Posted on March 6, 2018 by staff

I left government role to tackle ‘unacceptable’ security gap


An entrepreneur left her government role to build a platform to bring cyber security to all businesses – despite having no background in coding.

Kiran Bhagotra is the founder and CEO of Belfast-based ProtectBox, a cyber security comparison website and marketplace which allows SME business owners to find appropriate cyber security packages at competitive prices.

From 2014 to 2016 she promoted the UK’s cyber security strategy to other countries and also supported National Archives work on machine learning and digital sensitivity.

“I fell into cyber security four years ago. If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she told BusinessCloud.

“I’m a mathematician, which helped me build the algorithm, but I had no coding background.

“Not having been a developer has helped me build this product, in fact, as I look at it from a commercial point of view.”

Bhagotra will pitch at the Pitch@Palace 9.0 bootcamp at Manchester University on Tuesday 13th March and again at the final showcase in St James’s Palace, London, on Wednesday 25th April.

She claims that two-thirds of SMEs are cyber attacked and half of them end up closing down as a result.

“When I found this out while working for the UK government in cyber security, I thought it was unacceptable: even for the experts, it’s so difficult to remain cyber secure so how are small companies meant to do that?” she asked.

“I believe that security is a right that everyone, including small- and medium-sized businesses, deserve.

“That’s why I left government and put my money where my mouth is to found ProtectBox.”

The prototypes for ProtectBox, which Bhagotra describes as the ‘Trivago of cyber security’, were funded by £30,000 of government money as well as her own private funds.

“In hours an SME fills out a questionnaire online. If they’re technical, they fill out everything; if not, they just fill out the bare essentials,” she explained.

“Our automated platform shows them six bundles across the whole range of the cyber market – taking in technology, training, regulation and insurance – before allowing them to drill down into exactly what it is that they want via filters.

“We help the research and decision-making process which is otherwise either extremely time intensive or expensive to do it.”

The curated cyber shopping platform is being looked at by many well-known corporates such as accountants, telephone and internet providers and banks, according to Bhagotra.

Now in her mid-forties, she originally trained as a doctor and worked as a nurse as well as in investment banking, PR and industry. She then spent a decade freelancing, helping start-ups gain funding among other things, before taking the government role.

“I realised that most of the pieces were there [to help SMEs find appropriate cyber security] but it needed somebody to pull it together: you have to have those relationships across government, industry and investment, then a way of commercialising the whole thing,” she said.

“I’m quite rare in the mix of experience that I’ve had: I’ve built the web that brings government and industry in cyber together because I’m not a veteran of either.”

After accompanying the UK government on trade missions to Singapore and the United States, she is confident of gaining traction on both sides of the Atlantic – and finds out in April whether she has won a place on the Exponential Impact accelerator in Colorado.

The accelerator is partnering with the National Cyber Security Center (NCC) there and she hopes this will cover her seed funding.

“It’s hard to break into the US market – even more so when you’re a start-up,” she said.

“That’s where having the government partnerships is useful. It was the UK government’s strong ties with Colorado’s ecosystem that helped me identify the right government-industry-academia partnership for us.”