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Meet the startups confronting cybercrime

Veronica Brezina



When Airbnb host Mario Soave started noticing that the guests renting out his New York properties through the home-sharing platform were illegally downloading music and videos on his WiFi network, he knew he had to take control of the situation. 

“People were committing cybercrime (including downloading illegal pornography) on my property,” Soave, the creator of Texas-based startup CleverFi, said Wednesday evening to a roomful of investors and peer startup founders inside the Softwerks warehouse in Ybor City. “I have a whole set of different problems as a host – I have to protect my internet and if my internet isn’t good, I get bad reviews, and then no one is booking my properties.”

He was one of the 15 startup founders sharing their entrepreneurial journey during the pitch night for Tampa Bay Wave’s CyberTech|X 2023 Accelerator cohort. 

Mario Soave, founder of CleverFi, pitches his business plan during Tampa Bay Wave’s pitch night in Ybor City. Photos by Veronica Brezina.

“I created a solution for people securing the WiFi. People using it will automatically connect to the WiFi without having to ask for the password,” Soave continued, explaining the security measures and tracking he is building for the patented WiFi program. He hopes to execute an agreement with Airbnb, which has over 4 million hosts. 

Frustrations with the lack of cybersecurity was a similar theme with others in the cohort, including BreachQuest, a Texas-based firm that is building its product called Priori, which will reimagine the incident response process and minimize breach costs. 

“Cybersecurity tools have been overlooking one key area and that’s the speed, efficiency and preparedness for your incident response, which will dictate the outcome and any cyber-attack,” CEO and co-founder Shawn Gordon said. 

Gordon said in the last seven years, the detection time of notifying users about potential cyber threats has not improved, and the costs to mitigate data losses as a result of the crime continue to increase.

The global average cost of a data breach increased by 2.6% from $4.24 million in 2021 to $4.35 million in 2022 — the highest ever recorded, according to IBM Security’s latest data breach report. 

“In 2023, with all the cutting-edge technology, we are still dealing with attackers using automation and efficiency while defenders are stuck with manual hands-on-keyboard (approaches),” Gordon said before receiving a roomful of applause. 

BreachQuest has a team of 16 employees, and contracts with three customers. The startup has raised $4.4 million in seed funding. 

Gordon’s presentation points showing data on the delayed response times, creating a crisis for companies, was also echoed by Keep Aware co-founder Ryan Cote. 

The Texas-based firm protects organizations through its browser-based solution that blocks phishing, data loss and malicious downloads while embedding cybersecurity awareness into every employee’s workday.

Cote said the goal is to stop cyber phishing and mitigate data loss in real time through detections in the browser. The business-to-business platform is able to pick up the “breadcrumbs,” identifying the source of the attack. 

Tampa Bay Wave CEO Linda Olson speaks to attendees at the pitch night event for the 2023 CyberTech cohort. 

Through the three-month accelerator program, Gordon, Soave and Cote, among other founders, were offered mentoring from prominent tech founders and cybersecurity industry giants, as well as pitch coaching. 

The pitch night event marks the conclusion of the program and aims to connect the startups with potential investors and customers, and further build connections in Tampa Bay’s tech community. 

Meet the cohort’s other startups fighting cybercrime and ensuring safety: 

Avertro: Avertro is an Australia-based, venture-backed company that’s built a cyber command platform that helps leaders manage, measure and report on their cybersecurity performance. Founder and CEO Ian Yip said the company has a completely automated process and is currently cash flow positive. 

Cyvatar: Cyvatar is a California-based firm that manages security subscriptions. It claims to be the first cybersecurity-as-a-service (CSaaS) provider. CEO and founder Corey White has been in the cybersecurity business for 28 years. He said the startup has $3.3 million in recurring revenue and 90 customers. 

DeviceTotal: DeviceTotal is based in Israel and is an auto-prevention attack platform that identifies security threats, automatically highlights the risk and provides risk information. The company said there isn’t sufficient visibility on the cyber risks and impact via certain devices such as smartphones. The 15-member company has raised $6 million. 

Hackmetrix: Hackmetrix is based in Mexico and helps Latin American startups and small and medium businesses to prove their security standing by allowing them to achieve compliance certifications and utilize monitoring tools. Co-founder and CEO Adriel Arujo said Kackmetrix manages daily security tasks and helps customers receive security achieve certifications.

Infiltron Software Suite: Infiltron is based in Georgia and provides a real-time cybersecurity solution, leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum. 

Phalanx: Phalanx is based in Virginia and provides security and visibility to data that resides outside databases (unstructured data) with Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA). CEO Dave Ritter said the company is projected to reach a recurring revenue of $2 million.

Privacy Lock: Privacy Lock is a Colorado-based firm that offers one solution to global compliance with consumer privacy laws to handle the volume of consumer privacy requests and regulatory reporting requirements. 

Seccuri: Seccuri is a California-based startup that has developed a global cybersecurity talent tech platform by using a proprietary algorithm. Co-founder and CEO Juanita Duque said Seccuri has over 3,500 users and the goal is to become the leading cyber security firm in matching people’s skills and talent. 

StrataFlows: StrataFlows is a Tampa-based firm startup that’s created software to help those involved in supply chains do their jobs safer and more efficiently with digitalized processes. CEO and CTO George Panicker said the company has a built-in dashboard and reports on analytics. It works with large logistics firms such as Ryder.

Vultara: Vultara is a Detroit-based web-based startup that’s created a Cyber Security Management System (CSMS) dedicated to cyber-physical system manufacturers.

X80 Security: X80 is based in Singapore and quantifies cyber risk in dollars and helps security information officers to maximize their budget. 

Zendata: Zendata is a California-based firm that has a product for leaders to understand and mitigate their privacy risks through continuous monitoring of assets, starting with their websites.

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1 Comment

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    cornelius cosentino

    April 6, 2023at3:07 pm

    when does the pitch take place?

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