Analysis

February 5, 2024

11 cybersecurity startups to watch, according to investors

From protecting large AI systems to shielding public services, investors tell Sifted which cybersecurity companies are standing up to protect Europe

Few words are on the lips of Western politicians as much these days as cybersecurity — and investors are riding the wave. 

The rise in geopolitical hostilities with nations like Russia and Iran has turbocharged interest in solutions to protect data and systems, as intelligence agencies in the UK and the US warn cyber attacks against companies holding key intellectual property and public services across the West are on the rise.

Investors from Balderton Capital, Lightspeed, Omnes Capital, Dawn Capital and GALLOS Technologies tell us the cybersecurity startups on their watchlists. 

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Sifted only gave them one rule: none of the companies nominated could already be in their investment portfolios.

Laura McGinnis, principal at Balderton Capital

Lakera — Switzerland

Lakera, Europe’s leader in large language model (LLM) security, enables organisations to create GenAI applications. Its product, Lakera Guard, combats prompt injections, data loss, harmful content and other LLM risks. The increasing prominence of GenAI has escalated the scale and speed of attacks. The Open Worldwide Application Security Project's (OWASP) release of the top 10 list for LLM applications last summer offered new perspectives on potential LLM threats. 

Lakera has devoted years to detecting and addressing LLM vulnerabilities, starting with prompt injections. For those seeking a challenge, try Lakera’s Gandalf. This educational game is one of the most innovative global red teaming campaigns designed to teach about the risks of prompt injection attacks on LLMs.

Qevlar AI — France

Given the rising use of GenAI by attackers to manipulate decision-making processes and steal data, it’s clear that our defences need to evolve. Despite this, progress in protecting AI systems has been slow, especially worrying as GenAI accelerates the speed and scale of attacks. 

The current security labour shortage, high turnover and unprepared cyber defences exacerbate the situation. Paris-based cybersecurity startup Qevlar is addressing this issue by enhancing the capabilities of Security Operations Centers (SOCs). This GenAI solution automates the cybersecurity investigation and detection processes, specifically designed for enterprise environments that often deal with complex security challenges. 

Qevlar AI provides an autonomous investigation API that allows for quick and automated analysis of potential security incidents. This eliminates the need for manual intervention, allowing the system to complete investigation tasks in under a minute that would typically take human experts hours.

Antoine Moyroud, partner at Lightspeed

Filigran — France

Filigran offers open-source solutions integrated in a cyber-threat knowledge management platform. It offers threat intelligence, adversary simulation and crisis response products. If you had to slot the company in a bucket, you could say it sits at the intersection of open standards, information sharing and cybersecurity awareness.

The founders have been working on the project since 2018-2019 and bootstrapped the business before raising capital. CEO Samuel Hassine used to run the Threat Intel team at ANSSI, the French national cyber agency, widely known as one of the top teams in cyber globally. They have a slew of great customers that were working with them already and now have about 3.5k organisations using them (including Airbus, Hermès, SpaceX, Thales and security organisations like the ANSSI, the Dutch police, the FBI...).

Element — UK

Element is the company behind an end-to-end encrypted team messaging platform powered by Matrix, which is a decentralised open communication protocol.

They are at the intersection of two trending themes: secure communication and data sovereignty. The company’s use of the Matrix aligns with the trend of enhanced security and privacy in digital communication. Users have full control over their data and can easily comply with country-specific regulations. They have large governmental and defence organisations leveraging their work to avoid cyber risks when communicating private information.

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Fabien Collangettes, partner at Omnes Capital

Gatewatcher — France

Gatewatcher has been protecting the critical networks of worldwide large companies and public institutions since 2015. Its Network Detection and Response (NDR) and Cyber Threats Intelligence (CTI) solutions quickly detect and respond to any cyber attacks. 

Thanks to AI converging with dynamic analysis techniques, Gatewatcher provides a 360-degree visibility of network usage and assets, early identification and characterisation of threats, and global remediation actions, covering both cloud and on-premise infrastructures.

Mitigant.io — Germany

Mitigant offers a multi-cloud security platform with continuous detection and remediation of security vulnerabilities, cloud compliance monitoring, and cloud attack emulation to ensure cloud security, compliance and cyber resilience. 

It is the first cybersecurity solution to provide Security Chaos Engineering to enable companies to manage and secure their cloud proactively amidst the rise of cyber attacks on cloud-native infrastructures in recent years. Mitigant focuses on ensuring cloud resilience, compliance and security, addressing the challenges posed by the rapid evolution of cloud technology.

SeedFence — France

SeedFence is a cybersecurity company specialising in intrusion detection and prevention systems for embedded devices. Its technology combines lightweight, explainable Artificial Intelligence algorithms with rule-based detection to protect Internet-of-Things (IoT), Operational Technologies (OT) and Industrial Control Systems (ICS). 

SeedFence’s solution offers advanced detection capabilities, focusing on reliable and explainable AI-based behavioural anomaly detection. It is catering to the specific needs of embedded systems.

Henry Mason, partner at Dawn Capital 

Metomic — UK

We’re now in an era where a typical organisation might have over 100 SaaS, cloud and GenAI tools, most storing sensitive company data. To protect this data, companies need a clear picture of exactly what is stored in each system and where security risks for potential breaches or non-compliance issues could arise. Metomic offers a solution through helping firms map every piece of their data and identify key risk areas. 

Crucially, the UK-based startup doesn’t just flag risks and leave companies floundering — it enables clients to implement security policies and remediate issues. Metomic also helps firms future-proof their data security setup, as employees can quickly upskill using its platform. 

Tracebit — UK

The traditional paradigm of cybersecurity has been to try and protect your systems from attacks. However, in a world where the likes of JP Morgan are reporting 45bn cyber attacks per day, Tracebit is taking a different approach.

The London-based company, founded by ex-Tessian engineers Andy Smith and Sam Cox, stands out in a crowded market through offering a model that assumes there’s a breach in the system from day one. Its software allows clients to detect intrusions and respond to threats in minutes, while its “assume breach” model helps companies create incredibly resilient response strategies through building a culture of readiness. Tracebit users can avoid the pain of scrambling in response to surprise cyber attacks, and save money and stress in the long term. 

William Kilmer, general partner at GALLOS Technologies

Snyk — UK

Snyk develops security analysis tools designed to identify open-source vulnerabilities. The use of AI-developed code is going to prove a major source of risk for most organisations, and Snyk has positioned itself well with a key solution. It is also one of the few companies outside of threat detection and response that has built an effective AI solution, in this case for code analysis. I am bullish on Snyk because I think it is well accepted for its fast, automatic remediation capabilities. Offering a solution for secure code that accelerates developer velocity is a double win. 

Risk Ledger — UK

While C-suites have put third-party risk aside temporarily, CISOs and procurement organisations still see this as a very high priority. First-generation solutions in this space have largely failed to fulfil their promise, but I am more optimistic about next-generation solutions. One that is interesting is Risk Ledger, which goes beyond risk identification to help organisations improve the security of the global supply-chain ecosystem. 

Risk Ledger compares policies against suppliers’ security data and identifies the security requirements with a dynamic controls framework. It has a unique live assessment capability which helps organisations to remediate the vulnerabilities across the entire supply chain, improve security defences and mitigate security risks. Anyone who remembers the difficulties organisations had with identifying Log4j vulnerabilities back in 2021 will recognise how useful this could be.

Cristina Gallardo

Cristina Gallardo is a senior reporter at Sifted based in Madrid and Barcelona. She covers Europe's tech sovereignty, deeptech and Iberia. Follow her on X and LinkedIn