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Darktrace: A roadmap to listing in London
4 June 2021
Last month, Darktrace listed on the London Stock Exchange in what was a triumphant day for our capital.
Having a thriving stock exchange with strategically important, fundamental technology companies like Darktrace is integral to the future fabric of London’s economy, our jobs, our real estate and our position on the world stage.
Until very recently, there has been a drought of technology listings in London. Indeed, out of 1,200 of the fastest-growing tech firms in the last 20 years, just 44 have floated in London. If we think about how the modern, tech-enabled world works, that is an incredibly poor statistic. Over time, we are in danger of not having access to the key drivers of our modern economy, so it’s crucial for London to get back to a point where the market more accurately reflects both the world in which we live, and allows our investors access to the companies that will be shaping the future.
For a long time, the UK has punched well above its weight in terms of research and development. A trip to the labs of Imperial or University College London would reveal a host of bright and budding entrepreneurs who plan to launch a tech start-up as soon as they graduate. But if we are to cement our position as a world-leader in tech, we need to solve the last piece of the puzzle. All too often the UK’s best and brightest businesses are sold just at the point they are about to achieve real impact – usually around the £400 million mark.
As someone who has steered a number of technology companies from drawing board all the way to multi-billion-pound IPO, I think the Darktrace story is particularly illustrative of a model that can work well here.
In 2013, Darktrace turned the traditional model of cyber security on its head. Back then, everyone thought you needed to build walls of defence to keep the bad guys out. Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System challenged this theory – just like the body’s immune system, it assumed that whatever threats you were trying to avoid were already inside, and you had to be able to work on that basis. The idea back then was radical, but now I don’t think anyone would disagree. In order to address that, we needed a special technology that worked in a different way, that could learn self and spot other. It needed AI.
But beyond the technology, if there’s one thing I learned building Darktrace, it’s that it really is all about the people. At the beginning, Darktrace was powered by the talent recruited directly from my investment firm, Invoke Capital. This included Jack Stockdale, now Darktrace’s CTO, Nicole Eagan, now Chief Strategy Officer, Emily Orton, now its CMO, and of course, Poppy Gustafsson, the dynamic CEO that took Darktrace onto the LSE. That team has gone on to achieve phenomenal success, and Darktrace has become the world-beating cyber AI company we had all envisioned.
Had Darktrace not managed to successfully list here, it would have inevitably fallen into the hands of a foreign power, like so many tech firms that have come before. If companies can’t list on their home exchange, the virtuous circle of training, expertise, employment and investment in the UK tech ecosystem is broken, so it was important to show a roadmap to listing in London that works.
Our pro-tech government understand this too. Post-Brexit, Britain has an opportunity to re-frame its economy, adopting forward-looking regulatory frameworks and the Chancellor’s UK Listings Review published by Lord Hill comes at a crucial time for our economy.
For the Invoke team, it’s time to focus on our next company – Luminance, an AI company that is already transforming the lives of lawyers in London and other urban centres around the world. It is these types of companies that will help London become the Science Superpower it is destined to be.
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