By Heather Somerville
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Silicon Valley venture firm Trident Capital Cybersecurity said on Wednesday it had raised $300 million for a fund to invest in cyber security startups - a sign of the growing importance of securing computer systems amid concerns over state-sponsored hacks.
The fund is one of the largest in the venture community dedicated to cyber security. The $300 million sum is double what Trident Capital had set out to raise, an indication that investors see cyber security as not only crucial but also lucrative.
The market for cyber security products and services was $81.6 billion in 2016 and will grow by 10 percent annually until 2021, according to research firm Gartner.
Trident previously had invested across industries with past investments including home rental site HomeAway and travel search site Kayak. The new fund will focus exclusively on cyber security deals, said Don Dixon, co-founder and managing director of the Trident fund.
While many venture capitalists have taken an interest in cyber security, few firms are exclusively dedicated to the industry. Trident will make about eight investments each year for the next few years, Dixon said, choosing from among about 400 cyber security companies raising early-stage financing rounds.
Trident has already invested about 20 percent of the fund into companies including Bayshore Networks and IronNet Cybersecurity.
The cyber security industry is expected to get a boost under President Donald Trump, who has said enhanced cyber defense is a top priority for his administration.
Trump last week was expected to sign an executive order that would have required agency heads to take a larger role in the security of their departments and develop plans to modernize aging information technology systems. Trump postponed signing that order, a White House aide said last week.
Still, Trident Capital investors say they are encouraged by Trump's approach to cyber security and the experts tapped to advise the president. Also, the administration's emphasis on deregulation for businesses could enable the private sector to take a more nimble approach to responding to increasingly sophisticated hackers.
Cooperation between Washington and Silicon Valley in cyber security likely will grow business contracts and funding for startups, offering a boon for cyber-focused investors such as Trident Capital.
Cooperation "is only going to improve, because we are dependent on each other," said Alberto Yépez, co-founder and managing director at Trident Capital. "Protecting critical infrastructure isn't going to just come from the government."
(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Bill Trott)