After several rejections by VC firms, this black entrepreneur raised nearly $5M for her cyber company

Abu Mubarik June 30, 2023
Claudette McGowan is the CEO and founder of Protexxa. Photo credit: NATALIA DOLAN via Forbes

Claudette McGowan is the CEO and founder of Protexxa, a Canadian B2B SaaS cybersecurity platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to rapidly identify, evaluate, predict, and resolve cyber issues, according to Forbes.

She decided to venture into the cybersecurity field owing to its potential and the growing threat internet users face. According to Statista, there are some 5.18 billion internet users Worldwide. Additionally, data from McKinsey shows that the cybersecurity sector is worth a staggering $1.5 trillion to $2.0 trillion.

McGowan established her firm after spending decades in the banking industry and building relationships across diverse industries. However, the network and credibility she built over the years have barely had an impact on her quest for VC funding.

About 60 percent of her investors are women, with the only one Black VC firm in Canada, BKR, being her lead investor, in addition to the Canadian government agency Export Development Canada.

However, navigating the VC world has not been easy for the black entrepreneur. Her strength and credibility in the banking sector have done little to make it easy to get the attention of investors. Nonetheless, she has persevered and recently raised nearly $5 million for her cybersecurity firm, Protexxa.

According to her, the journey to raising $5 million has not been easy. Aside from not seeing people who looked like her in meetings, she was also often turned down by potential investors despite her pedigree and the profitability of her business.

“For my entire career, I didn’t see anybody that looked like me in meetings,” said McGowan after her recent VC raise in an interview with Forbes. “I felt like an outlier.” 

“It [Protexxa] feels too good to be true,” said one VC. “That’s the one that sat with me because it was the company [VC] I’d given the most to,” said McGowan. “They seemed to be all in, so I shared some secrets about what we’re planning. But they just kept bringing another person and another person to every meeting.”

According to McGowan, she can take a punch, but not every young startup founder may have the fortitude, and this could lead to ideas going to waste. “I’m a woman of a certain vintage; I can take a punch,” said McGowan. 

She also notes that she has largely sustained her business due to support from her family. She also joined Venture Lab, an accelerator; C100, a global community of Canadians in Tech; and MaRS Discovery District, which supports Canada’s most promising startups.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 30, 2023


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