Team8 Raises $23M in New Funding to Build Security Companies

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2016-02-23 Print this article Print
security funding

The former head of Israel's version of the National Security Agency pushes forward with cyber-security accelerator effort.

There are companies that build technologies, and then there are the organizations that actually build companies. Team8 belongs to the latter group, defining itself as a cyber-security foundry. Today Team8 announced that it has raised $23 million in a new round of funding that included the participation of AT&T, Accenture, Nokia, Mitsui and Temasek.

Total funding to date for Team8 now stands at $40 million.

The new $23 million round of funding will help fuel the development of Team8's upcoming companies and will benefit from the specific areas of expertise that the new investors bring. Team8 was started in 2013 and is led by Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Israel's Technology and Intelligence Unit 8200, which is similar in many respects to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

"We put together a cyber-security foundry with the goal of building five companies in the next five years," Zafrir said. "Based on our background and our geography, we think we have unparalleled understanding of the attacker's perspective."

The basic idea behind Team8 is that the group's expertise and research can help it to identify areas of the market where technology is lacking and then can build companies to fill the need. To date, Team8 has launched one company, called Illusive, which has deception-based network security technology, and Team8 plans on launching two more companies this year.

"Team8 is a unique foundry in that we start companies from scratch; we don't meet founders with ideas," Zafrir explained. "We pick a domain and then choose a founder to join us in a journey."

That journey starts with research to fully understand a given security challenge. Once the challenge is understood, technology is built and validated to help solve the specific security challenge. Investors in Team8 aren't just contributors in a financial sense, either; rather, Zafrir said it's more of a partnership, with each member contributing time and resources to help understand security challenges and then validate technology solutions.

"We only tap into the top 1 percent of the 1 percent of cyber-security talent in Israel," he said.

He added that due to the mandatory military service requirement in Israel, the country has been able to generate more than its fair share of cyber-security professionals. The Unit 8200 group gets to pick the top 1 percent of potential candidates coming into the Israeli military, and Zafrir's goal is to take the top 1 percent of individuals after they leave Unit 8200.

One of the two new companies that Team8 is looking to launch this year will be in the industrial security space.

"We're talking about the convergence between industrial systems and IT networks," Zafrir said. "The convergence has great potential for efficiency and also for great danger."

The other new company that Team8 is looking to debut this year is a high-level incident response organization. In the future, he said that Team8 is also looking at building companies that tackle the challenges of mobile, Internet of things and cloud security.

While each of the companies that Team8 builds will be a stand-alone entity, Zafrir said there is a broader vision he has for all the companies he helps to build.

"Each company will solve a big problem, and working synergistically together they will solve a holistic problem," Zafrir said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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