Astroscreen raises £770k Seed investment led by SpeedInvest

UK-based start-up Astroscreen has secured $1M in initial funding to progress its pioneering technology which identifies carriers of disinformation on social media. Techniques include coordinated activity detection, linguistic fingerprinting and fake account and botnet detection.

The funding round was led by Speedinvest, UCL Technology Fund, which is managed by AlbionVC in collaboration with UCLB, Luminous Ventures, AISeed and the London Co-investment Fund. Social networks are now critical to how the public consumes and shares news. But they were built to reward virality, which makes them easy to manipulate and therefore to be weaponised on a global scale for commercial and political gain. Electoral interference is perhaps the best-known example, where foreign intelligence agencies are accused of using fake accounts and bots to meddle with the political process and erode trust in democracy. However, commercial brands are just as likely to be targeted, suffering powerful adverse effects. This is the focus of Astroscreen.

At the heart of disinformation attacks lie fake social media accounts – bots (automated) and ‘sock-puppets’ (human-run). These networks of bots and sockpuppets can be used in a highly organised way to spread and amplify minor controversies or fabricated and misleading content. Once an attack gains steam, it is reproduced by genuine users, influencers and then bona fide news organisations. As well as being used in politics they are increasingly being deployed in commercial assaults, already attacking global brands ranging from Nike and Starbucks to pharmaceutical giants.

Astroscreen CEO Ali Tehrani previously founded a machine-learning news analytics company which he sold in 2015, before fake news gained widespread attention.

Tehrani said: “While I was building my previous start-up I saw at first-hand how biased, polarising news articles were shared and artificially amplified by vast numbers of fake accounts. This gave the stories high levels of exposure and authenticity they wouldn’t have had on their own.

“The use of such disinformation to discredit brands has the potential for very costly and damaging disruption when up to 60% of a company’s market value can lie in its brands.”

CTO Juan Echeverria, whose PhD at UCL was on fake account detection on social networks, made headlines in January 2017 (2) with the discovery of a massive botnet managing some 350,000 separate accounts on Twitter.

Echeverria said: “Social media platforms are saturated with fake accounts and botnets and are losing this cat-and-mouse game because botnet makers are continuously finding new ways of avoiding detection. As they incorporate conversational AI and deepfakes, these botnets will get more sophisticated by the day.”

Ali Tehrani concluded: “Social media platforms themselves cannot solve this problem because they’re looking for scalable solutions to maintain their software margins. If they devoted sufficient resources, their profits would look more like a newspaper publisher than a tech company. So, they’re focused on detecting collective anomalies – accounts and behaviour that deviate from the norm for their userbase as a whole. But this is only good at detecting spam accounts and highly automated behaviour, not the sophisticated techniques of disinformation campaigns.”

“Astroscreen takes a wholly different approach, combining machine-learning and human intelligence to detect contextual (instead of collective) anomalies – behaviour that deviates from the norm for a specific topic. Taking Brexit as an example, the inauthentic Twitter accounts that contributed to the conversation were only inauthentic in the context Brexit, and went undetected by Twitter’s scalable spam detectors. Our technology monitors social networks for signs of disinformation attacks, informing brands if they’re under attack at the earliest stages and giving them enough time to mitigate the negative effects.”

Touch Biometrix secures £2 million Series A investment from Deepbridge Capital

Touch Biometrix, the disruptive fingerprint technology company, has received a £2million investment from Deepbridge Capital.

The Series A funding through the Deepbridge Technology Growth Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) fund follows initial seed funding of £150,000 last year.

Touch Biometrix is developing a new class of fingerprint sensor for application to consumer electronics such as smartphones and laptops. Based on proprietary sensor designs and algorithms, the Touch Biometrix platform will enable fingerprint sensors of any shape or size that can easily be integrated into a wide range of consumer electronics and smart objects. The user authentication experience will not only be more intuitive but will offer unbreakable security – eliminating the need for passwords.

The technology under development is expected to disrupt the cost of ownership by targeting a sensor price of less than $1 per sensor by the end of 2019, so opening the market for integration of a low-cost, highly secure biometric authentication platform into not only high tier brands but also into low and medium tier consumer electronic brands.

