The Technology Pioneers of 2021 represent a collection of 100 early to growth-stage companies identified by the World Economic Forum as trailblazers of new technologies and innovations.
This year’s list includes novel ideas such as cell-based seafood proteins, quantum-based cybersecurity, digitisation of water rights and use of satellite imaging to measure carbon captured in forests.
We look at some of the selected data and cybersecurity firms that are finding advanced tech solutions to a burgeoning list of complex challenges affecting global organisations in an increasingly digitised post-pandemic world.
An Oxford University spin-out, PQShield is a cybersecurity company that specialises in post-quantum cryptography. These are types of cryptographic algorithms that protect businesses against cyberattacks by quantum computers. It claims to be one of the few cybersecurity companies that can demonstrate quantum-safe cryptography on chips, in applications and in the cloud.
The early-stage start-up was founded by Oxford academic Ali El Kaafarani in 2018. Kaafarani, who is a research fellow at Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute, was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard Labs and has more than a decade of academic and industrial experience in cryptography.
Headquartered in Oxford with additional teams in the Netherlands and France, PQShield says it integrates with companies’ legacy technology systems to protect them from high-profile cyberattacks. It is principally backed by Kindred Capital, Crane Venture Partners, Oxford Sciences Innovation and Innovate UK.
New Jersey-based Duality Technologies provides privacy-enhanced technologies to companies which allows them to use sensitive data without compromising on data privacy regulations. One of Fast Company’s most innovative companies of 2020, Duality applies advanced analytics and AI to sensitive data and intellectual property without exposing them to external threats.
The company uses homomorphic encryption (HE) methods in its technologies. HE allows a company to encrypt data and run computation on it while it is encrypted. Co-founder Kurt Rohloff told Siliconrepublic.com in 2018 that Duality attempts to make HE work on generic computer environments such as Amazon servers, Google Cloud and standard laptops.
Rohloff founded Duality with former Tel Aviv University lecturer Alon Kaufman in 2016. Kaufman is also the CEO of the company. An expert in AI, machine learning and cybersecurity, he previously spent seven years working at US-based network security company RSA.
Founded in 2017, SenseOn creates technology that emulates how a human security analyst would think to automate threat detection and response. Based on the behaviour of users and devices, it provides context-rich alerts for its users and helps companies save time.
Based in the UK, SenseOn was founded by CEO David Atkinson, who was the first cybersecurity specialist in the UK Special Forces. Atkinson had the idea to start the company after he discovered that the problems in traditional security systems could be solved by establishing a central platform for detecting cyber threats.
SenseOn works across the financial services, healthcare and public sectors, counting the UK government among its clients. Some of its investors include research-led VC firm MMC Ventures and tech investor Amadeus Capital Partners. The company is on a mission to reach £100m in serviced clients by 2027.
One of Time Magazine’s most influential companies of 2021, Gro Intelligence was founded by Ethiopian-born Sara Menker in 2014. Born just before a devastating famine that resulted in the death of almost a million Ethiopians, Menker said she learnt very early on the importance of preparing for disasters. Based on experience in commodities trading later in life, she started Gro to address food security and climate change.
Working with major companies such as Unilever, BNP Paribas and Wells Fargo, Gro provides its clients with a host of data and analysis on the global agricultural ecosystem. Gro’s technology can analyse over 650trn data points from more than 40,000 sources including crop forecasts, satellite images and reports on precipitation.
Headquartered in New York, Gro raised $85m in January with the backing of tech investors Intel Capital and Africa Internet Ventures. According to Time, Menker is one of a handful of black female founders whose start-ups have the potential to achieve unicorn status.
UpGuard is a cybersecurity platform that helps global organisations prevent data breaches and monitor third-party vendors. Its technology identifies security exposures for companies of all sizes and gives them an overview of their level of protection.
Founded in 2012 by Mike Baukes and Alan Sharp-Paul, Upguard focused on tackling the cybersecurity risks in companies’ product development pipelines. Last month, it raised A$25m in a Series B-1 funding round, bringing its total funding to A$59m. Initially based in Australia, the company now has head offices in the cities of Sydney and Hobart as well as San Francisco in the US.
Last year, Upguard announced a record year of growth, with sales up by 128pc and new customers up by 179pc. Some of its biggest new customers include the New York Stock Exchange, Tata Technologies and Schrodinger. It also announced the release of its app in cloud computing platform ServiceNow’s store.
The second female-led company on this list, Patientory was founded in 2015 by CEO Chrissa McFarlane. She was named by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the top women leaving their mark on the medtech field. Her healthcare start-up aims to revolutionise the way doctors and patients interact and access information using blockchain technology.
Based in Atlanta, Patientory can aggregate data from electronic medical records, wearable devices and other health-related database systems. The platform allows patients to share this information with their healthcare providers. Its technology has also been helping clients face pandemic-related challenges such as locating and procuring critical medical supplies and frontline labour.
In 2017, Patientory made headlines after raising $7.2m in an initial coin offering when 1,700 buyers around the world bought into the company’s own cryptocurrency. McFarlane said the funding also provided grants to support early-stage companies building blockchain healthcare solutions which later went on to benefit Patientory’s capital raise.
Truora is a Colombia-based identity-theft detection solution that works with Latin American clients to provide them with fast and safe background checks on customers. The tech company aims to eradicate fraud and corruption in Latin America with its teams based in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru and a US office in San Francisco.
Headquartered in Cali, Mexico, Truora was co-founded by CEO Daniel Bilbao, Maite Muniz and Cesar Pino. It was one of the many Latin American start-ups that went to Y Combinator’s winter class in 2019. Its clients include start-ups, marketplaces, fintechs, HR firms and banks.
Truora has processed hundreds of background checks for more than 100 companies operating in Latin America, including Rappi, Uber and Davivienda. Early investment in the company came from Chile-based early-stage VC firm Magma Partners, Accel Partners and Kaszek Ventures.
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