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Mike Lynch-backed Darktrace to file for London IPO in aftermath of Deliveroo flop

The Register - Mon Apr 12 16:13

British AI-powered infosec biz Darktrace is to go public in England's capital city, the company told the London Stock Exchange this morning.

Sky News reported last night that chief exec Poppy Gustafsson is expected to make around £20m from the initial public offering, with shares trading on Darktrace expected to open “at around the end of this month.”

A filing lodged with the London Stock Exchange and published on its website stated that Darktrace’s revenues were $199.1m in fiscal year 2020 with a claimed compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58.3 per cent between 2018 and 2020.

“The majority of senior management has been with Darktrace since inception, including its Chief Executive Officer, Poppy Gustafsson OBE” boasted the filing as it quoted the chief exec saying: “Developed by our talented software engineering teams in Cambridge, our artificial intelligence was the first on the market to be deployed at-scale in the enterprise, and today is responsible for protecting over 4,700 organizations worldwide from the most sophisticated cyber-threats.”

The statement made no mention at all of the fact that Darktrace was heavily backed by Mike Lynch, former chief exec of Cambridge-headquartered software business Autonomy; indeed, Gustafsson was Lynch's colleague at the controversial firm before she and fellow Autonomy alumnus Nicole Eagan founded Darktrace.

Lynch, as reported by El Reg over the past few years, is currently being pursued for several billion by Hewlett Packard Enterprise over allegations that he deliberately published falsehoods overstating Autonomy’s revenues, including by presenting multi-year sales and support deals as upfront lump sums. These alleged irregularities caused HPE to write down Autonomy’s value by $8.8bn after buying the British firm in August 2011.

Tellingly, in light of the Autonomy-shaped shadow looming over it, Darktrace’s “expected intention to float” document includes the statement: “Revenues are primarily derived from prior period billings recorded as deferred revenue to be recognised in future periods.”

Lynch’s involvement also caused a minor fuss back in February when Swiss bank UBS declared it would no longer work on the IPO after the US government launched extradition proceedings against Lynch.

The US also accused Lynch of paying “hush money” to ex-Autonomy personnel by hiring them to work at Darktrace and his venture fund Invoke Capital.

The IPO is promoted by Darktrace's admirers as the next biggest thing since food delivery firm Deliveroo went public back in late March. This was abortive: Deliveroo, whose core business is delivering meals from restaurants to users of its app, saw its share price fall from 287.45p to 249.25p at midday today, a fall of 13.3 per cent.

Aside from Lynch’s backing, Darktrace also counts former Home Secretary Amber Rudd as one of its advisory board members. It has also publicly acknowledged that Formula One racing team McLaren is one of its customers. ®