Face-to-Face with our portfolio: FirstPoint
We welcome Dror Fixler, Co-founder and CEO of FirstPoint, an Israeli based cyber security startup that has been part of the innogy Innovation Hub portfolio since the fourth quarter of 2018, and Christof Kortz, Head of Strategic Cyber Security Venturing and thus leading the cyber security investment activities at the innogy Innovation Hub to discuss the company’s progress to date, the investment, its goals, and the role innogy Innovation Hub is playing in helping to achieve those.
Can you start by talking a bit about what your company does and what it is you are focusing on in particular at the moment?
Dror: FirstPoint is a startup dedicated to preventing cyber attacks on the network level. In fact, FirstPoint is the only solution to provide this type of end-to-end network-based protection, which means it runs completely in the background without any impact on the user experience or the need to install software. Right now, we’re focusing on expanding the number of mobile network providers we’re working with and catering to the growing demand for our unique type of protection.
Why did innogy Innovation Hub invest? What did you see in the company in particular and how does it fit in with your strategy?
Christof: Our Cyber Ventures focus area targets investments in cyber security startups with top notch technologies that promise to shape and support the security of the energy system of the future. FirstPoint has a great team with impressive expertise in the field of mobile security. We got in contact at a pretty early stage, but from the very beginning we were excited by the vision of FirstPoint and the disruptive potential of their product. They are redefining mobile security with network-based protection for all cellular devices, with a view on 5G. The start-up enables large scale deployment of various use cases, without compromising on protection. In addition to mobile devices, FirstPoint protects Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as connected cars, smart utilities and payment terminals, which are all vulnerable to attack. With its relavance to emerging, mobile connected IoT energy infrastructure, FirstPoint’s technology has significant strategic value for innogy.
Why did you choose innogy Innovation Hub as an investor?
Dror: There are several good reasons – first and foremost, the innogy Innovation Hub’s focus on IoT. At FirstPoint, we are observing serious vulnerabilities in cellular IoT cyber security. The Innovation Hub’s experience and focus on the IoT market makes our relationship a great fit for both sides. Second, a VC is an investor but it’s also like a travelling partner. The startup journey can be long, and with the innogy Innovation Hub we felt like we found a true travelling partner. Finally, I think a VC should believe in our vision and in this case, I found the innogy Innovation Hub to be true “believers” in the FirstPoint vision and our potential to be a great company that will revolutionise mobile cyber security in general and cellular IoT cyber security in particular.
Can you tell us about your approach to give growth support to FirstPoint?
Christof: A major challenge for the decentralised energy world of the future is how to secure the billions of mobile connected devices and the overall infrastructure. We are helping FirstPoint to understand existing and future challenges in energy infrastructure security, finding new use cases, enabling them to customise the product accordingly. Testing new solutions early puts FirstPoint in a better position to scale in an emerging mobile enabled, digital energy system. Furthermore, we are providing introductions to our vast European network, through which FirstPoint is able to build its customer base.
What makes innogy Innovation Hub different to other investors (VCs or other corporates)?
Christof: I’ve said it before, but for us, the Innovation Hub’s experience and knowledge of the IoT sector really sets them apart. However, it doesn’t end there. The innogy Innovation Hub is not the type of VC to invest and then sit back and wait. They get in the trenches with you and provide help and create platforms for growth. This ranges from the frequent f2f meetings, through to continuous help with HR and recruitment, and support with other VCs.
Can you provide some concrete examples of how the innogy Innovation Hub has provided growth support/cooperation?
Dror: First off, being part of the innogy Innovation Hub has opened doors for us within the innogy Group itself. For example, we are working with innogy on a Proof of Concept (PoC), with the ultimate goal of better monitoring of telecommunication connections in the grid. This includes better fault identification and elimination in the telecommunication connection of smart meter gateways.
They’re also always there as a challenger and a sparring partner. In our dedicated monthly meetings with the team on site in Tel Aviv, we benefit from an external perspective and consistent, constructive feedback, alongside day-to-day support e.g. in issuing joint press releases or when hiring in Germany. In addition, we are able to leverage innogy Innovation Hub’s social network reach via channels like LinkedIn and Twitter.
In fact, the team is like an extension of FirstPoint and with their geographic reach it gives us greater penetration into the large European market while bridging cultural and linguistic gaps.
Where do both want to be in two years from now on in this joint journey?
Dror: At FirstPoint, we’re very excited about the potential that partnering with innogy Innovation Hub presents to us. The growing demand for cellular IoT and innogy’s position in the market mean that in two years’ time we expect to gain a significant market share of the cellular IoT cyber security market, which will position us for our next funding round and continuous growth.
Christof: We look forward to seeing FirstPoint grow further, while supporting the business as it extends its cybersecurity-as-a-service to any future IoT application. Over the next couple of years, we expect to successfully prove the value and application of FirstPoint’s technology in energy use cases, helping FirstPoint to gain significant market traction and successfully complete its next funding round in 2020.