Unusually described by one UK top 50 CIO we chatted with recently as a “dream product”, Tessian has raised $42m in a Series B funding round led by Sequoia – famously one of the first investors in Apple – to accelerate its expansion in the US and other global markets.
Tessian has been growing quickly in New York, where it launched in October 2018 led by Ben Freeman, who relocated from the UK. The company, which uses machine learning tech to prevent spear phishing and misdirected emails, represents an important shift away from rules-based systems that are often inflexible and unwieldy.
The Tessian platform analyses historical email data in order to understand the context of human relationships and communication. 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.
Sequoia is leading the Series B, with participation from Latitude and existing investors Balderton Capital and Accel. Matt Miller, a partner at Sequoia, will join the Tessian board. Sequoia was founded by Don Valentine (referred to by some as the “grandfather of Silicon Valley VCs”), who was one of the first people approached by Steve Jobs for investment. Valentine said no-one would invest “because Steve was so odd.” Sequoia invested $150m in 1978. Its other often cited investments include Cisco Systems, Yahoo, WhatsApp, Airbnb and Dropbox and it is currently pulling together an $8bn global investment fund.
Tessian which was founded in 2013 by Imperial College engineers Tim Sadler, Tom Adams and Ed Bishop, includes among its clients international law firms Clifford Chance where ex-partner Keith Hyman is an investor; Dentons; Traver Smith; and, very recently, DAC Beachcroft.
Announcing the investment, Sadler said: “We’ve entered the third era of enterprise cybersecurity. In the early days, network security sufficed. Then cloud apps and mobile devices proliferated, and we adopted endpoint protection. 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.”
Tessian grew by more than 300% 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.