Austin’s SparkCognition Raises $6M for Predictive Cybersecurity

Austin—[Updated 6/26/17, 10 a.m. See below.] Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity company SparkCognition has closed a $6 million Series B funding round from investors that include Verizon Ventures and CME Ventures. The startup plans to spend the new money on gaining customers for its machine-learning technology that aims to predict when a company’s systems might fail or get hacked.

SparkCognition’s system analyzes data from its clients’ connected devices in real time, so that it can potentially alert the user if there are any noticeable or slight changes that could indicate a problem with the device, like a failure or cybersecurity attack. The company’s software aims to identify when safety and security problems will occur—and seeks to do it for businesses more quickly and efficiently than a human could.

SparkCognition specifically focuses on the equipment of companies, particularly in the energy sector, as well as other entities like governments with Internet-connected physical assets that are potentially vulnerable to cyber attack. SparkCognition’s software studies “structured and unstructured data and natural language sources” to identify potential attacks, the company says.

In an interview with Xconomy last year, CEO and founder Amir Husain provided an example: A hacker could infect a computer system—connected to anything from a vehicle’s motor to a nuclear centrifuge—with a virus that makes the device run slightly faster. Even if it’s just a few extra revolutions per minute, it could cause the machine to burn out, Husain (pictured) says.

Previous investors The Entrepreneurs’ Fund and Alameda Ventures also participated in the Series B round. SparkCognition also has venture backing from Michael Dell’s private investment firm, MSD Capital, as well as investors including the Barragán family out of Mexico, which runs Arca Continental, Husain said last year. The startup hasn’t disclosed how much funding it has raised in total.

SparkCognition began integrating IBM Watson’s cognitive computing program into its system in 2015. [SparkCognition announced a new Series B round of funding in June 2017, and says this $6 million round is now being considered a part of its Series A round of funding.]

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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