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Launching this summer, Hedgehog is an intruder detection device for home networks. Created by Zobi, a hardware-enabled software company, Hedgehog uses artificial intelligence to analyse and learn the typical network usage in a home, to detect any vulnerabilities or suspicious activity.

However, when Zobi founder Scott Lever joined the Digital Catapult Cyber 101 programme, he had a different idea in mind – a dark web monitoring service.

Cyber 101 supports the next generation of cybersecurity leaders, helping startups and scaleups advance their ideas and strengthen the critical business skills required to gain a competitive edge in this growing marketplace. With intensive one day bootcamps, deep dive sessions and demo days, the programme offers tutoring and advice from industry experts. Scott Lever recognised Cyber 101 as the first opportunity to validate his business idea.

“I was planning to create a dark web monitoring service and give people a risk score,” said Scott Lever, founder and CEO of Zobi. “Upon discussion with the mentors, it turned out my idea was already on the market. Digital Catapult knew the industry and could name the competition, the companies involved and the issues they were facing.”

With Cyber 101 being the perfect arena to thrash out new ideas and discuss these with industry experts, Scott looked for advice; should he invest more time and money into his dark web idea or change his business model?

According to Scott, “I was chatting to an advisor, who mentioned he’d always wanted to build an intrusion detection and prevention system for the smartphone. So we pivoted our thinking.”

Everything is connected, but not everything is protected.

Over time, Scott refined his idea. The result was Zobi Home Intelligence, an AI-enabled solution to detect and prevent cybercrime in the home.

30% of all smart home devices are hacked and right now, 1.8 billion passwords are being sold on the dark web.

To help put a stop to this, Zobi will scan a home network to learn what everyday activity looks like, then build an algorithm to detect anything suspicious. It will scan for vulnerabilities, monitor the dark web and identify any unwanted traffic or unknown devices that need to be blocked.

A change of direction boosts investment.

With its new business model, Zobi won £100,000 in equity seed funding from the Startup Series. Scott acknowledges that his participation in the Cyber 101 programme helped to achieve this.

“If i’d gone out to get investment, having not gone through that day I would have failed miserably,” said Scott. “I did fail miserably. I applied for the Startup Series before and got turned down. Then I pivoted and was awarded the fund.”

In total, since attending Cyber 101, Zobi has raised £1 million between crowdfunding, venture capital and angel investors.

Meet Hedgehog.

This year, Zobi will launch Hedgehog, a digital guardian for the connected home. Using Zobi Home Intelligence, Hedgehog is a piece of hardware that plugs directly into a router. It scans the network, learns what normal looks like and blocks against cybercrime and suspicious activity, alerting users with a light-up ring at the top, along with a Zobi Intelligence app.

It looks good in the home too. Described as small, cute, friendly; but with sharp defensive edges, Hedgehog won a European Product Design Award in 2020.

In a connected home, there are more devices on the network than people realise. Most household members will own a smartphone, in addition to Wi-Fi boosters, tablets, laptops, computers, printers and smart TVs. However, while all these devices seem accounted for on the surface, Zobi can reveal some alarming results, as Scott Lever discovered while testing.

“The first time I put it on, it came up with devices I’d long forgotten about or found friends that had used my network, plus lots of devices that I didn’t even know about. It was absolutely unbelievable.”

As more IoT devices, such as CCTV cameras or Wi-Fi boosters, creep into the home, consumers need to be more alert. Saving money buying cheaper devices instead of reputable brands come with an added cybersecurity risk. According to Scott Lever, “Many of these devices come from the factory with malware already installed. They can scan the network, look at all the traffic, get passwords and credit card numbers, then build up your identity to sell on.”

Vision: To create a world where people’s privacy and personal data stay safe

In the immediate future Zobi will focus on its B2B offering, developing the blocking algorithms within Hedgehog for software companies and device manufacturers to use. The threat to businesses has increased as hackers take advantage of the recent boom in homeworking. High-value targets and anyone with access to personal data, banking information or HR records, are all at risk, validating the need for increased cybersecurity.

For consumers, while Hedgehog is in production, Zobi Home Intelligence will be launched as an app to build its customer base and trust. While the COVID pandemic was a profitable opportunity for cybercriminals, the risk continues to grow, with social media and email hacking, along with auction and online shopping fraud on the rise.

For Scott Lever, this confirms that the switch in business model came at the right time, as Zobi advances its vision ‘To create a world where people’s privacy and personal data stay safe.’