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Trigaux: Top Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs invests $30 million in cyber fighting KnowBe4

By Robert Trigaux
Earlier this year, employees of KnowBe4 gathered on bean bag chairs wearing renditions of purple during an end-of-month wrap-up meeting on the 11th floor at the company's headquarters. Now there's something new to celebrate. Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs just agreed to invest $30 million in the cyber security training startup. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

CLEARWATER — If this isn’t a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, then what is?

Wall Street’s best known investment firm, Goldman Sachs, is committing the sizeable sum of $30 million to help advance the fast-growing Clearwater cyber security training startup called KnowBe4.

That’s a ton of money for any startup in the bay area. And the Goldman Sachs’ imprimatur adds a whole other layer on this deal, making the investment a great win for KnowBe4 but also a big victory for recognizing potential in Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurs and its expanding market of startups.

Goldman Sachs vice president Hans Sherman says KnowBe4 has distinguished itself as a leader in the cyber-security awareness training market. The startup’s platform, he states, has become "a ‘need to have’ for businesses across sectors and geographies in the fight against cyber threats."

As part of the Goldman investment, Sherman will join KnowBe4’s board of directors.

KnowBe4 founder and CEO Stu Sjouwerman is a veteran entrepreneur who knows his way around building well-designed startups, finding and motivating the right people to hire, and understanding how to pitch his startup concept to potential investors.

RELATED COVERAGE: KnowBe4 taps going ‘90 miles an hour’ with enthusiastic, engaged workforce.

Sjouwerman also obviously loves what he does. His "office" at KnowBe4’s expanding offices in downtown Clearwater is typically a stand-up computer console in the main room atop the office tower at 33 N. Garden Ave. He keeps a nearby scoreboard and frequently celebrates sales victories at start-of-the-day staff meetings.

It works on many levels. KnowBe4 ranks No. 231 on the 2017 Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies. And after first landing on the Tampa Bay Times Top 100 Workplace list in 2016 as the best small company workplace, KnowBe4 catapulted in 2017 to the No. 1 mid-sized company. An impressive leap over many other deserving company workplaces.

Sjouwerman said the confidence demonstrated by Goldman Sach’s $30 million investment shows the strength of his company’s new approach in the security awareness training market.

"The demand for KnowBe4’s platform has driven 18 straight quarters of growth," he states. "The funding comes at an important time for us as we are expanding globally. Last week we announced our European growth plans and are looking forward to future international expansion."

PAST COVERAGE: Top-ranked workplace among small firms, KnowBe4 blends cyber savvy, hard work and fun.

A company that employed only 70 last year hit the 300 mark in June and is now at 350 with 25 more openings here and an additional five in the United Kingdom. Revenues are approaching $60 million. KnowBe4 delivers security awareness training combined with simulated "phishing" attacks (using false identities to deceive employees to divulge corporate secrets by email or other electronic means) as part of its user education program. The company’s slogan: Human error. Conquered.

Goldman Sachs may not be the most universally adored Wall Street firm but it is no fool. It knows cyber security in all forms is a major growth industry. And it obviously likes what it sees at KnowBe4.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.