Plano Cybersecurity Firm Raises $215M as Threat of Attacks Grows

Plano-based Critical Start—which says its mission is "delivering badass cybersecurity"—raised the $215 million strategic growth investment from Austin's Vista Equity Partners. The move comes as ransomware attacks increased 104% in North America last year, and as other Dallas-area cybersecurity firms have been recent targets of $525M to $1B acquisitions and investments.

A Plano firm that says its mission is “delivering badass cybersecurity” services aims to accelerate its growth with a new, massive investment.

Critical Start, which focuses on managed detection and response (MDR) solutions, announced raising a more than $215 million strategic growth investment from Austin firm Vista Equity Partners at a time when it says the “threat landscape” is escalating across the globe.

“Our goal at Critical Start is to be the most effective, easiest to consume, and quickest to deploy managed detection and response service, and we believe this investment from Vista will help us continue to expand our differentiation in how we help protect our customers from cyber-attacks,” said Rob Davis, founder and CEO of Critical Start, in a statement.

Investing in growth

The Critical Start team. [Courtesy photo]

Formed about a decade ago, Critical Start says its Zero-Trust Analytics Platform can resolve 99% of security alerts that require attention by identifying, investigating, and responding to threats in real-time. It does that by integrating with network vendors like Microsoft, Crowdstrike, and VMWare. The company also has a hands-on response team that provides forensic services, as well as a mobile platform that allows customers to engage with Critical Start analysts remotely.

With the new funding, Critical Start says it will continue its growth trajectory by investing in its tech, product, and services offerings, in addition to reaching a broader range of large and mid-sized enterprises. It also said it’s looking to grow its headcount. The company currently has a team of about 250, and it’s planning to increase that by about 35%.

“For the past 10 years, we’ve been laser focused on protecting our customers from the most sophisticated cyber threats by building a best-in-class technology platform and team,” Davis said.

While not disclosing specific figures, Critical Start said the new investment comes as its annual recurring revenue has grown by more than 400%. Last year the company landed in the No. 3,108 spot on the Inc. 5000 list, reporting 122% three-year growth. To be included on the list, companies needed to have at least $2 million in 2020 revenue.

The move also comes as Fortune reports that ransomware attacks increased by 105% globally last year, just slightly higher than the 104% increase in attacks in North America—something Critical Start attributes its recent growth to.

“This investment comes at a time of rising volume and increased sophistication of cybersecurity threats for enterprises across every industry,” a spokesperson for Critical Start told Dallas Innovates via email. “Meanwhile, a widening skill gap and shortage of available security talent has created an environment where Critical Start’s effective, easy-to-use and quick-to-deploy MDR service is in high demand.”

Critical Start spins off $100 million-revenue business unit

The last time Critical Start raised funding was 2019, when it landed a $40 million minority investment from growth equity firm Bregal Sagemont, which helped it expand into offices in Los Angeles and New York City, adding to the 14 other markets Critical Start operates in.

Late last year, the company announced spinning out its autonomous value-added resale unit CyberOne, which it says has more than $100 million in revenue, into an independent entity in a move that CyberOne President Ric Hughey said will help remove market confusion and channel conflicts, while making geographic expansions easier. The that it provides more flexibility and capacity to focus more on customers, in addition to providing sustained revenue growth.

Recent moves by other local cybersecurity firms 

Critical Start isn’t the only local cybersecurity firm to make moves recently. Earlier this month, Dallas-based Zimperium, a mobile security platform, announced it is set to be acquired by Liberty Strategic Capital, a firm led by former U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin, in a $525 million deal. And in February, Addison cybersecurity company Securonix announced landing a $1 billion growth investment deal that was also led by Vista Equity Partners.

“Critical Start serves hundreds of MDR customers with a focus on midsize and large enterprises across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retail, government, healthcare, financial services, and energy,” the spokesperson said. “The investment will serve to strengthen Critical Start’s position as a leading MDR cybersecurity solutions provider and allow The Company to continue along its growth trajectory, reaching organizations of all sizes and across all industries.   

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