Mark your calendars, grab the snacks and, like any good sporting event, prepare to yell at the screen: Next week, there’s a local startup to root for in the annual SXSW pitch competition.
KeyCaliber, a DC-based cybersecurity company focused on automated Crown Jewels assessment, is one of five finalists competing in the Enterprise and Smart Data category. This year is a big one for SXSW, as it’s the first time in two years that the festival is happening IRL. (Remember when SXSW was one of the first big events to shut down in 2020?) Behavioral science-based AI technology Veriphix is also repping DC as a finalist in the Social and Culture category. Rockville, Maryland sensor tech company N5 Sensors is an alternate in the Smart Cities, Transportation & Logistics category.
KeyCaliber is no stranger to pitch competitions: It took home the $20,000 prize at the 2020 Vinetta Project DC final Venture Challenge. But the nod from SXSW is only one of the company’s more recent achievements. In 2021, it nabbed a $2.6 million seed round from Lytical Ventures, Unusual Ventures, and HearstLab and industry investors Brian NeSmith, Sumit Agarwal and Dov Yoran.
Founder and CEO Roselle Safran said the funding thus far has been put toward product innovation and growing the team, which has leaped from two full-time employees this time last year to nine as of this month. It’s also allowed her to broaden the scope of the technology, she said.
“We’ve been able to just do so much more with the product and building it out and adding new capabilities, so the product is in an amazing spot,” Safran told Technical.ly. “It’s actually gone in the direction I had envisioned, but then also moved into not just serving cybersecurity use cases, but also serving IT and infrastructure use cases.”
Safran thinks that KeyCaliber, which earned an honorable mention among Technical.ly’s 2021 RealLIST Startups, has seen such a strong period of growth because of its automation of manual cyber processes. Investors see that there’s a need for that in the market as cybersecurity becomes more and more complex, leaving room for innovation at the startup.
“We’re really hitting a nerve where we’re solving a problem that, up until now, has just been solved with manual processes,” Safran said. “And there’s this recognition that that [practice] can’t keep up. It can’t keep up with the environments of today that require an automated, scalable, repeatable process, and it can’t keep up from the standpoint of how fast the adversaries are moving and evolving.”
With last year’s growth, Safran is still figuring out what 2022 will bring for KeyCaliber. But she said the company is already in talks with a massive enterprise customer for a deal that should be closing this year. And she predicts another growth spurt after that becomes official.
While KeyCaliber has strong potential for 2022, Safran noted that the company isn’t the only one constantly needing to grow and evolve. The cybersecurity industry as a whole has to keep up with a lot — which also means there’s plenty of room to expand.
“[Cybersecurity] has to keep up with technology, which is moving really fast, and it has to keep up with attackers who [are] moving even faster,” Safran said. “That means there’s just so much happening all the time, and so it’s an area with tremendous potential.”