With a team of “white hat hackers, multilingual maestros, and intel geeks” speaking more than 15 languages, it’s no wonder that Cisco Investments portfolio company Flashpoint’s cyber security efforts in the “deep, dark” web is coming to light.
Founded in 2010, Flashpoint leverages a suite of analytical tools and data to derive data their clients use to make more business-informed decisions. While this could describe almost any cyber-security company in the market, Flashpoint analysts work exclusively in areas of the deep and dark web where illicit actors plot cyber-attacks and other illegal activities.
Flashpoint’s origins began in 2010, when it was formed by CEO and Co-Founder Josh Lefkowitz and his partner and Co-Founder Evan Kohlmann.
“Evan and I both have backgrounds as intelligence analysts, focused on terrorist use of the Internet. We watched as the Internet became a key node for recruitment, financing and propaganda. As it became more prominent for these purposes, we had the recognition that our methodology to successfully track and analyze data around terrorist activity was more broadly applicable to a wider set of illicit actors in the underground of the Internet – hackers, malware developers – and those that align with a need the private sector had.”
Though Flashpoint was founded in 2010, the team did not begin raising venture capital until 2015. During this five-year gap, they worked to enrich their products, enhance their industry reputation and strategically network in the commercial arena.
“We did not have a sales team. We received leads and referrals from our customers,” said Josh. “We were trying to raise our footprint and prove our viability. We had long-standing relationships, which proved to be helpful as we expanded into the commercial market.” One of those relationships was with a former senior executive at Cisco who referred Flashpoint to a current Cisco manager.
“I spent a bit of time with him and he sent one of his deputies to New York to spend several days with us to understand our technology and solutions and meet our team. From there, we initiated dialogue around participating in our funding and how we could work together more broadly.”
The Cisco Investments Advantage
For Flashpoint, partnering with Cisco has presented a tremendous opportunity to scale their operational vision, detailing the competitive landscape and further outlining how they would utilize the capital they were raising to accelerate Flashpoint’s growth trajectory.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons,” said Josh. “We’d done so much of our sales directly, for example. Cisco led us to begin to contemplate how channels and partnerships could be a multiplier and we expanded on a go-to-market strategy. They’re obviously deep experts in this domain so they were very quickly to get up to speed. And the questions they dug in, from a diligence perspective, were extremely thoughtful.”
Cisco Investments Deal Manager Prasad Parthasarathi serves as the evangelist for Flashpoint at Cisco, driving how the two companies collaborate and continue to accelerate in the Business Risk Intelligence (BRI) space. Prasad is excited about the caliber of the team and joint opportunities ahead.
“Flashpoint’s strong momentum is driven by a differentiated technology and an analyst team with stellar capabilities in deep and dark web intelligence. It is exciting to partner with smart entrepreneurs such as Josh to accelerate their trajectory and enable Cisco to stay close to market disruptors in the security space,” said Prasad.
For other entrepreneurs looking to collaborate with Cisco Investments, Josh advises they start with a deep look at Cisco’s portfolio to gain an understanding of their capabilities.
“Cisco is huge with a lot of resources, so have an honest conversation about what you bring to them and the benefits. If you can map that out and show the alignment and synergies, that’s the optimum path.”