The British cybersecurity firm Darktrace has announced plans for a £3bn listing on the London Stock Exchange, providing a shot in the arm for the City after Deliveroo’s disastrous debut damaged the capital’s reputation for big tech “unicorn” flotations.
Poppy Gustafsson, the company’s 38-year-old chief executive who holds a stake that will be worth a reported £20m when it floats in about a month, said that London was the “natural choice” despite Deliveroo shares plunging after the food delivery company’s debut last month.
“This is an exciting landmark for us, a great British tech company,” Gustafsson said. “Our intention to list on the London Stock Exchange marks a major milestone in Darktrace’s history of rapid growth, and a historic day for the UK’s thriving technology sector.”
Founded in 2013 by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, artificial intelligence (AI) experts and cyber specialists from GCHQ, Darktrace creates digital security products that “self-learn and self-heal” to enable businesses to stay one step ahead of hackers and viruses. Since signing up the Drax power plant as its first client, Darktrace has secured 4,700 customers, from Rolls-Royce to the NHS, which it helped fight the WannaCry virus in 2016.
The company’s advisory board includes the former M15 director-general Lord Evans of Weardale, the former home secretary Amber Rudd, and Alan Wade, who spent more than three decades working for the CIA.
Autonomy’s co-founder Mike Lynch’s Invoke Capital was Darktrace’s first shareholder, and remains its largest, with a 39.5% stake set to be worth almost £1.2bn at flotation.
However, Lynch is fighting extradition to the US, where he is accused of fraudulently inflating the value of Autonomy before its £8.4bn sale to Hewlett-Packard in 2011. Lynch, who could face a maximum prison sentence of 25 years if found guilty, denies any wrongdoing.
Sushovan Hussain, the former Autonomy finance chief who is also a Darktrace shareholder, was sentenced to five years in a US prison for fraud relating to the HP deal in 2019.
Gustafsson, who also worked at Autonomy, said that Lynch’s desire to remain in the UK played no part in Darktrace’s decision to reject flotation on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, both of which are popular with tech businesses.
“London was a very logical place for us,” said Gustafsson, who received an OBE for services to cybersecurity last year. “The management team is here within the UK, and also the UK has its significant heritage in both cybersecurity, with GCHQ, and the history at Bletchley Park, but also in terms of AI innovation, with the likes of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, all the way to Alan Turing being the father of AI.”
Darktrace, which began offering its services to the NHS free of charge at the start of the pandemic, said that demand for some of its products had surged over the past year as companies struggled to keep up with…
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