Polish data privacy startup show that startup growth is possible despite the challenges caused by Covid 19. Written By Katie Fisher
When Polish data security startup CyberHeaven sp z o.o. started their company in late 2019, they had no idea that a global pandemic was lurking just around the corner – and within a few short months would sweep across the world – creating a profound impact on businesses large and small. Companies very quickly found themselves tackling unprecedented challenges brought on by Covid 19 and the resulting safety measures, forcing teams to work from home, cease travel and in some cases, stop operations altogether. Customers and investors became more cautious about spending due to the economic uncertainty, and many startups were forced to rethink their strategies in an effort to make themselves “pandemic proof”. Fortunately for Cyberheaven, cybersecurity is one of the few industry sectors that has shown accelerated growth during these turbulent times, with the importance of data protection a top priority for individuals and organisations alike. Since GDPR came into force in 2018, awareness about the subject of data privacy has become more widespread; however this was not enough to prevent large scale cyber attacks and data breaches that continue to pose a threat to organisations handling sensitive customer data, as hacking methods continuously evolve at a rapid pace. Since last year, many countries have increased digital surveillance measures and launched tracing apps designed to help curb transmission rates of the virus, which once again put discussions about protection of our personal data into the spotlight. This is why innovative cybersecurity solutions with a unique approach in an ever more digital world are so important.
Having kicked off product development in Q1 2020, Cyberheaven recently passed the one year mark of operations and received their first product orders. Let’s take a look at the progress the company has made until now and how they managed it to achieve it.
Fundraising: A Gamechanger for Startups
The majority of startups require external funding to launch and scale their business – especially where hardware development and manufacturing is concerned (as is the case with CyberHeaven). It’s always recommendable for early-stage companies to plan finances conservatively and be prepared for unexpected challenges; with new research finding that 92% of startups fail (20% within the first year, often due to insufficient funds), raising sufficient capital to fund operations and facilitate growth is vital. Securing financing from the right investor is a gamechanger for startups and can mean the difference between the life or death of a company.
CyberHeaven closed their first investment with Warsaw-based Venture Capital fund Arkley Brinc in November 2019 when the company was first established, and recently raised a further 1 000 000 zł from a new investor – a Bridge Alfa fund – in January 2021. During this time period, the company more than doubled in value after exceeding even their own expectations, with year one revenues reported as ten times higher than originally planned. The company is using the newly raised funds to develop an additional product – a secure remote communications solution, with the mission of becoming the next-level video conferencing platform. The use of remote communication tools has skyrocketed since the beginning of the Pandemic, in a market trend that is predicted to continue growing long after we settle into the “new normal” (whenever that may be).
The Launch of CyberVault: A Hardware Device for Double Protection
CyberHeaven is building a complete ecosystem of data privacy tools to ensure the maximum level of encryption for individuals, businesses and organisations, enabling them to save, send and store files securely. The tools are developed to be resistant to all known cryptographic methods that may be used by hackers, and have undergone rigorous testing with successful results. The technology is built upon a method HVKM (hybrid-virtual key management), developed by leading experts in cryptography.
Last year the team finalised the initial iteration of their first product, CyberVault – a portable USB device that gives customers unrestricted access to their encrypted data, even when in offline
mode (such as on a flight, or somewhere without secure or reliable internet access). This small piece of hardware provides a double layer of data security, as the user requires both their workstation (i.e. desktop or laptop) and the USB device together in order to gain access to their data. If either one component fell into the wrong hands, it would be impossible to access the encrypted information. Following successful pilot tests in Spring 2020, the product launched in the summer with over 500 units ordered. The team achieved this due to fast adoption of digital tools for working remotely, practicing agile development, partnering with local producers to manufacture the first batch of devices, and accessing clients through distribution partners.
Strategic Partnerships & Distributors
CyberHeaven secured strategic partnerships with a number of distributors to execute their ‘go to market’ strategy, tapping into existing networks of potential customers. One of the key CyberHeaven partners is Usecrypt, with which the CyberVault product has been integrated to offer in conjunction with Usecrypt’s data encryption tools. CyberHeaven is also in talks with industry sectors that process the most sensitive customer data, such as digital healthcare providers, enterprise software companies and government organisations. They have expanded to global markets beyond Poland, such as the USA and Eastern Europe, recognizing that the problem of data protection vulnerabilities is a global one.
New Product Development in the Works
With the CyberVault device only solving one piece of the encryption puzzle, CyberHeaven have already begun development of their next product: a secure communications platform with video conferencing. Remote communications have exploded during the pandemic, yet existing tools on the market have failed to fully address data privacy and information security concerns. For example, Zoom – one of the most popular video conferencing platforms – has been subjected to multiple security issues, such as “bombing” from uninvited trolls crashing professional meetings, to ambiguous privacy policies, to a recent attack (on 8th April 2021) where hackers hijacked Windows on PCs and Macs to remotely take over control via the Zoom desktop app. Whilst some measures have been introduced to increase data protection, such as two factor authentication, there is still a long way to go before users can be sure that their confidential online meetings will be completely protected from potential breaches. This remote communications platform will be the core focus of CyberHeaven’s product development in 2021, with the first version due to be ready later this year. Identifying market segments that show steady growth has been key to this startup’s success, enabling the company to thrive throughout this difficult time. CyberHeaven have demonstrated that they are not only ‘pandemic-proof’, but will remain relevant long into the future of our digital age.