When it comes to cybersecurity firms, there are a few major players and a few up-and-comers who always get all the attention. Despite it being such a big market worldwide, most firms and their CEOs still hail from the US, with a few other countries getting honourable mentions. So, I like to go the road less travelled when it comes to cyber security bosses to watch. I keep an eye on start-ups, countries which aren’t major players and on companies offering either a unique solution – or, perhaps more interestingly, tackling an issue that others haven’t thought of yet.
A company which ticks more than a few of those boxes is British-based Arqit, a start-up in a non-hub country for cyber and one that solves a problem most others haven’t tackled.
Founded in 2018 and now publicly traded on NASDAQ, Arqit Limited is a cybersecurity firm that has developed a fully scalable, cloud-based encryption tool that specifically works for blockchain and bears in mind IoT concerns. Previously, symmetric encryption was a bit of a bugbear, as there was no fully safe and efficient way to distribute the keys. Arqit’s answer is delivery by satellite. As a cyber security professional who fully believes that preventing attacks is my chief job, I’ve been interested in Arqit’s QuantumCloud security solution for some time. But the London-based company has been in the news a lot lately, for wins as varied as rising stock prices, counting the British government as a client and for appointing yet another decorated military man to its team.
CEO and co-founder David Williams, with his work in satellites and of course, by extension, with governments, realised that satellite could play a huge part in encryption, including against the threat of quantum computers. Putting that to work for Arqit has paid off and the company already counts seven of the world’s major governments as its clients. But the English gent didn’t always work in cyber security.
From banking to security
Studying Economy and Politics at the UK’s Leeds University, Williams took the short leap across the Pond and went to work for New York’s Chase Manhattan Bank as a banker, followed by a stint in world markets at Toronto’s CIBC Capital Markets. A final three years as an investment banker with Babcock Brown and Williams knew he was ready: just 11 years after leaving University, he founded his own company. Avanti Communications is a ka-band satellite operator employing some of the best aerospace engineers in the business, counting the world’s top telco’s and most governments as its clients. Alongside fellow Brit and co-founder David Bestwick, Williams took Avanti from a small start-up to trading at 320p in 2014.
Williams then moved on to be chairman of the board for the Seraphim Space Fund, guiding the fund to invest in space tech start-ups and rake in the cash by backing smart bids for the space sector, particularly in the UK.
And with that all under his belt, it was time to boldly go – or to go boldly, depending upon your stance on splitting infinitives – forward and use his aerospace expertise to create a solution to a problem that most people have only begun wrapping their heads around. That’s right, Williams and Bestwick have found a way to not only fully update current encryption methods and prevent the most common data breaches we have now – they’ve also developed a full protection against quantum computers and their instantaneous ability to decrypt all current methods. While some predict the quantum computer threat as a decade away, most are saying that it will be a reality in the next five years. You can read more about why this protection is important here.
One of the things I look for in a forward-thinking CEO, though, is not just their own achievements or even the creation of a great product – it’s the ability to surround themselves with the best team and to garner experts from all sectors. The staff and board of Arqit reads like the line-up of a John le Carré novel, with former four-star generals, defence bods from the US and UK, former directors in GCHQ and the head of operations for Downing Street. Oh, and of course, Dr. Taher Elgamal, the father of SSL and the co-creator of PKI encryption.
With the nous to know what’s coming down the cyber security pipeline, the creativity to create great products and the forward momentum to future-proof his company, David Williams is absolutely one to watch.