For all the very real concerns about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the future some of the benefits are here now. When your phone reminds you to stand up at your desk, that’s AI. When your Tesla uses so-called deep learning to brake for the red light and not for the red robin, that’s AI. So it would be hard to conjure list of challengers to watch in 2016 without thinking about whom on that list is harnessing the power of AI to upend a category. We chose Cylance, a challenger in the not very sexy, but oh-so-essential world of Internet security.
Traditional anti-malware tools are reactive. They detect and block a threat only after it’s been detected, which is obviously too late for the unlucky first victims. This is what Stuart McClure, CEO and founder of Cylance (pictured), calls a “successful failure.” Cylance software doesn’t simply respond to the failure, it predicts when it’s about to happen.
By crunching huge amounts of data Cylance software can see patterns that allow for what McClure calls a “presponse” to problems. He likens this to the intuitive sense we might have while standing on the doorstep knowing something is amiss—that van is new to the neighborhood…the mailman doesn’t usually come around till much later…—allowing us to sense impending wrongdoing. CylanceProtect works in much the same way but using a whole lot of big data and algorithms. Like so many remarkable new solutions today, it’s the math, stupid.
This total rethink of the category itself makes Cylance an interesting challenger to watch, and it has lead to rapid growth since it started in 2012. The recently raised $42million will ensure they can scale for further growth. But its McClure’s flair for marketing that also caught our eye.
The Cylance Unbelievable Tour was created to tackle the inevitable skepticism facing any game-changing idea. Who would believe in the existence of such a “security unicorn”? McClure and his team are on a major US Tour challenging all-comers to bring their worst bugs and viruses to a LIVE demonstration of what CylanceProtect can do. It’s classic challenger behaviour to embrace the theater of a live demonstration with all the attendant risks that brings, appealing, as it must to the deranged egos of all kinds of bad actors out there. But the confidence it demonstrates, and the curious audiences it attracts (some hoping for the spectacle of colossal failure) make it more than worth it. We’ll be looking to catch the tour ourselves (tour dates below).
Challenging ideas, something out of nothing, lover of progress. Mark Barden is a partner at eatbigfish and based in San Francisco.