Interview with Pitch GovTech 19 Winner: Cyan Forensics

Imogen Granger

27 November 2019

Following the GovTech Summit, we spoke to Pitch Competition winner and CEO Ian Stevenson about GovTech startup Cyan Forensics, pitch advice and their plans to take on the world of online safety.

What is Cyan Forensics and what do you do?

Cyan Forensics helps law enforcement, social media and cloud providers to find and block harmful content from paedophiles and terrorists.  We’re a three year old company based in Edinburgh, and we’re in the process of rolling our technology out nationally to policing in the UK, thanks to a contract with the Home Office.

How does your technology improve citizens lives?

Our technology helps police find evidence of child abuse, radicalisation or terrorist activity on suspects’ computers extraordinarily fast, giving investigators the ability to make better decisions to safeguard the public.  It ultimately contributes to delivering swifter justice. Currently investigations are often delayed for months, or even years, while investigating officers wait for digital evidence to be processed due to the backlogs in forensic labs.  We give front line staff the ability to get that evidence in minutes, while they are executing a warrant at a suspect’s home or a stop at the border at an airport.

“We will offer a reliable, cost effective first line of defence against some of the most harmful content imaginable.”

Ian Stevenson, CEO – Cyan Forensics

We’re now working towards deploying that same technology for online safety, making it much harder to circulate these types of harmful content online.  We can enable secure use of government blacklists for content blocking – something that isn’t considered practical today.  We will offer a reliable, cost effective first line of defence against some of the most harmful content imaginable.

Congratulations on winning the Pitch Competition – What are your top tips for pitching?

I’m a huge believer in training to build a foundation, and preparation to make sure I’m ready on the day.  I’ve been really fortunate to have access to good training in presentation and public speaking, thanks in particular to the programme that supports Scotland’s flagship investment event EIE.  I also try to make use of my own team (and anyone else I can co-opt) to help refine messaging, structure the pitch, make sure language is clear, help develop the visuals I use – in other words I may be the person visible when presenting but it is very much a team effort.

“I’m a huge believer in training to build a foundation, and preparation to make sure I’m ready on the day.”

Ian Stevenson, CEO – Cyan Forensics

I get a bit of stage fright and worry about forgetting what I plan to say, especially when there’s a big stage like the one at the GovTech Summit, so I always start by introducing myself. A few people have suggested this is a waste of time as usually I’ve just been introduced by the host, but I’ve never yet forgotten my name or my company name, so it gives me something I feel totally confident in when I first open my mouth. By the time I’ve introduced myself I’ve warmed up a bit so the rest of the pitch flows more easily.

What are the next steps for Cyan Forensics?

The two big things we’re working on over the next year are expanding internationally and demonstrating our capabilities for online safety. We already have early customers in Germany and we’re making good progress in France and Switzerland.  We’ve recently signed a partnership with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington to explore the potential for our technology in the US too. We’re involved in some really exciting work to demonstrate the positive impact we can have in online safety, which will increase the size of the market available to us.  Demonstrating our proposition is scalable internationally and into the online safety market are a key proof points for our business.

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