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24th March 2023

Cyber firm plans further expansion with help of NPIF loan

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Leeds City Region LEPNPIF - Mercia Debt FinanceNorthern Powerhouse Investment Fund

A fast-growing Leeds cybersecurity company is planning further expansion with the help of a six-figure loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Cognisys specialises in penetration testing or ‘ethical hacking’ which helps companies identify their IT vulnerabilities. In addition to remote testing, it also carries out ‘red team’ exercises which test an organisation’s defences by mimicking real-life cyber attacks including, in some cases, finding ways to breach security at the premises.

In one case, a team from Cognisys successfully gained access to a company’s IT system by visiting the premises posing as Openreach engineers. In another exercise at a Scotch distillery, another team entered the premises by booking a whisky tasting tour and were able to walk into the offices and remove equipment by pretending to be IT support. Cognisys also helps businesses to comply with standards such as ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials.

Cognisys was established in Halifax in 2019 by Steve Spence, who previously founded Wakefield-based IT business Servatech which he sold to Pure Data Solutions in 2014, and Arjun Pednekar, who had worked for global cybersecurity group NCC and had also run his own consultancy.

In 2020, it moved to Leeds and also opened an office in Manchester. The business has doubled in size each year and currently employs 18 staff across both sites serving clients, which include some of the largest companies in the world. It expects to double its revenue again in the next financial year and to create a further eight to 10 jobs.

Steve Spence, CEO of Cognisys, said: “Every day businesses are brought to a standstill, held to ransom or have funds stolen by cybercriminals who have breached their system.  Popular access routes at present include buying stolen passwords on the dark web or tricking employees into clicking on a link in an email. However, businesses are starting to wake up to fact that cyber attacks can happen to any firm – large or small. At Cognisys, our mission is to help businesses of all sizes to improve their security.”

David Wright, Investment Manager with Mercia, added: “Since launching Cognisys less than four years ago, Steve and Arjun have grown the business rapidly and built an impressive client list. The funding will provide working capital to enable them to continue their expansion and help more businesses to build their cyber defences.”

Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is supporting the hugely important cyber security sector in the North. With many employees working from home, cyber security has become a board-level agenda for companies that are growing at rapid pace. Cognisys is becoming one of the major cybersecurity companies in the North and is delivering world-class solutions to help companies protect themselves from emerging threats. This investment will not only help to boost revenues, but the resultant growth will create new jobs, supporting the North’s economy which is a key goal of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Enterprise Ventures Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN: 183363). EV Business Loans Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN: 443560).

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