You never get to a point where you think "Now it's easy."
Tim Sadler spotted the biggest flaw in companies’ IT security systems, their people. The majority of data breaches are the result of human error so Tessian aims to protect businesses from threats executed by people on email. It grew 300% last year, and is now used by some of the world’s largest organisations. Tim tells the Smith & Williamson Hall of Fame how he did it.
People make mistakes - especially on email - and this puts data and systems at risk. Imperial College engineering graduate and Tessian CEO Tim Sadler recognised this when working at one of the world’s largest banks, and saw a need to build a solution that protected people, not just networks or devices, in order to protect businesses from cyber-attacks.
This was the start of Tessian. “The main security issue faced by companies is their people,” says Tim. “Many businesses think about protecting their networks and devices, but don’t often think about arming their people with the tools they need to protect themselves. This is concerning when you consider that the majority of data breaches are due to people’s mistakes.”
These errors take many forms. An employee may pay an invoice in response to a spear-phishing scam, for example, or accidentally send confidential client data to the wrong person. They may unwittingly leak information in an email to competitors. All put data and systems at risk.
While working in finance, Tim first spotted the issue: “I saw how much data was inadvertently being sent to the wrong person. In many organisations, security software and budgets are premised on humans being infallible. They are focused on protecting their devices, rather than people, and this means they aren’t addressing the problem that can result in costly mistakes.”
Tim founded Tessian in 2013, alongside fellow engineering graduates Ed Bishop and Thomas Adams. He and his co-founders fell easily into their different roles; Tim steering the go-to-market strategy while Ed and Tom focused on product and engineering.
The company is building the world’s first human layer security platform. It uses machine learning to analyse historical email data - the leading indicator of human behaviour in organisations - in order to automatically understand the relationships and communication patterns of people. By understanding what ‘normal’ behaviour looks like, Tessian can alert the user when something looks ‘unusual’. This could be when an employee is potentially about to send an email to the wrong person or has received an email that could be a spear-phishing attack.
By alerting the user, Tessian prevents data breaches caused by human error. Tessian works with hundreds of businesses globally, including many of the world’s leading enterprises. It now employs over 120 people, saw over 300% revenue growth in 2018 and opened its first US office in New York.
He says: “When building a company, you never get to a point where you think ‘now it’s easy’. There are a series of pivots and learnings. Without a doubt, hiring the best people is the most important thing you can do; our business is built by all our employees solving 100 problems every day.”
Within the past year, Tessian raised nearly £60m in Series A and Series B funding - announcing that it had raised £42m in Sequoia-backed Series B funds in February 2019. Earlier in 2018, Tessian announced $13 million in Series A funding, with Balderton Capital and existing backer Accel leading this round.
What does Tim plan to do with this latest injection of capital? “We’re really at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can achieve. We have plans to expand globally and we are investing heavily in R&D and new products. We are planning significant additions to our product suite over the next few years. It is a constant work in progress and we want to add as much value to our customers as possible.”
Tim will help to shape and set the overall vision for the company as the leaders in human layer security, something he believes is the future of cybersecurity. He feels privileged to be in the position he’s in: "I’m an engineer and designer by training so I have a passion for developing new products that solve the problems people are facing every day. I love being part of something that helps create value, and I can see the value people get from our solution every day.”
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