Last year, Touch Biometrix was recognised in a global report as one of the top 20 fingerprint tech businesses alongside the likes of Apple, Synaptics and Goodix.

Mike Cowin, CEO of Touch Biometrix, said:

“This new and substantial investment from Deepbridge will enable Touch Biometrix to build upon its development work with the aim of defining its first minimum viable product ahead of scaled product in early 2020. “

“Deepbridge is a specialist in investing in growth-focussed tech businesses. In addition to funding, they also have a hugely experienced team which has provided us with the best possible support, advice and encouragement. They are the ideal partner for Touch Biometrix.”

Ian Warwick, Managing Partner of Deepbridge Capital, said:

“We are delighted to continue our support with Touch Biometrix at what is an exciting time for the biometric industry. We understand there is an increasing need for secure user authentication technology and we believe Touch Biometrix has the capability to move quickly in this market. This investment will support the commercialisation of their technology platform.”

The market demand for fingerprint sensors is expected to exceed 1.5 billion units per year by 2020i with the global market for biometrics to reach $15 billion by 2025.

The demand for user authentication is experiencing tremendous growth as the drive to increase the adoption of highly secure and cost-effective user identification for the use of mobile payment services continues. It is expected that biometrics will be standard in 90% of mobile devices by 2022, generating 1.37 trillion payment and non-payment mobile device transactions.

For more information, please contact Lucy Mason at MASON on 0151 239 5050 / 07903 197402 or email: lucy@masonmedia.co.uk

About Touch Biometrix Ltd

Touch Biometrix was founded in 2017 with the aim of becoming one of the top 5 fingerprint sensor suppliers by 2023. Touch Biometrix is a developer of a new class of fingerprint sensor for the consumer electronics industry. Based on proprietary technology and sensing algorithms Touch Biometrix is developing a range of fingerprint sensors of any shape or size that offer ease of product integration for a more convenient user experience on a wider range of products. Manufactured on plastic or flexible glass Touch Biometrix sensors will offer a new standard in ease of use and security. Utilising a new manufacturing model Touch Biometrix fingerprint sensors are set to disrupt the market with a target cost of $1 enabling the widescale adoption into high, mid and low tier consumer electronic products.

www.touchbiometrix.com

Deepbridge Capital LLP

With over £120million of funds under management, Deepbridge Capital provides funding to growthfocussed UK technology, life sciences and renewable energy companies utilising Government initiatives such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). The company has offices in Chester, London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Australia and the USA.

www.deepbridgecapital.com

Onfido raises £38.25 million Series C investment led by SBI International

Onfido raises $50M led by SBI Investment and others to create the identity verification standard for businesses globally

Frank van Veenendaal, former Vice Chairman of Salesforce, joins board 

Onfido has raised $50M in funding, bringing the total investment in the company to over $100M. The round was led by SBI Investment and Salesforce Ventures, with support from M12(formerly Microsoft Ventures), FinVC and others, including existing investors. Frank van Veenendaal (view his interview on why he joined), former Chief Sales Officer and Vice Chairman of Salesforce joins Onfido’s board. The investment will accelerate Onfido’s goal of using AI to standardize the way businesses verify identities in a scalable and secure way. It will help Onfido consolidate its core market in the USA, accelerate Onfido’s expansion into high-growth regions including Europe and South-East Asia as well as advancing product development.  

With just a photo of an identity document and a selfie video, anyone can access a host of online services in a matter of seconds from some of the biggest names in financial services, transportation, online marketplaces & communities, gambling and other industries—all fueled by Onfido’s AI-powered identity verification. 

This recent round validates Onfido’s success in creating a multi award-winning AI-powered identity verification platform—one that’s generated a 342% year-over-year sales growth and attracted over 1,500 customers worldwide— including industry leaders such as Current , Drivy, DraftKings, Europcar, Indiegogo, Remitly, and Zipcar. These customers are choosing Onfido over others because of its ability to scale, speed in onboarding, preventing fraud, and biometric technology. 

Ability to Scale – Onfido automates checks on over 4,500 document types across 195 countries detecting anomalies automatically, while using human experts to verify outliers.  This means  customer pass rates don’t suffer as they grow or expand to new regions. If new documents are detected, Onfido’s AI quickly learns them and can continue to handle high volumes, without defaulting to expensive and timely manual operations.

