Cybersecurity Enterprise Venture

Silicon Valley CISO Investments Look To The Next Gen Of Cybersecurity

While some say it takes a village to raise a child, a group of cybersecurity experts in Silicon Valley are taking a similar approach to trying to solve the never-ending problems around cybersecurity.

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Silicon Valley CISO Investments — called SVCI for short — formed in late 2019 with a simple goal. “We want to fuel the next generation in cybersecurity,” said Oren Yunger, vice president at GGV Capital and co-founder of SVCI.

Not just money

With angel funding often coming from friends, family or those just starting to dabble in venture investing, SVCI brings together nearly five dozen Silicon Valley chief information security officers, or CISOs, to offer more than just money to startups.

“We are looking at this through a different lens,” Yunger said. “We are able to offer advice on different ways to look at different problems.”

While members of the group have vast technical knowledge of cybersecurity, the syndicate believes it can offer more than just advice on new platforms and solutions, said Lakshmi Hanspal, global CSO at Box and a member of SVCI. While the syndicate is well-equipped to advise on cybersecurity problems, the group also offers real-world expertise on how analysts, investors and even consumers see markets.

“Many of us have been in this space for a number of years, so we are tethered to reality,” Hanspal said.

Investments

Since being founded, the syndicate has invested in five companies: Orca Security, Tonic, Lucidum and Cyral, as well as Polyrize, which was acquired by Varonis Systems in October.

The money in the deals comes directly from the CISOs themselves — not their employer — and typically ranges between $200,000 and $300,000 per investment, said Yunger, adding not every CISO in the group is involved in every deal.

The process to get that investment — which usually involves around five companies pitching themselves — can be intense, Yunger said.

“You have to impress,” said Yunger, comparing the process to those on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

He added that the benefits outweigh the cash, as the group hopes to effect change in the sector by investing in startups they believe in and could even use.

“CISOs want better security tools,” Yunger said. “We know what works and what doesn’t work.”

The syndicate also helps remove the barriers that can form between companies, said Rich Mason, former CISO of Honeywell and also a member of SVCI.

“This isn’t about logos, but the collective knowledge and experience you bring,” Mason said.

“Security is very siloed,” Yunger added. “You don’t get to collaborate. We are trying to change that.”

Mason added the group also has benefitted some member CISOs to build business acumen so they can pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

Nevertheless, the group’s goal is to build a better cybersecurity ecosystem and solve the issues plaguing the industry.

“The problems are overwhelming,” he said. “We are trying to improve the funnel and get to (solutions) faster.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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