empow – Delivering on the Unmet Promises of Cybersecurity
I am thrilled to announce Ascent’s investment in our newest portfolio company, empow. While I am excited for all of our investments, this one feels special in that it exhibits several of the core themes of Ascent’s strategy:
- It’s a thesis driven investment based on months of research and outreach
- It’s partnering with an exceptional entrepreneur from across the Atlantic to help build a US presence
- It’s revitalizing a relationship with an outstanding CEO of a prior Ascent investment
To expand on these points:
Ascent has a heritage of successful cybersecurity investments including CloudLock (acquired by Cisco), Guardium (acquired by IBM), Network Intelligence (acquired by EMC), and Fidelis (acquired by General Dynamics). In each of these cases, we identified an emerging market segment (e.g. cloud security, database security, SIEM, DLP) that we felt was poised for rapid growth and held strategic importance. Most recently, we’ve been focused on the issue of scarcity of IT security talent and the resulting implications at enterprises large and small. One recent report estimates there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021, up from 1 million openings last year. Another study from ESG found that 70 percent of cybersecurity professionals felt the cybersecurity skills shortage had a negative impact on their organizational capabilities. We believe the only solution to this problem is to drive more efficiency from the existing tools and talent within security operations centers through effective orchestration and automation. We also believe that the way to achieve this is by embracing the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
With that thesis established, we spent considerable effort looking for the team and technology that could truly meet this challenge. We found many companies that were pure-play orchestration or automation plays; and then we met Avi Chesla and empow. What made Avi and empow special was the audacity of their vision – to go beyond orchestration and automation, and redefine the SIEM itself. By leveraging artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning, empow makes sense of the avalanche of data produced by security tools, ultimately identifying attacker intent and empowering automated response. empow sits at the center of a security operation as a new type of SIEM that is nimble, pro-active and operationally efficient. The market desperately needs this product.
The empow vision was realized through the tremendous leadership and technical prowess of its co-founders, Avi Chesla and Iko Azoulay. Avi and Iko founded the company in Israel where they built out a world class technical team. Israel is a global leader in cybersecurity innovation, and Ascent has partnered with many Israeli-founded companies over the years including StartApp, CloudLock and Guardium. We have also partnered with many European-founded companies including RapidMiner, Codeship and Vee24. In each of these cases, the founders understood the central role that the US market could play in accelerating their growth, and each decided to move to the US to embrace that opportunity. We are proud to partner with Avi as he expands empow’s reach into the United States, while Iko remains in Israel to lead the team’s efforts there.
In partnering with Avi, a key role that Ascent will play is supporting the team building efforts here in the US. To that end, we are excited that we’ve been able to introduce Peter George to the company. We have worked with Peter before as he led our portfolio company Fidelis Security Systems to a successful exit to General Dynamics. Peter is an experienced CEO with strong expertise in building commercial operations, and he is joining empow as CEO to build out the sales, marketing and finance operations of the company to fuel its rapid growth. He is a tremendous leader and visionary, and we are privileged to work with him again.
As I get ready to head out to San Francisco for the RSA Conference next week, I know what to expect. There will be a record number of exhibitors and attendees. The noise in the cybersecurity market will be louder than ever, but so will the opportunity. With this investment in empow, we have an amazing team, a world class product and a burning market need – the sky is the limit for what Peter, Avi, Iko and the rest of the team can accomplish with this business.