BAE Systems and Cyber London: joining forces to combat cyber crime
"This is a global problem that isn’t going to go away," remarks Alex von Someren, co-founder of Cyber London, when asked if it is possible to win the battle against cyber crime.
While von Someren admits it is difficult to win the battle, CyLon is actively supporting start-ups who offer cutting-edge, innovative solutions to help companies to address the weak points in their cyber security defences, to train staff to be ‘cyber-savvy’ and to limit the damage done if an attack is successful.
In exchange for £15,000, CyLon takes a three percent equity stake and provisions a 13-week accelerator programme designed to offer support on all the critical issues start-ups face. This varies from helping the founders find product market fit, messaging, route to market, pricing models, scalability and investment.
CyLon also arranges for industry experts to meet with the entrepreneurs on a weekly basis, and introduces the start-ups to potential customers.
One such industry expert partner is BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, whose Director of New Ventures and Innovation, Richard Wilding, sits on CyLon’s advisory board.
"The scale of the cyber security issue is so great that there is no one company who can solve all the problems," he explains.
"In fact, our recent global research into cyber security shows that almost three-quarters of ITDM respondents expect the number and severity of cyber-attacks to increase in the year ahead. Therefore, you can see that with stats like this, we need to be encouraging these cyber start-up companies. They can help us to help our clients."
Two years in
Cyber London’s network already comprises 40 alumni companies and more than 200 mentors from the likes of BAE Systems and other partners. Whichever way you look at it, the programme appears to be highly successful.
"There are many ways to measure success," says von Someren. "In recent weeks, two of our teams announced funding rounds of over $2m each from top-tier investors, while another two CyLon companies won awards in the Securing the Nation competition at an event at the iconic BT Tower.
"Two of our alumni won awards over start-ups who’d raised a combined $120m from Valley based venture funds, another pretty impressive feat. One of our start-ups, Sphere Secure, has already been acquired by OneLogin."
Little and large
The relationship struck up by BAE and CyLon has undoubtedly been of mutual benefit. As a global company, BAE Systems is behind some of the world’s most advanced security solutions and sharing their experiences will help companies that are just starting out in this sector to build connections across the industry.
"Experts from all areas of BAE Systems come in to mentor the teams, helping with both business challenges, such as marketing strategies or product development, and technical knowledge, such as threat intelligence," continues von Someren.
"Many of our alumni are still in talks with BAE Systems and its ongoing support and interaction has proven instrumental is some of our start-ups successes. Richard Wilding sits on CyLon’s advisory board and is a great support and advocate for CyLon."
Likewise, there are always things that large, established organisations can learn from working with fledgling companies who are bringing new ways of thinking and disruptive ideas to keep businesses and consumers safe from cyber threats.
"First and foremost, it is essential that start-ups companies are not seen as competition to larger organisations already in the industry," explains Wilding.
"Whilst these start-ups might offer a similar service, tool or solution, they equally bring an opportunity for partnership on specific problems. Start-ups are a very different beast to larger organisations, they have different assets and weaknesses than ours.
"This is particularly useful today when there is deep innovation happening with the existing products that we have around cyber and other domains. Where I believe start-ups help in the market is through innovation and how start-ups deliver and construct their business models. Because of their nature, start-ups are in a better position to come up with new ways to solve universal problems."
The collaborative age
More generally, in an age of ever complex cyber security and sophisticated cyber criminal activity, it is vitally important that collaboration between businesses thrives in order to prevent and mitigate the impact.
Wilding passionately states the case not only for cyber security to be front of mind for boardrooms around the world, but for businesses of all sizes to do more collectively.
"BAE Systems’ relationship with CyLon allows us to collaborate with start-ups and foster relationships to benefit the entire cyber industry, as well as the businesses that rely on its products and services," he adds.
Indeed, BAE Systems has signed up to at least another three years of collaboration with CyLon, which has another eight participants making up its fifth cohort of companies.
For Wilding, this partnership is just one of many programmes with smaller businesses, and more is to come. "I can see us scaling our collaboration both in terms of geography and domain," he says. "Innovation happens everywhere, and we need to get as broad a view as possible."