C5 Capital adopts a female focus for cybersecurity investment


C5 Capital’s founder and managing partner, Andre Pienaar speaks with tangible passion when discussing the potential for investing in female entrepreneurs in the cybersecurity space. As one of the UK’s foremost cybersecurity VC investors, C5 Capital knows what to look for when assessing innovation in the sector. In Pienaar’s view “for the future success of the sector we have to diversify”. 

“The cybersecurity sector is producing a significant number of dynamic female founders, which is a positive development,” he says. “They are building very successful businesses. This is an important theme of our latest fund, C5 Impact Partners LP: to continue to diversify the community.” 

Impact Partners LP has grown out of C5 Accelerate, a global business program run out of Washington DC, which focuses on identifying start-ups in markets that have been underserved by VC and would not normally be the target of most VC funds. 

The Fund’s first investment was to lead the Series A funding round in Enveil, the award winning Data in Use security company founded by Dr Ellison Anne Williams in 2016. 

A brilliant mathematician, Pienaar says that Dr Williams “has all the attributes we look for in a leader: ability to build a team, a clear vision on where she wants to take the business, enormous energy and resilience, and integrity in respect to the application of Enveil’s technology.” 

Enveil’s groundbreaking technology protects data when it is most vulnerable – while it’s being used or processed. This enables enterprises to perform secure search, analytics, data sharing and collaboration while preserving data privacy.

Pienaar explains that as 5G networks begin to transform our cities into smart cities, a critical aspect of their success will be privacy. 

“How do we preserve the privacy of individuals and communities in a 5G world? This is integral to the future of our countries,” says Pienaar. “That’s why we invested in Enveil because homomorphic encryption is one of the most powerful technologies available today to preserve privacy for data in motion.”

He adds: “It is crucial that as we develop cities for the future that we focus on making them safe, secure and inclusive as set out in the UN’s development goals.”

Homomorphic encryption enables people to use data while it remains in an encrypted space. 

“Without homomorphic encryption we can only use data by decrypting it and then it becomes vulnerable and insecure; homomorphic encryption allows you to use data, apply it, draw conclusions from it etc., without ever having to decrypt it,” explains Pienaar. 

At present, this type of technology is mostly benefiting the financial sector as banks look to exchange sensitive data while keeping it in a secure state to maintain the privacy of its clients. This is applicable, for example, to AML/KYC processes. 

Enveil’s technology cuts across all industry sectors, however, including the Healthcare sector.

“This is extremely relevant as global health authorities grapple with Covid-19. One of the most sensitive areas of Healthcare is patient privacy, with respect to their medical records. The healthcare sector has been the target of ongoing cyber attacks since the start of the health crisis in January. 

“In combating a pandemic it is important that you do contact tracing, it is one of the most effective tools we have. 

“If someone has been infected you need to know who they’ve been in contact with. That involves huge amounts of public and private information. You need to know you can do contact tracing without compromising the privacy of the people involved.

“That is exactly what Enveil’s homomorphic encryption offers,” outlines Pienaar. 

C5 Impact Partners LP is led by Zulfe Ali, the former Chief Investment Officer at Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund. 

Commenting on the Enveil deal at the time, Ali said: ”Enveil embodies all of the key attributes we seek in our investment strategy: a brilliant founder CEO; breakthrough technology addressing large and growing end markets; a highly scalable business model; and a mission-driven company culture that is focused on commercial success as well as positive impact.”

The investment philosophy at C5 Capital is to nurture a secure digital future. Whereas its core strategy, Cyber Partners, seeks to invest in mid- to late-stage companies globally such as IronNet Cybersecurity and 4iQ, Impact Partners focuses more on early stage data technology companies. 

“We have an exciting pipeline of investable companies for the fund. Our next investment is a company helping with the digital transformation of emerging response lines in cities across the world. Most still run on analogue lines and have severe limitations in response times,” says Pienaar. 

The C5 Capital team starts off with broad investment theses around areas of cybersecurity development that it thinks are going to be critical to the future of the sector and also transformative.

“Data privacy and data motion are two big themes for us,” says Pienaar. “We look for the leading technologies and leading companies in these fields.”

The overall aim, he says, is to add value by helping companies grow in to the UK and the rest of the world, and to help UK/European companies expand into the US market. He believes there are many different ways “we will help support Enveil expand into the UK and beyond”. 

Looking ahead, it is likely that cybersecurity and data protection solutions will take on even greater import, given that under-investment in western cities has led to an increased impact of ransomware attacks. 

“One of the reasons hackers have so relentlessly targeted cities is because their IT systems are so legacy based,” says Pienaar, referring to one major city, which shall remain nameless, which only had one person who could program their IT infrastructure. 

“Hackers know that city infrastructure in the US, in the UK, has been under-funded. 

“The first deliverable for 5G will be precision accuracy in terms of location. This will enable autonomous vehicles to function properly – trains, drones, eventually cars. It is paramount that we think about how to make such a deliverable as secure as possible,” concludes Pienaar. 

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