SMB-focused cybersecurity marketplace Whitehawk to list on ASX

US-based startup Whitehawk will list on the Australian exchange in a bid to help the local SMB segment match with cybersecurity service providers.

Online cybersecurity marketplace Whitehawk will soon find itself listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), and is launching a prospectus this month to raise AU$4-4.5 million ahead of its initial public offering (IPO).

Whitehawk -- which has a pre-IPO value of AU$9 million -- uses a machine learning algorithm to match small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with cybersecurity vendors, based on what their requirements are.

The company counts the likes of McAfee and Symantec as part of its initial 150 vendors, and within one year of operation, it scored the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Energy as customers.

Whitehawk was founded by CEO Terry Roberts, who was formerly in US Naval intelligence.

In the late 1990s, Roberts was involved in scientific and technical intelligence for the US Navy at the time its ships were being enabled with network and online communications at scale. She told ZDNet she came up with the idea of writing a threat assessment about the migration of ISP aboard the ships.

"Everyone thought I was nuts because they just thought of it as IT and not as an operational platform that would have vulnerabilities," she explained. "Long story short, I got the cyber bug in the late 90s and set up the first cyber intelligence team."

The team, a set of 400 analysts across the US intelligence community, began to focus on the threats and vulnerabilities of moving to the information age, from the network lens in particular.

After soon becoming the Deputy of Naval Intelligence, Roberts said she wanted to go back to the world of cyber, so she took up the role of executive director of Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute. From 2009, she was working in the space that bridges industry and academia and was focused on what is needed to be successful in the digital age.

"The reason I think naval professionals in general really get the cyber arena is because we're used to living in a virtual world at sea; we have been dependent on sensors, and instruments and displays since WWII," she explained.

"Knowing that you can't see and touch something is normal for us and optimising that virtual environment and how it impacts the physical world is a natural fit."

Whitehawk is based in Old Town Alexandria, just outside of Washington DC, which she said is becoming the cybersecurity hub in the United States.

Although in close proximity to like-minded organisations and a community of resources, Roberts decided to bring Whitehawk to Australia due to the willingness of Australian-based investors looking to help grow, not "flip", startups, and the saturation of SMBs in the market.

As of July, 97 percent of business in Australia were small businesses employing less than 20 employees, with 2.1 million individuals employed by one.

"Australian investors really got our vision and really understood that we wanted to be a global online platform that obviously Australia could take advantage of, that they could share with the rest of the world," she explained.

"In both countries, our businesses are struggling with figuring out what they need to do in an affordable way."

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