Niloofar Razi Howe’s presence and influence dots the cybersecurity landscape. She helps steer tens of millions of dollars to later stage cybersecurity startups and public companies like Open Raven, and Finite State, sits on the boards of companies like Morgan Stanley, Recorded Future, Tamer and SwimLane, serves as an adviser to the Department of Defense and stands in as a subject matter expert for Congress.
This gives her a finger in many different slices of the cybersecurity pie, from business to policy, from threat intelligence to the economics and market potential of different emerging technologies.
“What that gives me is a perch that I think is pretty unique,” said Howe. “Because I get to see the small companies, the early-stage stuff through the seed fund; I get to see the growth stage companies; I get to see how the big companies look at cybersecurity and manage their own cybersecurity posture, how products get consumed and used, what’s useful and not useful; I get to see how the government thinks about it. I hope by doing all of that I get to be a bridge across all those silos, because to me this is a whole of society problem that we have to figure out how to resolve.”
As an investor and one of the only women to successfully crack the glass ceiling that goes up to the board room in cyber firms, Howe said she remains pained by the lack women on the founding team for new startups, in leadership positions across industry and government or like her, making investment and funding decisions in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs.
“We’ve got tons of great, qualified women in the cybersecurity field right now. You’ve seen isolated breakthroughs, someone who was able to get to that level, but even though the talent pool is obviously there, the results are not.”
She’s one of a small group of women in the position to make cybersecurity investment decisions and one of the few to sit on multiple boards in the industry. She also hosts the Female Founders program, which brings hundreds of women in the cybersecurity community together every year to foster their entrepreneurial instincts and provide guidance along the way.
As an investor, Howe has watched an explosion of funding dollars enter the market. It’s not just that the market is absorbing more money. Valuations for companies at the Series A or B stage are skyrocketing as investors are increasingly funnel high double or triple-digit funding rounds to companies at the Series A or B stage.
“What’s been incredible about this past year is just the amount of money that’s flowing into cybersecurity, it’s unprecedented,” said Howe. “It used to be that when we had five, six billion a year flowing into the market from a venture capital perspective that was a good year for us. Halfway through the year I think we’ve already crossed $11 billion and we’re headed towards somewhere between 15 to 20 billion coming into the cybersecurity industry. Which is…”
Howe can’t find the right word for how remarkable this is (for the record, we suggested “bonkers”).
Despite the boom, Howe said it remains to be seen whether this cybersecurity gold rush towards promising — but still nascent and fragile — early startups will pay off over the next five to 10 years.