Accelerating cyber security

Research news
08 March 2019

Whether it's criminal activity against individual businesses, or the work of a 'state actor' hacking into Federal Parliament's servers, recent cyber attacks highlight the need to build Australia's expertise in cyber security.

A unique accelerator for cyber security startups is hoping to build the capacity of the sector by investing in companies and providing them with the experience, advice and support they need for success.

Launched last year, CyRise is a partnership between Deakin University and global IT company Dimension Data and is the only accelerator in Australia with a specific focus on cyber security startups.

"Cyber security is a growing market in Australia and we're still in the early days. There are a lot of people working to lift the profile of cyber security here and make the public aware of its importance. That means tremendous opportunity for business if we can get it right," CyRise CEO Scott Handsaker said.

Based in Melbourne, CyRise offers cyber security startups from around Australia a six month program that exposes them to international best practice, industry mentors, and potential investors and customers. It also invests $50,000 in each successful program applicant.

"We want to help our startups go from what can be as early as the idea stage all the way to being a validated and sustainable global company," Mr Handsaker said.

“We need to build Australia’s capacity and talent pool in cyber security and the way to do that is by helping individual companies be successful. That means growth and global expansion and that’s what we’re helping our companies to do.

"Our model is geared towards working with technology startups looking to build something innovative in a scalable way. Some of our startups develop software that focuses on intrusion detection, some help people manage their cyber security operations, and some develop secure infrastructure for cloud hosting. So we have a range of companies with varying ideas."

One of the unique aspects of the program is a ten day trip to Israel, where program participants are immersed in what Mr Handsaker describes as the, "hypercompetitive, world-class cyber security ecosystem" of Tel Aviv.

"Israel has a global reputation in cyber security and an enormous number of cyber security startups. There is a depth of talent there that we don’t yet have in Australia so it’s a really valuable opportunity for our startup founders to experience," he said.

Entry to the selective program is through a rigorous process of interviews and pitching, with the selection committee assessing the investment and market potential of the idea and the company, and the founders themselves.

The successful teams have access to the knowledge and expertise of around 45 mentors over the course of six months, as well as an industry advisor program that introduces them to potential customers.

The program culminates in a 'demo day' when the startups pitch their progress to potential customers and investors.

Businesses from the inaugural cohort continue to reap the benefits of their involvement in the CyRise program.

"Three of the four teams were in the idea stage so we worked with them through the program to validate their idea, build an early product and test it. One of the teams has now raised external capital so they’re off and growing. Another has some early concept customers and is about to fundraise this year and another has just relaunched their product and is about to expand," Mr Handsaker said.

He said Deakin’s involvement in CyRise was a natural fit with the University’s depth of experience in cyber security. Deakin has been heavily involved in cyber security research, offers speciality courses in the field and has a dedicated Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CSRI).

"I think what we have in Australia is world class engineering talent and a great education system that Deakin is part of, so we have fantastic potential to generate some great work here," Mr Handsaker said.

"We just need to encourage more people to have a go and that’s part of what CyRise does. We show people that it’s possible to be an entrepreneur and that if you have an idea it’s ok to jump out of corporate life and build a startup because you can be successful."

Cyrise’s success stories are part of Deakin’s display at the Australian International Aerospace and Defence Exposition at Avalon Airshow this week, along with other cutting-edge technology from the University’s School of Engineering, CSRI, Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation, Institute for Frontier Materials and the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute. Visit www.airshow.com.au for more information.

Published by Deakin Research 2019

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CyRise CEO Scott Handsaker

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CyRise CEO Scott Handsaker

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