.

What stage of development was the business at when you pitched?

We had developed and launched our flagship solution – Guardian – which uses machine learning to automatically prevent highly sensitive information being sent to the wrong people over email. In terms of funding we’d raised $2.7 million, led jointly by Accel and LocalGlobe, and the company employed around 20 members of staff.

What did you hope to achieve by entering?

Infosecurity Europe is such an important date in the cybersecurity calendar, and we hoped to inform the industry about what we were doing and the problem we’re solving. The icing on the cake was winning; it opened up amazing opportunities for us to meet new people and win new customers.

Can you tell us a bit about your pitch?

We were up against 20 of the best small cybersecurity companies in Europe. We only had a few minutes to pitch our product, so we made the presentation as simple and as memorable as possible. I think the key to our success was explaining the journey from the problem – people misdirecting emails, to the solution – understanding human behavior, in order to identify when something doesn’t look right and notify the user before a breach occurs.

What impact did the win have?

It greatly helped us make our mark in the industry. The attention Tessian received in the 12 months following the award was phenomenal, and since then we’ve been winning more awards and continually growing.

What are your plans for the future?

The next 12-18 months will be exciting as we continue to build the world’s first human layer security platform – a move we believe marks the next era for cybersecurity.

First businesses protected networks, then they protected devices. Yet data breaches are at an all-time high. The problem is that, until now, people – who process sensitive data every day – have been completely neglected from a security perspective. We have to remember that people make mistakes and they can be duped by scammers, and this puts data at risk. Businesses must, therefore, protect their people.

We’ll continue to hire extraordinary talent to help us achieve our goal of keeping the world’s most sensitive data private and secure. Following our recent Series B funding round, we also plan to expand globally, and to invest more in R&D to grow our platform capabilities and product offering.

Will you be at Infosecurity Europe this year? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to?

Yes, we’ll be there. If you want to find out more about preventing data breaches caused by human error, or discuss how you can empower your employees to process data confidently and safely, then stop by Stand B190 to chat with the team.

I’m particularly looking forward to the new Geek Street feature; the deep dive session by researcher David Edwards looks really interesting. He’ll address how hackers could use AI in the future to impersonate a human and undertake vishing attacks. This will provide a fascinating insight into how hackers’ techniques continue to evolve in order to influence and trick people into sharing sensitive data.

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