Speed of onboarding – customers can be onboarded in as little as 15 seconds, minimizing drop-off rates while still complying with ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. Cross-platform support, blur & glare detection and customer UX design services all contribute, helping ensure users don’t drop-off during the process. 

Fraud prevention – Onfido’s risk engine protects its customers’ bottom lines with fraud exposure rates as little as 0.0195%*. Proprietary anti-fraud technologies such as Onfido’s facial liveness testing, the ability for its AI to detect fakes that a human eye cannot, combined with its experienced document team,  help maintain the market’s most robust protection against spoofing attempts.

4.5 billion records were breached in the first half of 2018, and McKinsey has predicted the identity verification-as-a-service market to hit $20 Billion by 2022. So Onfido is very well placed to solidify its position as the global leader in identity verification,” said Tomoyuki Nii, Executive Officer, at SBI Investment. “We chose to invest in Onfido because they have proven their expertise at using artificial intelligence to effectively fight fraud, giving businesses a safe and secure way to scale their businesses online.”

“There has never been a more important time for companies to build trust with their customers by showing they are one step ahead of fraudsters,” said Frank van Veenendaal. “I believe Onfido has the unique opportunity to transform the digital identity market and deliver robust and scalable authentication-as-a-service, similar to how Salesforce transformed customer relationship management.”

“We’re seeing new data breaches occur every day, resulting in millions of people’s private data ending up on the dark web,” said Husayn Kassai, CEO and co-founder of Onfido. “With this new funding, we can protect more businesses, in more countries—and in more ways—from the effects of fraud. We’ll also be able to expand the reach of our technology, so that people without a credit history can finally access the online services they badly need.” 

Request a demo of Onfido’s Identity verification technology.

Other investors that took part in this round include: Acequia Capital, Tuesday Capital, Crane Venture Partners, Idinvest Partners, Augmentum Fintech plc, Wellington Partners, Plug & Play Venture Group, B&Y Venture Partners, CreditEase Ventures, TempoCap, and Talis Capital.


Hack The Box raises £1.03 million Seed Investment from Marathon Venture Capital

Hack The Box Raises $1.3M to Build Up The Greatest Hacker Community in the World Celebrating two years after launch and 120k members, the company today announces an investment by Marathon Venture Capital, as it accelerates the delivery of its innovative pen-testing labs, providing a playground for cybersecurity enthusiasts

KENT, UK & ATHENS, GREECE – April 1st, 2019 – The volume of data created, stored and consumed grows exponentially; so does the number and impact of data breaches. Naturally, demand for cybersecurity personnel follows; still, supply is not there yet. For every two cybersecurity jobs in the US, there is another one that remains vacant ; the global cybersecurity talent shortage recently hit three million people . But how could three million people be found and trained?

By nature, hacking is more of a craft than a science; people learn the ropes on the job, rather than at college. Certificates were designed to bridge the skills signaling gap and have been embraced by the market. Even so, practical experience is not always easily accessible to individuals that want to take this career path due to cost, location and time constraints.

Haris Pylarinos, founder, maintained a long-term passion for cybersecurity. Attending several training sessions and online hacker challenges, he came to realize that the most useful and intellectually exciting way to learn was not to read how-tos but trying to actually hack a computer system.

He soon started putting together a platform simulating computer systems made to be hacked, adding various game mechanics on top. James Hooker, a senior software engineer with a passion for cybersecurity, and Aris Zikopoulos, a seasoned business developer with a track record in the space, soon joined as co-founders to further build the platform and a busines around it.

Hack The Box (https://www.hackthebox.eu/) provides penetration testing labs, serving as a training playground for cybersecurity enthusiasts. Every week, HTB makes available a new virtual machine for the players to break in to. As they make their way in, they get points and climb in rankings; the latter are increasingly treated as expertise credentials.

Celebrating two years after launch today, HTB has reached 120k members, becoming the talk of the town in hacker communities around the world. To provide some context, there is no sign-up form; one needs to “hack” their way in the service by solving a challenge. What’s more, while some of the challenges are quite easy for beginners, some are proven to be quite hard, taking experienced hackers many hours or even days to crack them.

