Cybersecurity startup Tessian raises $42m

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

London-based cybersecurity startup, Tessian, has raised $42m in a Series B funding round led by US investment firm Sequoia Capital.

The money raised will be used to accelerate its expansion in the US and other global markets, Tessian said. 

Existing investors Balderton Capital and Accel are also participating as well as Latitude Ivestment Management. Matt Miller, who is a Partner at Sequoia, will join the Tessian board.

Tessian’s technology uses machine learning to eliminate the huge security vulnerabilities surrounding enterprise email including spear phishing and misdirected emails. The platform analyzes historical email data in order to understand the context of human relationships and communication. 

Tessian uses AI technology

By knowing what normal email activity looks like, it can automatically detect any anomalies that may imply a security threat.

Emails that look like security threats are flagged with warning notifications to employees, which alert them to the specific reason why something looks unusual. Security admins can also be notified in real-time when threats are detected and with information about what action the employee took when issued with the warning.

“We’ve entered the third era of enterprise cybersecurity. In the early days, network security sufficed”, said Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian. “Then cloud apps and mobile devices proliferated, and we adopted endpoint protection. 

Tessian offers machine learning cyber security solutions

“But in spite of these protections, data breaches are at an all-time high. The reason is humans. People are the most important decision makers in the enterprise and process extremely sensitive information on a daily basis, yet they’re more vulnerable than ever before. 

“Tessian’s mission is to help organisations protect people processing data using technology that empowers, rather than restricts the way they work” 

Matt Miller, Partner at Sequoia, said: “For years the security market has focused mostly on protecting critical machine driven points of vulnerability such as the network, the endpoint, the cloud or SaaS connection. 

“To us this has always seemed somewhat flawed because the biggest asset and vulnerability to any enterprise is its people. We are enthusiastic to partner with Tessian because we believe in this team and its ability to leverage machine learning to help enterprises protect their people. Tessian's human-centric approach is incredibly distinctive and is already resonating well with customers. We are excited to help them create this market focused on Human Layer Security."

Strong growth amid rise in cyber attacks

Tessian grew by more than 300 per cent in 2018 and the company will use the funds raised to accelerate its global expansion, as well as to invest heavily in research and development to expand their product line in 2019.

The corporate world has seen a flurry of cyber attacks and breaches in recent years that have cost some household names millions of dollars to put right, Tessian said. 

One such spear phishing attack last year targeted FIFA, which led to 70 million documents being leaked to Der Spiegel magazine. France’s independent film group, Pathe, lost €19.2 million when the CEO and finance director of its Dutch branch fell victim to a spear phishing scam.

There are also frequent examples of misdirected and unauthorised emails causing significant data leaks and financial damage. For example, last year insurance company Bupa was fined after an employee sent sensitive data of 547,000 customers to his personal email account to sell on the Dark Web.

Tessian was founded in 2013 by three Imperial College engineers who spent their early careers working for some of the world’s largest investment banks. Tessian has been rapidly adopted and celebrated by many of the UK’s leading enterprises and was awarded “Best AI/ML Provider” from Computing Technology Product Awards in 2018.

Tessian has a global customer base across the legal, financial, technology and healthcare sectors. Their clients include international law firms Clifford Chance and Dentons, financial institutions Schroders and Investec and FTSE 100 company Rightmove.

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