Technology

5 questions with Team8

(From left) Team8 co-founders Liran Grinberg, Israel Grimberg and Nadav Zafrir, who are alumni of the Israeli Defence Forces. Mr Zafrir, the CEO, says the start-up accelerator provides a "platform for leaders and entrepreneurs to build innovative, ca
(From left) Team8 co-founders Liran Grinberg, Israel Grimberg and Nadav Zafrir, who are alumni of the Israeli Defence Forces. Mr Zafrir, the CEO, says the start-up accelerator provides a "platform for leaders and entrepreneurs to build innovative, category-leading companies in the cyber-security space".PHOTO: TEAM8

Security in the digital world is fast becoming pressing business, especially in the light of recent high-profile cyber attacks that have crippled systems worldwide. Tel Aviv-based start-up accelerator Team8, founded by Israeli Defence Forces alumni, is tackling these threats. It has received US$40 million (S$54.7 million) from investors including Microsoft, Cisco and Singapore's own Temasek Holdings. Jacqueline Woo speaks to Team8 chief executive Nadav Zafrir, the former head of Israel's intelligence agency Unit 8200, to find out more.

Q How did Team8 start and what is it about?

A In 2013, I retired from active military duty as the head commander of Unit 8200 after over 20 years, together with my colleague Israel Grimberg, then the commander of the Cyber Division of Unit 8200.

As civilians, we found ourselves questioning why companies and organisations seem unable to keep pace with cyber threats.

So we decided to apply our years of experience in cyber innovation to the private sector, and, together with Liran Grinberg - who was a distinguished officer in Unit 8200 and a serial entrepreneur - we established Team8 in 2014.

Team8 is a cyber-security think- tank and a company-creation platform that aims to develop disruptive companies that challenge the biggest problems in cyber security today. We analyse current and future trends in cyber security and use our expertise and capabilities to identify gaps and areas where we see that a pain that has not been addressed, and we provide innovative solutions, best practices as well as new cyber approaches and strategies.

To address these challenges, we provide a platform for leaders and entrepreneurs to build innovative, category-leading companies in the cyber-security space.

Our company ideation and creation environment provides the capital, research and marketing capabilities that is required by companies to develop disruptive solutions. It also provides access to customers, talent and domain expertise that ensures these solutions can be used to create long-term, sustainable businesses.

ACT TO PREEMPT ATTACKS

In today's climate, small and large businesses can assume a breach will happen and they should take a holistic approach by preparing with technologies, procedures and methodologies.''

TEAM8 CHIEF EXECUTIVE NADAV ZAFRIR

Once a new company is ready to launch, Team8 invests a substantial amount of capital, enabling companies to focus on their product, market fit and accelerate growth.

Q How many start-ups has Team8 built?

A So far, we have announced the launch of two companies - illusive networks and Claroty - with several more companies currently operating in stealth. We will announce the launch of two such companies operating in stealth later this year.

illusive networks looks at the biggest threat facing the cyber industry today - targeted attacks - and tries to solve it from the perspective of the attackers. Its deception management system uses advanced machine learning to foresee and preempt cyber attacks. This deception technology means that the moment an attacker penetrates your network, he is in an illusive world where all the data is unreliable.

Claroty's mission is to secure and optimise the industrial control networks that run the world, all without compromising the resiliency or security of important assets. The Claroty Platform employs real-time monitoring and advanced analytics to detect anomalies and to rapidly alert organisations to security and process integrity issues. On the whole, Team8 has raised over US$94 million (S$128.6 million), including investment for the platform and our portfolio companies.

Q Singapore's Temasek Holdings is one of the company's investors. What does this mean for Team8?

A Our relationship with Temasek provides an important entree for Team8's companies to enter the Asian market, align ourselves with major decision makers in finance and governments, and address cyber-security issues in the region.

We work with Temasek to promote cyber innovation through an ongoing exchange of knowledge and insights as well as a design partnership relationship to co-innovate with Team8's portfolio companies.

In May, for example, we partnered Temasek, along with Singtel, Singapore Exchange and CIO Academy Asia, to bring global thought leadership event series Rethink Cyber Singapore here for the first time.

Q Team8 has also said it plans to make Singapore its key hub in the region. Why Singapore?

A The Singapore Government's efforts to boost innovation and be a "smart nation" is supported by its extremely robust and holistic view of cyber security. We are honoured to collaborate with Temasek and be a part of Singapore's important innovation strategy.

We employ more than 200 people here and have plans to hire dozens more by the end of the year.

Q How important is cyber security in the light of recent events such as the global ransomware attacks?

A As the digital-attack surface continues to expand, with a projected 50 billion connected devices to the Internet by 2020, and a new ransomware attack taking place every 40 seconds, we absolutely see the need for every business to take a proactive approach to cyber security. In today's climate, small and large businesses can assume a breach will happen and they should take a holistic approach by preparing with technologies, procedures and methodologies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline '5 questions with Team8'. Print Edition | Subscribe