HTB provides free access to its twenty most recent machines, which also account for its global rankings. Access to previous ‘retired’ machines requires a ‘VIP’ account, which costs £10/month. The number of available virtual machines has surpassed 100. Enterprises like Jet.com and EY are also building their private HTB labs, or post their cybersecurity jobs to the
people who prove their skills in the platform.

Hack The Box Ltd. announces today the completion of a $1.3M investment round by Marathon Venture Capital (https://marathon.vc/), to accelerate its ambitious product roadmap including an entirely new lab type offering real-time interaction between users, as well as deliver against increasing demand including an expansion of its free services. “Hacking is the new gaming,” said Haris Pylarinos, founder and CEO. “We cater to people who want to test and advance their skills in cybersecurity, and we are thrilled to bring more people into the game every day.”

About Hack The Box Ltd.:

Hack The Box (https://www.hackthebox.eu/) provides penetration testing labs, serving as a training playground for cybersecurity enthusiasts. It currently serves 120k members and dozens of enterprise customers, growing fast to become the greatest hacker community in the world.

About Marathon Venture Capital:

Marathon Venture Capital (https://marathon.vc/) is an early-stage venture capital fund, helping ambitious founders build world-class technology companies.

Innogy Innovation Hub invests in Calipsa

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–innogy Innovation Hub, which identifies, funds, and mentors game-changing technologies and ideas, today announced it has completed a seed investment in UK-headquartered AI powered CCTV monitoring company, Calipsa. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The investment will enable Calipsa to further refine its product and support its growth strategy in the UK and Europe, leveraging the Innovation Hub’s extensive global network.

Founded in 2016 by Mohammad Rashid Khan and Boris Ploix, Calipsa aims to transform how Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) video monitoring and analysis is conducted. The Calipsa platform is built on state of the art deep learning techniques to automatically analyse CCTV video feeds and provide actionable real-time alerts and notifications to human operators seated in control rooms to enable faster and more efficient decision-making.

Calipsa focuses on theft and burglary prevention in the commercial security industry to protects assets such as commercial buildings, construction sites, manufacturing facilities, waste management plants, solar and agricultural farms and retail outlets. Being a cloud-based software platform, Calipsa leverages existing CCTV hardware, requiring no up-front capital expenditure for its customers.

“We are delighted to welcome innogy Innovation Hub as a new investor and partner,” said Mohammed Rashid Khan, co-founder and CEO of Calipsa. “As well as providing financial backing, they take a very hands-on approach, providing access to their fantastic network of industry contacts. With their support we look forward to growing our company and achieve our ambition to become the market leader in CCTV monitoring.”

Annemie Ress, Managing Director for innogy Innovation Hub said: “We identify and back innovative companies and technologies that have the potential to transform infrastructure for the benefit of all and Calipsa’s technology is a great example of that. By automating video monitoring, they are helping to transform assets like buildings into smart organisms. Since launching the product in mid-2018 they have attracted a number of large customers, which is great validation for the product. We have been incredibly impressed by Rashid and his talented team and are thrilled to partner with them to accelerate their growth.”

There are currently around 250 million professionally installed CCTV cameras in the world. The market for alarm monitoring services exceeds $50 billion globally and shows double-digit annual growth, driven by decreasing camera costs, improved networking and a growing appetite for security. Calipsa’s monitoring platform reduces false alarms in excess of 50%.

About Calipsa
Founded in 2016 by machine learning and AI experts, Mohammad Rashid Khan and Boris Ploix, Calipsa comprises expertise from universities including Cambridge, Imperial College London and UCL. Calipsa is working with customers in the UK and UK and is seeking strategic partners to take its technology to the market.

Founded in 2016, Calipsa has developed a machine learning (AI) based software platform that automates the analysis and monitoring of video feeds. For more information, visit: http://calipsa.io.

About innogy Innovation Hub
innogy Innovation Hub believes that new technologies, business models and consumption patterns will redefine the energy market of the future. We believe this future will be driven by four core global trends; decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitisation and democratisation. innogy Innovation Hub’s mission is to drive this vision for the future of energy by being a sector disruptor: by identifying the game-changing technologies, ideas, individuals and businesses that will help build that future, wherever they are, providing funding, mentoring and a platform for co-creation, collaboration and convergence.

