Aussie infosec startups can hit the global bar but don’t know where it is: incubator CEO

Nearly a dozen corporate firms have already agreed to open their networks to Australian cybersecurity startups to help them validate their innovative technologies, according to the head of a newly launched incubator with support from both public and private sectors.

The CyRise accelerator, which has received funding from LaunchVic’s first round and grew out of a cybersecurity partnership between Deakin University and Dimension Data, is now accepting applicants for a six-month program that uses a host of mentors to help cybersecurity firms develop their offering and bring it to the global market. Recipients will be based out of Melbourne’s Teamsquare co-working space and receive $50,000 as part of a capped SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) agreement.

Support from long-running commercial ICT firm Dimension Data has provided strong opportunities to break into the private sector, CyRise CEO Scott Handsaker told CSO Australia – and this program is distinctive because corporate partners have already agreed to help participants validate their problems and test their applications within secure sandboxes on top of real-world, production networks.

The network of support behind the incubator – which also includes extensive access to Deakin University’s experienced cybersecurity researchers – is even more important to the success of cybersecurity innovators than the money that comes with the deal. “The money is good but the money is not an accelerator,” explained Handsaker, who has previously co-founded firms including Startup Victoria, mass sports event-registration firm Attendly, and event-registration provider Eventarc.

“If I were to give you $200,000 it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to your startup; what does matter is the mentor network that you put behind it, who are being enormously generous with startups and connecting them into funds and customers. If participants can connect to multiple customers and partners, so that when they get out they’ve got genuine traction, I would be genuinely happy.”

Cooperation amongst private and public-sector organisations has been recognised as a key part of any country’s cybersecurity posture and was the key factor that let down Australia in the recent International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU’s) 2017 ITU Global Cybersecurity Index, which rated Australia’s cybersecurity capabilities as seventh most well-developed out of 193 evaluated countries.

The CyRise program’s steadily-expanding roster of opportunities also includes potential structured trips to the USA and Israel – which ranked 20th in the ITU model but has enjoyed strong success in nurturing cybersecurity startups through a cooperative model that Handsaker said has provided a model for the rest of the world.

Spending time examining that market would be crucial for Australian entrepreneurs that are great at innovation and execution, he added, but often just don’t understand what it takes to compete at the world level.

“We want to expose the founders to what a hypercompetitive, world-class cybersecurity ecosystem looks like,” he explained. “Australian founders are great and amazing, but they often don’t understand where the bar is in terms of quality and level of execution. They’re capable of being world-class and hitting that bar, but they don’t know where it is.”

Even with the support of strong corporate and academic partners, helping Australia’s cybersecurity innovators hit their stride on the world stage is likely take “probably another generation”, Handsaker said. “It will probably another 10 to 15 years before we’re really humming along, but the signs are great and the objective is great – so I’m optimistic that we’re on the right path.”

CyRise, which will be accepting five cybersecurity startups for its program, is accepting applications through early September and will be running a national roadshow in July and August to highlight its offerings.

Tags infosecCEOHTTPSAustralian cybersecurityCyRise

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