In the past few years, the cyber intelligence industry has grown and undergone a major process of greater specialization. In 2019, the young industry already represented 7% of Israel's overall defense exports. Although there has been a lively discussion about the limits of the appropriate use of cyber intelligence technology, even those who condemn it realize that it is an important industry that is here to stay. In my opinion, there should be a discussion on the topic of what is the level of expertise that should be required of organizations investing in companies in this industry, because the fact of the matter is that those investors who specialize in this field would harvest the fruits yielded by the companies in the future.
A decade ago, when I founded NSO Group, the task of raising capital for an early stage company was particularly complex. During that period, there were almost no major financial entities who knew how to invest or evaluate companies in the specific niche in which we operated. The story and the promise were, and remain, excellent - a company that is developing cyber intelligence software to assist intelligence and enforcement agencies combating crime and terror, both foreign and domestic. Back then, investors struggled to assess the commercial potential, regulatory considerations and the complexity of the technology, and associated challenges.
A decade has passed and NSO has become one of the most successful companies in its field, and the cyber intelliegnce industry has come a long and significant way. Dozens of new companies have been founded in Israel and around the world and investors of various sizes are active in the sector. Despite this, there is still a gap in the ability of investors to respond to the needs of the companies in the industry and to cope with the growing challenges appropriately.
I think that the cyberattack industry fulfills a positive and crucial function, which unashamedly assists in the war on terror, serious crime, and search and rescue efforts around the globe. The rise in accessibility to smartphones and elaborate encryption has created a new reality, in which terror cells and organized crime can communicate in a secure and covert way. This fact has pressed governments to act in innovative ways in order to cope with such emerging challenges. For this reason, among others, cyber intelliengce is more vital than ever and is not about to disappear from our lives.
This complicated reality dictates that the industry continues to progress and grow. In order to do this successfully, aspiring companies and entrepreneurs need experienced and specialized, strategic investors (sometimes known as 'smart money'). In other words, investors who could assist companies not only on a financial level but also on a professional,operational and regulatory level.
Just as there are specialized investment funds focusing onsuch fields as biotech and medical devices, cybersecurity, medical cannabis and fintech, such a need for specialization is crucial in the field of cyber intelligence. For cyber intelliengece companies, and their investors, the understanding of the uniqueness of the cyber intelligence industry is no less important than the depth of their capital in question. Cyber intelligence companies’ relationships with governments are of the most complicated kind. They work under the strictest regulation in the industry, which is sometimes compounded by self-imposed further internal regulations, all while required to deliver the highest level of technological performance. I believe that when such specialized investment entities are established, they will be able to not only help cyber intelligence companies get through the seed and more advanced financing rounds, but also become a helpful and balancing voice in the charged public debate around the issue.
The number of companies in Israel in particular, and worldwide in general, that are engaged in cyber intelliengce is significantly smaller than the number of cybersecurity companies. That is to say that almost every investment opportunity in cyber intelligence is likely to be criticial. Therefore, it is better that investment entities in cyber intelliengence companies strive to possess a deep understanding in the field, in order to be able to serve as genuine partners to target companies and help them identify, analyze and manage anticipated challenges along their journey.
The bottom line is that cyber intelliengce technology today represents an integral part of every countries’ ability to maintain order and protect its sovereign interests. Therefore, given the crucial part that cyber intelligence companies plays in protecting the safety and security of each of us, we would all benefit from knowledgable, laser-focused investors with deep expertise in the cyber intelligence field, who would grow and develop this sector to protect the future we all deserve.
Omri Lavie is a cyber entrepreneur, the CEO of Orchestra, and the co-founder of the NSO Group
Full disclosure: Orchestra is a sponsor of the second "Globes" cybersecurity conference
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 21, 2021
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