Stories from the Climb

Darktrace: Pioneering AI in the Cyber Security Space

Following eight years of rapid growth and innovation, Darktrace – the AI-powered cyber security company – completed its initial public offering in April 2021. The timeline below follows Darktrace’s path from the company’s origins as a pioneer in autonomous defense technology to its London Stock Exchange IPO (LSE: DARK).

The cyber landscape is rapidly evolving, with attacks infiltrating and impacting some of the most sophisticated companies in the world. Founded in 2013 by mathematicians and cyber experts from governmental intelligence backgrounds, Darktrace pioneered the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning concepts to address the insidious – and increasingly complex – problem of cyberattacks. Building on our long history of investing in the cyber security market, Summit led the company’s Series B round in 2015 and followed with further investments in 2016, 2017, and 2020. Over the course of the last six years, we have been proactive supporters of the Darktrace mission, reinforcing product development and international expansion, and leveraging our network and deep experience in the security space to build the team and expand the advisory board, including the addition of Alan Wade, former CIO of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. As of April 2021, Summit remains the company’s single largest institutional shareholder.

The State of Cyber Security: Immense Opportunity in AI

of Fortune 500 companies are exposed to threats
of professionals think scale and speed of attacks will increase
median number of days it takes for an organization to detect that it has been breached

All numbers as of April 2021 ¹ ²

The Early Days: A New Approach to Cyber Security

From its roots in the signal processing lab at the University of Cambridge, Darktrace brought together experts in mathematics and government intelligence (from the UK’s GCHQ) to build the first at scale AI-native global cyber security platform. Darktrace introduced a new approach: an AI-powered “Enterprise Immune System” that can learn a “pattern of life” for every user, device, and controller. In doing so, Darktrace created a unique and previously unprecedented approach to cyber security.

As cyberattacks became increasingly sophisticated, traditional tools, which relied on rules and signature- based techniques, provided little protection against novel attacks. Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System applied advanced artificial intelligence to identify unknown threats, marking a fundamental shift in approach to protecting critical data systems and digital infrastructures. Darktrace’s core detection engine uses unsupervised machine learning to build a dynamic understanding of normal patterns of life for each organization it safeguards. Rather than rely on rules, signatures, fixed baselines, or training data, the immune system learns from the patterns of an organization’s constantly changing digital environment to rapidly identify advanced attacks as they emerge.

2013: GCHQ meets with University of Cambridge mathematicians and AI experts

2013: Darktrace founded

2013: Launched the Enterprise Immune System platform

Rapid Growth: Product Expansion and Globalization

By 2015, Darktrace had grown rapidly, employing a global team and serving customers worldwide, including leading organizations in the critical infrastructure and financial services sectors and several Fortune 100 corporations. The team sought outside equity partners to support their product development vision and the company’s continued rapid growth trajectory, and Summit invested $22.5 million in July 2015. Prioritizing innovation in the years to come, Darktrace introduced three important additions to its foundational Immune System: Darktrace Antigena, designed to react to cyber-attacks in real time; Antigena Email, the world’s first self-defending inbox; and Cyber AI analyst, designed to automate the threat investigation and reporting processes. With autonomous response capabilities, Darktrace evolved to not only detect but also intelligently fight back against in-progress attacks before they can make an impact.

As CEO and co-founder Poppy Gustafsson noted: “We’ve never been happy with following the status quo and doing things 2% better than the last product. We are never going to be happy to be a company just following in the footsteps of others.”

2015: Summit invests $22.5 million to lead Series B funding round³

2016: Darktrace reports 600% year-over-year revenue increase, and headcount grows to 300 employees worldwide

2016: Summit invests additional capital alongside KKR, TenEleven Ventures and the Softbank-affiliated SB ISAT Fund as part of $65 million growth financing to support continued, rapid growth

2016: Summit introduces Alan Wade, Former CIO of the CIA, who is appointed to the Darktrace Advisory board

2016: Launched Darktrace Antigena – Autonomous Response technology

2016: Darktrace expanded into the U.S. and Asia-Pacific and forged partnerships in Latin America, India

2017: Launched Darktrace Industrial

2017: WannaCry ransomware attacks. Darktrace Antigena reacts in seconds to protect customers

2019: Launched Antigena Email

2019: Launched Cyber AI Analyst

2020 and Beyond
IPO and More: A New Era of Cyber Threats

With the growing prevalence of new cyberattack vectors, including attacks on cloud, SaaS and IoT infrastructure, insider threats, ransomware and AI-powered attacks – the relevance of Darktrace’s machine learning solutions continues to increase. Demand for cyber security solutions further accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid transition to work-from-home. Darktrace is focused on developing a closed-loop, machine-speed cyber AI platform that builds upon the detection and defense competency of the Immune System and the attack response capacity of Antigena to include prevention, compliance, and remediation capabilities. The company expects to continue its innovative partnership with leading mathematicians and scientists at the University of Cambridge support a truly, healthy digital immune system for the 4,700 companies (and counting) across more than 100 countries that Darktrace serves today.

April 2021: Darktrace completes IPO (LSE: DARK)

2021: Company focus – Prevention and cyber compliance

2022: Company focus – Healing and remediation, defense against cyber-powered attacks

Growth Timeline

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Cae Keys

The State of Cyber Security: Immense Opportunity in AI

of Fortune 500 companies are exposed to threats
of professionals think scale and speed of attacks will increase
median number of days it takes for an organization to detect that it has been breached

All numbers as of April 2021 ¹ ²

“Our vision has always been to use our self-learning technology to allow businesses to defend themselves from a new era of cyber-attacks. The IPO is the next step on our journey – allowing us to invest further in our R&D centre in Cambridge and to pursue new fields of AI innovation and technology.”

Poppy Gustafsson, CEO and Co-Founder, Darktrace


(1) 80% of Fortune 500 companies are exposed to threats and 75% of professionals think scale and speed of attacks will increase (source: Darktrace & Forrester)

(2) 56 median number of days it takes for an organization to detect that it has been breached (source: FireEye)

(3) source: Summit Partners

(4) source: Darktrace

(5) source: Summit Partners

(6) source: Darktrace

The content herein reflects the views of Summit Partners and is intended for executives and operators considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of investments, click here.

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