Greycroft and LiveOak Venture Partners Lead $3M Seed Funding Round for CyberFortress

By Iris Gonzalez
The CyberFortress team includes (from left): Michael DeFelice, Huw Edwards, Beth Watts, Nate Shames, and Grant Herbon. Not pictured is Halie Koehler. Courtesy photo.

Chief executive Huw Edwards announced Wednesday CyberFortress had closed a $3 million seed funding round co-led by New York-based private equity firm Greycroft and Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners.

Monte Tulum Capital, which had invested in CyberFortress’s pre-seed round, is also participating in the latest funding. Porthcawl Holdings, Jungle Disk’s parent company, provided pre-seed financing in 2018.

The San Antonio-based insurtech (insurance technology) startup will use the $3 million investment to accelerate its product launch in Texas in early 2020, Edwards said.

Launched in 2018 by former Rackspace employees Huw Edwards and Michael DeFelice, the San Antonio-based startup offers tailored insurance policies to protect small- to medium-sized e-commerce companies from cyber threats. Most insurance providers tend to tailor their cyber insurance policies for large-scale enterprises, requiring upfront payment of large annual premiums. They also lack historical data to quantify cybersecurity risks.

CyberFortress is building a deep machine learning-based approach to quantify all risks of online revenue interruption for e-commerce companies, whether from cyberattacks, internal server errors, or third-party e-vendor failure.

That differentiation is coupled with its customer-centric approach: Easy-to-understand policies, a straightforward application process, fast payouts in the event of a claim, and the ability to pay for annual premiums in monthly installments rather than in a lump sum.

Given that most small business owners lack the robust reserves of larger companies, they may face bankruptcy in the aftermath of prolonged online interruption in their e-commerce. CyberFortress’ business interruption policy features make this new type of insurance uniquely small business-friendly.

Read more: Tailored for Smaller Businesses, CyberFortress Delivers New Kind of Cyber Insurance

“A small e-commerce company can’t afford to spend months engaging with their insurance company waiting for a payout,” Edwards said “If they can’t collect revenue, they may not be able to make their next payroll. Our policy is laser-focused on solving this critical problem for small businesses.”

CyberFortress launched its Downtime Risk Assessment at the conclusion of its participation in the Plug and Play insurtech accelerator program earlier in 2019. The free assessment helps e-commerce companies reduce their risk of events that could lead to downtime.

The assessment’s continuous collection of data from thousands of features and technology choices evaluated over time provide a fact-based, probabilistic assessment of a company’s exposure to suffering e-commerce downtime.

Read more: CyberFortress Launches New Business Downtime Risk Assessment

Will Szcerbiak is leading the investment for Greycroft, a seed-to-growth venture capital firm that has over 300 investments across the tech sector.

“Their underwriting is efficient, and the rapid, automated payment of claims will make for a delightful customer experience,” Szcerbiak stated. “These characteristics are unusual in the commercial insurance universe, and we believe they will set CyberFortress on a path to scale.”

Joining the startup’s board of advisers is Katie Wade, the former Connecticut Insurance Department commissioner with more than 20 years of industry experience in public policy and regulatory compliance. Venu Shamapant, a founding LiveOak Venture partner, also joins the CyberFortress board of directors with this financing.

Based in Austin, LiveOak is a venture capital fund specializing in full-cycle investing in Texas-based startups. They invested in San Antonio before, notably in the cybersecurity company Infocyte four years ago. Shamapant continues to believe “San Antonio has interesting depth in pockets of advanced tech.”

“What caught our attention about CyberFortress is the experience of their team with small- and medium-sized businesses and e-commerce businesses — they have a deep understanding of the pain points in that market segment,” Shamapant said. “That, coupled with an innovative solution, got us excited about the opportunity to back this team in their efforts to revolutionize the cyber insurance industry.”

Others recognize the groundbreaking nature of what CyberFortress is developing. The startup has been working with a team of Milliman consultants to develop and validate its risk model. The consulting firm is the largest independent provider of actuarial and risk management services to the insurance industry.

“The insurance product we are helping CyberFortress develop is a revolutionary approach to identify and insure risk to e-commerce revenue streams,” said Sheri Scott, principal actuary and the CyberFortress consulting team lead at Milliman.

Insurance industry stakeholders are also taking notice of the San Antonio startup, Edwards said, as he attended Insure Tech Connect, the largest insurtech conference, this week.

“We’re finding that it’s [insurance] carriers and brokers that are now showing interest in insurtech solutions — they recognize the need to partner with insurtech startups,” Edwards said. “We need to work with these partners because very few startups can become major carriers overnight.”

The $3 million funding round will be put to work to expand the team and fuel its growth in the Texas market. While the CyberFortress team of eight employees has deep expertise in cybersecurity, data science, risk management, they are looking to hire developers and business development staff.  

“The capital will be used to secure partnerships with e-commerce and other providers, and to scale, not to sit in a bank account,” Edwards said. 

Featured image is of the CyberFortress team, which includes (from left): Michael DeFelice, Huw Edwards, Beth Watts, Nate Shames, and Grant Herbon. Not pictured is Halie Koehler. Courtesy photo.

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