Last month, ACG National Capital members were treated to yet another insightful live Q&A with CIT GAP Funds Managing Director and Vice President Tom Weithman, and MACH37 Managing Partner, Rick Gordon. The pair discussed how their respective companies have managed to stay ahead of the curve, and enlightened the audience to the concept of accelerators and why they’re important for the advancement of cyber security technology.
CIT GAP Funds is a family of seed- and early-stage investment funds placing near-equity and equity investments in Virginia-based technology, life science, and clean technology companies.
MACH37, on the other hand, is a market-centric cybersecurity accelerator designed to facilitate the creation of the next generation of cybersecurity product companies. But what do accelerators achieve, and why would Tom Weithman – who also acts as MACH37’s Chief Investment Officer – be interested in the concept?
“We were looking at accelerators as early as 2009.” Said Weithman. “There was a rich portfolio of Intellectual Property (IP) in the area, and it was an opportunity for us to do something unique and thematic, to focus on a single vertical, and cyber was that vertical.”
According to Rick Gordon, part of the strategy “is to look and identify potential early. Find diamonds in the rough; brilliance that needs nurture and guidance. Surround creative individuals with people who understand the market.” By helping innovators bring their products and solutions to market via funding and expertise, accelerators can nurture continuous innovation.
But cyber security is not a new concept and has been around for about 20 years, which begs the question: why now? What has happened to make it such a high-growth industry?
Rick Gordon believes all the answers we need are in the data. “Gartner’s latest projection for 2014 suggests that the worldwide information security market growth will be close to 9% and exceed $73 billion.”
He continued, “In many respects it’s a pretty mature market, but it’s vastly different than when I got involved with my first cyber security startup in 1988. I remember people saying there’s no money in cyber. Thankfully, I’ve had many reasons to get back into the market again, and they’re all working out pretty well.”
He points to the fact that, back in the day, all you needed to protect your network was an anti-virus, a firewall (maybe), and an information management system if you were regulated. “The market in 2002 was estimated to be at around $3.5 billion, a pretty anemic figure compared to what we’re seeing today” said Gordon. “The entire market was primarily dominated by five vendors. It was very difficult for innovative companies to break in, which is what we’re changing at MACH37.”
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