“Today, if you really want to bring a nation to its knees, you have to use a cyber attack”, says Andrea Carcano (38), who together with Moreno Carullo founded Nozomi Network, an Italian-American startup that in August closed a 100 million euro Series D investment round and today it is worth between 600 and 700 million euros. Nozomi (hope, in Japanese) monitors and protects critical networks and infrastructures of some of the most important companies in the field of oil and gas extraction, energy, pharmaceuticals, automotive, manufacturing, and also airports, transport (including the subways of two of the most important cities in the world and trains to high speed) and smart city. They are all multinationals that work with computer-controlled automation systems, and that if they are attacked they could suffer significant damage at the country level. One of these is Enel, which was the first major customer of the startup born in 2013.
“Before founding Nozomi I worked at ENI – says Carcano – and one day I realized that a software I had developed during my research doctorate would be very useful for my business“. Carcano works in ENI’s security operation center. Its team is made up of two people, but within three years the division grows to 30 members. They deal with monitoring, definition of security rules and methodology to manage access to the network, therefore network protection and policies. “There I realized that the environments that do automation were opening up to the world. I decided to bet that with the arrival of big data these companies would have had to open up even more. Today everything is distributed and Covid has accelerated this evolution, thus opening up a greater possibility of attacks “. Nozomi, whose main rivals are Israeli startups, has established its advantage through more efficient data sharing methodologies, which offer significant economic benefits for companies.
After leaving ENI, Carcano together with Carullo resumes the prototype developed at university, with the idea of making it available to everyone. “In retrospect, I realize that if we had focused on vertical markets right away we would have grown faster. From those years I understood that you need to have the strength to say no to important realities, but too far physically or in DNA from your company“. That prototype then becomes Nozomi’s first product, a software that uses artificial intelligence to understand the functioning of networks and infrastructures and on the basis of this builds a customized security profile. It is therefore about a self-configuring system.
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In Italy, however, investors do not believe there is the possibility of growing a cybersecurity company. Fortunately, there are business angels of contrary opinion, and able to create connections with the United States. Carcano moves to San Francisco, while Carullo stays in Italy to lead the development team. “I would be lying if I said that we are 100% Italian because the company is a multinational, but the truth is that the technology is made entirely by Italians,” says Carcano. The latest round was led by Triangle Peak Partner with the participation of Honeywell Ventures, Keysight Technologies and Porsche Ventures. Nozomi today has 216 employees: 45 percent are Italian, distributed between Varese, Mendrisio and Milan; the others are located in the rest of the world, including 25 in the United States. Carcano is planning another 50 hires in the coming months to try and build a unicorn (startup with a billion valuation, editor’s note): “We dream of a listing to keep the company independent. We have received several purchase proposals, we have always evaluated them, but the right one has never arrived. The right offers have arrived in economic terms, but not in perspective: luckily we have investors who want to support us in the long term ”.
Now the problem is finding smart people to take on board: “We have always had a hard time hiring. When we started, we took all people from our network, but then we started to struggle. The problem is that if you lower the bar it doesn’t work. Taking it for granted that it would be easy to find good people was a big mistake, and if you don’t hire talents, you don’t stop ”.
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