Cyber-Security Startup Accelerator Gains Home, Funding in Virginia

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-09-14

Cyber-Security Startup Accelerator Gains Home, Funding in Virginia

HERNDON, Va.—Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) has launched the first cyber-security technology startup accelerator program in the United States. The Mach37 Cyber Accelerator is intended to locate and leverage the wealth of cyber-security talent in Virginia to create companies that will develop and launch new products.

Mach 37 represents 37 times the speed of sound, which is approximately the same as the Earth’s escape velocity.

The accelerator is modeled on existing accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars in Silicon Valley, according to Mach37 managing partner Rick Gordon. Gordon told eWEEK that a primary difference is that Mach37 is focused on enterprise applications rather than on the consumer market. He also said that the type of entrepreneur in the cyber-security industry is quite different than those typically found in California’s Silicon Valley.

“Here they’re more risk-averse,” he said. Gordon said that the typical cyber-security innovator is older, probably has a mortgage and a family, and doesn’t have the ability to simply drop everything and create a startup. Because of that, Mach37 will provide initial funding for the startups while they go through the 90-day process required to be launched.

Companies wanting the help of the accelerator need to apply and convince the organization that they have a cyber-security product that has the potential to succeed. The entrepreneurs will work with the Mach37 partners to analyze any gaps in their business plan and then develop strategies to fill those gaps as part of the program.

Following the gap analysis, the partners will help validate a need for the startup’s product and positioning within the cyber-security market. The Mach37 partners will then work to introduce the entrepreneurs to investors, strategic and channel partners, and develop a part for bringing the product to market.

Finally, the Mach37 partners will work with the entrepreneurs to create a thoroughly vetted business plan and follow that up with a venture presentation. In the process, the program participants will be introduced to venture and angel investors and get help preparing for their first Demo Day presentation.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to work in an office area provided by Mach37 at the CIT. The work area is designed for collaboration but also provides private meeting rooms. Each week, all of the entrepreneurs are encouraged to meet for a group dinner as a way to encourage further collaboration. The dinners will include the opportunity to meet with the Mach37 Stars Network, a group of approximately 200 industry leaders, cyber-security professionals, investors and community leaders who help foster the growth of the new companies.

Cyber-Security Startup Accelerator Gains Home, Funding in Virginia

Gordon also announced the first five companies to be accepted into the Mach37 program:

--Cypherpath delivers services built around the company’s virtual cyber test range and virtual cloud. This test range supports training and simulations that deliver realistic experiences.

--Key Cybersecurity employs forensic techniques to look for threats and abusive behavior in enterprise environments.

--Pierce Global Threat Intelligence analyzes individual enterprise environment for threats using automated tools that measure traffic and flow data, then filters the data to create a useful picture of the threat environment.

--CyberLingua identifies zero-day threats before they cause damage using intelligence techniques to identify weak signals and pattern synthesis.

--Sikernes is a cyber analytics platform that allows organizations to analyze the effectiveness of their cyber-security expenditures using predictive analytics and big data techniques. 

The Mach37 group will leverage a partnership between CIT and Virginia Tech University to develop testing programs and to provide access to the university’s test facility.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell kicked off the accelerator program at the Center for Innovative Technology here on Sept. 12. The governor had spearheaded a $2.5 million Virginia General Assembly appropriation to fund the program, which is designed to locate and help launch companies that have enterprise security products and will operate in the Commonwealth.

McDonnell said that while Virginia will benefit from the growth of companies started with the help of the accelerator, the cyber-security industry will also benefit through the new products and through the increased skill sets that go along with the new products. But he also noted that the state will be a clear winner.

“We get an amazing rate of return for such small investments,” he said. McDonnell told eWEEK that Virginia has some of the top security companies in the world due in large part to the proximity of the federal government.

McDonnell also noted the impact of federal budget cuts on the economy in Virginia. “I’m counting on you to make up for the money we lose through sequestration,” he joked. McDonnell said that the growth of a strong new cyber-security product industry has a large number of benefits to the technology industry in general. “Virginia has the highest tech employment per capita in the U.S,” he told eWEEK. “We have the second most overall, behind California.”

He said that a strong diversity in technology employment is good for the industry. He noted that the security skills in Virginia’s segment of the industry are quite different from those in other areas.

The Mach37 Cyber Accelerator formally begins its first session to evaluate startup candidates Sept. 16 at CIT’s Herndon, Va., offices.

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