Israeli cybersecurity firm Team8 gets Walmart, Airbus backing for $85m fund

Venture capital fund says the investors are forming a coalition to combat ‘formidable threat’ of cyber-attacks

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

(L to R) Team8 Founders Nadav Zafrir, Liran Grinberg, and Israel Grimberg, (Courtesy)
(L to R) Team8 Founders Nadav Zafrir, Liran Grinberg, and Israel Grimberg, (Courtesy)

Team8, an Israeli venture capital fund focused on the cybersecurity industry, has set up an $85 million fund that plans to invest in eight new, early-stage cybersecurity and data companies over the next five years.

Industrial giants Walmart, Airbus, Softbank Group, Moody’s Corp., Dimension Data, Munich Re, Barclays Plc and Scotiabank have all invested in the new fund, as part of what Team8 is calling an “international coalition” to combat the “formidable threat” of cyber-attacks.

Together, members of the companies that have backed the new fund will identify some of the biggest cybersecurity challenges firms are facing globally and set up or help set up tech companies to tackle them. The idea is to integrate cyber security into the design of products and infrastructure, rather than using the approach of add-on layers of security, as common today.

As part of the plan, the chief information, technology, data and security officers from each of the member organizations will work together with Team8’s research, recruiting and business development teams to identify problems, brainstorm for solutions, and test out technologies.

“A secure future is no longer dependent on only your own ability to withstand attacks, but on the resilience of the entities, infrastructure and networks with which you communicate, share and trust,” Team8’s CEO Nadav Zafrir said in an email interview. These infrastructures, however, cannot yet be trusted, he said.

“The indirect impact on the enterprises are the missed opportunities to experiment, integrate and onboard new technologies because of security, compliance and fear of exposure,” he said. “Our broadened vision is to build companies with built-in security, data science, and intelligence, to allow companies to prosper and not be inhibited by security controls.”

“Combining the perspectives of insurance, retail, aerospace, banking and other sectors allows for the valuable exchange of ideas surrounding the mutual challenges they face around secure digital transformation,” Zafrir said.

Team8’s existing investors, including M-12, Microsoft’s venture-capital arm, Cisco Investments, Nokia, Bessemer Venture Partners and lead investors Temasek and Innovation Endeavors have also joined the “coalition,” Team8 said. Including the new $85 million investment, Team8 has raised more than $260 million to date.

Cyber-attacks are the third-largest global threat, after natural disasters and extreme weather, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018, released in January.

“Attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years, and incidents that would once have been considered extraordinary are becoming more and more commonplace,” the report said, adding that the financial impact of breaches in cybersecurity is rising.

“Rogue states, hackers, terrorists and criminals are intent on wreaking physical, financial and societal havoc and catastrophic damage on governments, corporations and individuals,” said Eric Schmidt, founding partner of Innovation Endeavors and former executive chairman of Google, in the Team8 statement. “As data continues to proliferate and our technical capabilities expand, cyber-attacks and wars will increase in number and intensity.”

“Walmart’s readiness to experiment with and adopt emerging technologies such as blockchain, VR and robotics is pivotal to continually improve our customer shopping experience, stay ahead of the curve and drive market share,” said Jerry Geisler, Walmart’s chief information security officer, in the statement. “Our digital transformation is underpinned by more connectivity than ever before. We’re joining Team8’s coalition because of their cybersecurity expertise, proven ability to integrate their viewpoints into leading technology solutions and unique access to insights from other sectors.”

Team8 was founded by three former leaders of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200: Zafrir, who commanded the unit, Israel Grimberg and Liran Grinberg.

Last week, Team8 announced that former United States NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers is joining its Board of Advisors. The company also said its first portfolio company Sygnia was acquired by Temasek, the global investment company headquartered in Singapore, for $250 million.

To date, Team8 has launched four companies, and said four more were operating under the radar in stealth mode, “each with an innovative approach for organizations to build resilience against cyber warfare and that today protect dozens of Fortune 100, 500 and other leading companies,” the statement said.

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