The innogy Innovation Hub has created a €162m portfolio (as of December 2018) through investing in disruptive individuals, start-ups and early stage businesses and provided opportunities for nearly 90 start-up and scale-up companies to collaborate. It is headquartered in Berlin, with teams across Europe including in London, Warsaw and Essen, as well as offices in California (Silicon Valley) and Israel (Tel Aviv).

The innogy Innovation Hub is funded by innogy SE, a leading German energy company, with revenues of around €43 billion (2017), more than 42,000 employees and activities in 16 countries. For more information visit: https://innovationhub.innogy.com

Contacts

Stephen Fishleigh
BackBay Communications
innogyih@backbaycommunications.com
+44 (0)203 475 7552

AI cyber defender Senseon secures £4.92 million to redefine industry approach

19th February 2019

The seed funding will support Senseon’s scaling of technology and presence in EMEA and the US

London, 19 February 2019: Senseon, the next generation AI platform for cyber defence, today announces the completion of a seed funding round of $6.4m. Leading the investment is research-led venture capital fund MMC Ventures, alongside Mark Weatherford, Chief Cyber Security Strategist at vArmour and former Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Additional investors include Amadeus Capital PartnersCrane Venture Partners and CyLon.  The funding will allow Senseon to continue its rapid expansion in the UK and increase its presence in EMEA and the US.

Founded in 2017 by David Atkinson – the first ever cyber operative within the UK’s specialist military units – Senseon empowers businesses to keep pace with the increase of emerging cyber-attacks. Atkinson’s extensive expertise in cyber security, both for enterprises and at a national level, inspired him to create the ‘AI Triangulation’ system at the heart of the Senseon platform.

AI Triangulation ensures complete visibility across organisations’ entire digital estates and provides context to automatically determine genuine cyber threats in the noise of busy networks. The Senseon platform learns and adapts to organisations’ environments and provides highly accurate threat detection that reduces false positive alerts, which the average organisation wastes 425 hours a week investigating, costing them $1.37million per year.

Founder and CEO of Senseon, David Atkinson, said: “Cyber-attacks are one of the greatest concerns for the modern business. Organisations’ networks are becoming increasingly complex and accelerated tech adoption creates additional noise for attackers to hide within. Meanwhile, attacker innovation is growing, and their techniques evade current cyber defence tools, which are unable to differentiate between genuinely malicious threats and merely new or unusual activity.

“The Senseon team understands too well the woes of enterprises and their security teams who have to keep up with the evolving landscape of cyber-crime, while also trying to cut through the noise and work out which threats on their network are genuine. We created Senseon to tackle this specific problem. The intelligence behind the Senseon product, and its ability to automatically detect and investigate threats across the entire organisation, is reducing the burden placed on already-stretched security teams and freeing up resources to focus on what matters: investigating actual threats.”

Mina Samaan, MMC Ventures, said: “Cyber security continues to be the number one priority for technology deployments by CIOs. Organisations of all sizes need to get better at keeping pace with emerging threats, but more importantly, identifying the attacks that require intervention. Senseon’s technology directly addresses this challenge by using reinforcement learning AI techniques to help over-burdened security teams better understand anomalous behaviour through a single holistic platform.

“This is an evolving and difficult problem which requires a world-class team to solve it. We have been very impressed with David and the Senseon team and are excited to be a part of their next phase of growth.”

CyLon Co-Founder, Grace Cassy, said: “Businesses see real value in the way Senseon’s product – through the use of AI Triangulation – can provide them with one cohesive platform that protects their organisation from emerging threats, replacing the need to purchase and maintain multiple single-point solutions.”

***ENDS***

About Senseon

Senseon is the next phase of AI for cyber defence, moving beyond rules-based systems that are too rigid to keep pace with emerging cyber-attacks or ineffective AI systems which cannot differentiate between unusual behaviour and malicious threats. Unique to Senseon, ‘AI Triangulation’ understands and correlates threats across an organisation’s entire digital estate, providing much needed context and clarity in an increasingly noisy landscape. Founded in 2017, Senseon brings together cyber security experts, former government cyber operatives and applied machine learning specialists. Headquartered in London, UK and Chicago, USA, Senseon also has a presence in the Middle East and Australia. Find out more at www.senseon.io