Plexal’s accelerator to boost number of diverse cyber firms

Over half of the programme's members are BAME-led firms

Like many sectors, cybersecurity would benefit from greater diversity and inclusion, and a new accelerator programme for diverse cyber firms could make this a reality.

While a 2020 report by KPMG and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) initiative found that female representation rates in cybersecurity are higher than in other technology areas, inclusion and belonging for underrepresented groups remains an issue. The study found that 41% of Black respondents had experienced discrimination in the last year.

Plexal, an innovation company, has launched its Cyber Runway accelerator programme to change the cybersecurity landscape for the better. The six-month programme aims to increase sector diversity and inclusion, regional representation and support the growth journey of industry innovators.

More diverse cyber firms

A group of 108 cyber entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs and scaleups will take part in the programme, which is the largest and most diverse cyber startup accelerator in the UK to date, according to a recently shared statement from a Plexal representative.

A considerable 52% of the chosen startups are led by BAME entrepreneurs, while 45% are female-led; in addition, 50% are based outside of London and the South East. All will benefit from a combination of in-person and virtual support.

Oz Alashe MBE and Founder of CybSafe, one of the businesses on the programme, says: “There are few accelerator programmes that have the scale, network or the commitment to diversity and inclusion offered by Cyber Runway. I have no doubt that this will be beneficial for CybSafe. I’m delighted to join a nationwide community of ambitious, innovative cyber founders and look forward to sharing ideas, knowledge and experience with other members.”

The programme isn’t about tokenism but creating greater innovation in cybersecurity by supporting the growth journey of diverse firms. Examples of the problems these entrepreneurs are trying to solve include cyber-fraud, cyber-physical threats to critical national infrastructure, cloud security, improving threat intelligence and boosting education using emerging technologies such as AI, quantum and cloud security.

What programme members can expect

Underrepresented groups have also been included in the design and delivery of the programme, ensuring it benefits the people it was created to support.

Members will also have access to a diverse mentor pool of investors and industry experts and will gain support in one of three distinct streams; Launch, Grow and Scale.

The Launch stage includes 20 entrepreneurs who will get support with launching their business, building a viable product, and creating a network. For the Grow stage, 68 startups and SMEs will get support to address their growing pains, access funding, and achieve commercial success. Scale support will be provided for 20 scaleups and include 1:1 mentoring to help them grow rapidly in the UK and globally.

Member benefits include:

  • Business masterclasses (both virtual and in-person)
  • Mentoring and engineering support from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) and their data and testing centre
  • Technical product development support
  • Opportunities to connect with international cyber hubs
  • Regional events
  • Connections to investors and corporates to fuel growth

Cyber Runway is the latest sector-specific initiative from Plexal. Previously, they delivered LORCA (the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement) for the last three years, which has helped companies raise over £200m in investment and generate over £37m in revenue.

Saj Huq, Director of Innovation at Plexal, said: “This is a golden age for the UK cyber startup ecosystem. Cyber startups are attracting record levels of investment, and both the government and global tech giants are coming to British cyber companies to adopt emerging cyber technologies.

“The scale of Cyber Runway is testament to the enormous potential within the cyber startup community and will help stimulate the supply of innovative cyber solutions that will be needed by the economy and society.

“However, Cyber Runway is also specifically designed to address some of the challenges facing cyber startups as they scale. Our three programmes will connect cyber founders to the mentors, investors and corporates they need to accelerate their growth and access diverse talent. This is a significant moment for UK cyber, and I have every confidence that the collaboration between the government and the private sector to create Cyber Runway will make the cyber ecosystem more successful, innovative and inclusive.”

The full list of Cyber Runway members is available to view here.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Gender diversity is improving in cybersecurity compared to other areas of tech, but inclusion and belonging aren’t good enough for other underrepresented groups including Black employees.
  • Over half of the startups represented in Plexal’s new Cyber Runway programme are BAME-led.
  • Programme members include those based outside of London and the South-East.

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