Major US cyber security firm which once employed ‘world's most famous hacker’ moves to Leeds
KnowBe4, which is based in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, has moved its UK headquarters from York to Leeds to accommodate its plans for expansion. The firm, which is now actively hiring, has moved into office space on Meadow Lane, in Leeds city centre, which can accommodate roughly 100 staff.
Famed hacker Kevin Mitnick previously acted as the firm’s “chief hacking officer” before passing away in July of this year.
Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4 and Mr Mitnick’s former business partner, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of the Leeds tech community.
"It’s very good to have a strong ecosystem here. If we, as a tech community, all expand, then we create a strong and vibrant industry which is good for all of us. If you have a lot of tech companies together in an area, that makes a stronger team, so we’re glad to be here.”
In February of this year, KnowBe4 was acquired by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for $4.6 billion, or roughly £3.69 billion.
The firm, which was founded in 2010, first established its UK subsidiary in 2017. The move to Leeds comes as KnowBe4 also looks to expand internationally. Mr Sjouwerman drew comparisons between the company’s decision to set up in Yorkshire, as opposed to London, with its decision to operate from the Tampa Bay area.
He said: “When you want to establish a company like this you want a good competitive environment, but you don't have to be in Silicon Valley. For the US, we wound up in Florida, which also has a high quality of living, but isn't as expensive as New York or Silicon Valley.
“We more or less kept the same policy here, in the sense of having great people in the area and also having other large high-tech companies in the region. We have not been disappointed, it's gone very well.”
Mr Sjouwerman noted that the move comes at a time of increased risk for companies in terms of cybersecurity.
He said: “If you take a step back and you look at the world, there are currently global, macro problems of magnitude. Unfortunately, any organisation with any kind of reach, even one with 20 or 30 people, is a potential target. Whether it's the Russian mafia shutting your network down with ransomware, or its a data breach.
“It's essential for organisations and individuals to be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to combat these risks. Our presence here signifies our dedication to making a meaningful impact on cybersecurity awareness in the region."
Mr Mitnick, who joined the firm in 2011, gained notoriety in the 1990s for breaking into government websites and corporate networks, and was named as one of the FBI’s “most wanted” computer hackers.
After a prison sentence which was widely protested by the hacking community, he became a cybersecurity consultant, using his skills to help organisations identify vulnerabilities and security issues. He also gained fame as a writer and public speaker.