A year after it launched, government-backed centre for ‘cyber innovation’ LORCA is millions of pounds ahead of its investment target at £57 million raised in total compared to the £40 million by three years target. But with the looming Brexit deadline and all the uncertainties that come with it, can the organisation keep up the momentum and do right by its cohort companies?
Opened by the health secretary and former DCMS minister Matt Hancock in July 2018, the job of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement, or LORCA, is to encourage the growth of British cybersecurity startups domestically and on the international stage.
Based at the Plexal co-working space in east London, LORCA is funded by DCMS as part of Britain’s National Cyber Security Strategy, and is in partnership with Deloitte and Queen’s University Belfast.
LORCA aims to act as a bridge between fledgling companies that have raised some funding, as well as enterprises, academia, and government. By matching businesses to market demands in the cybersecurity space, it hopes to bolster the UK’s cybersecurity startup scene (in a similar way that London’s fintechs are recognised) as well as drawing talent to these shores. The £57 million figure is the total raised by all companies since joining the programme.
Programme director for LORCA Saj Huq says that first the group’s team of researchers consults with businesses across industry to better understand what’s happening from a cyber needs perspective. LORCA then sets specific industry challenges for its cohorts, leading to it recruiting businesses with products and services that align with those wider trends. Huq previously worked in consultancies such as Deloitte and PwC, and started his career in the military.
“A company, when they apply to our cohort, should be aligned with one of those challenges – it means they’re instantly market relevant,” Huq explained to Techworld over the phone. “The product market fits with what they’re doing.”
Plexal hosts the companies, while LORCA helps from an “innovation consulting capability” including programme management, but also working with businesses to develop roadmaps and spur on their product development. Deloitte, meanwhile, provides everything from technical to commercial consulting support. The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University in Belfast offers technical engineering support.
Additionally, there are other third parties that assist in everything from sales through to marketing and legal.
“Effectively what that means is we can create – and what we look to create for each company is – a bespoke package of needs drawing down on each of those services we can supply into a business,” Huq said, “which helps them develop as a whole business as opposed to just developing a product or focusing on sales or mentoring the founders.”
Its work in industry includes speaking with CIOs and other IT decision makers to better clarify the challenges that their organisations face, and subsequently pairing the startups to those specific enterprise needs.
One success story is Privitar, the big data startup that aims to help enterprises bake privacy protections into their projects, which recently raised $40 million in a series B funding round led by Accel, according to VentureBeat.
Cybersecurity startup poaching
In Huq’s view, one of the major strategic challenges for developing Britain’s cybersecurity startup sector is the risk that the best ideas are “stolen or lost overseas”. He explains that the way this tends to manifest is when investors earmark a significant chunk of their cash in prominent – or promising – businesses, and then encourage them to relocate businesses overseas.
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