With Powerpoints, acronyms and industry jargon aplenty, the pitches were esoteric — obviously not designed with the layman in mind.
But that’s okay with the organizers of Cybercon 2016, an annual cybersecurity conference in Atlanta held Sept. 27 at Georgia Tech.
These five-minute, in-person infomercials were targeted to about 15 chief information security officers of Atlanta’s Fortune 500 companies — high-level executives intimately familiar with topics like “threat detection,” “encryption” and “authentication,” who stand in the little-understood gap between businesses, their customers and the world’s growing army of hackers.
“This is the part where we intersect the Fortune 500 with innovative companies,” said Justin Daniels, an attorney at Baker Donelson, the law firm behind the conference, as he introduced the pitch session after a morning filled with speeches on pressing industry topics.
For 11 companies mostly at relatively early stages of development, a sales pitch to the NCRs and Turners of the world can change their entire business trajectory, which is one reason many of them crossed oceans to attend.
“If you fly in and come to this conference, you may spend a couple thousand dollars as an international company, but those are 15-17 possible sales calls — all because you came to one event,” Mr. Daniels told Global Atlanta. Other speakers included Phyllis Schneck, deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at the Department of Homeland Security, along with Soraya Correa, who makes the buying decisions as the agency’s chief procurement officer.
Eight of the 11 firms that presented were from countries outside the U.S., from Canada (1), Israel (5) and the United Kingdom (2). They ranged from Canadian encrypted email service Echoworx to software solutions like Israel’s CyberBit and NexDefense, an Atlanta company which helps industrial companies secure automated systems in industrial settings.
The international flair makes sense for a conference that started last year as a follow-on to an Atlanta cybersecurity trade mission to Israel.
After Mayor Kasim Reed joined a high-level delegation to the CyberTech summit in Tel Aviv, the Atlanta-Israel cybersecurity forum provided a way to return the country’’s hospitality and a practical introduction to the city’s assets in a tech sector whose profile grows with each massive breach of government or company data. (Last week, 500 million Yahoo user accounts were hacked — a fact that surfaced in many of the pitches.)
It’s also by design. Atlanta isn’t very well-known in tech circles abroad, and after attending the Infosec conference in London in June, Mr. Daniels said the Atlanta event’s organizers felt they could accommodate a bigger tent.
Baker Donelson not only hosts the event, but it also this January launched an accelerator at its Buckhead offices to allow companies that start new business relationships in Atlanta to also have a physical office here.
Mr. Daniels has helped lead the broader Atlanta Gateway initiative at the Metro Atlanta Chamber to make the city the preferred beachhead for foreign cyber companies looking at the Western Hemisphere.
GalaxKey, a British firm that helps encrypt sensitive data sent over email or shared in files, is among those looking into the incubator as a way to tap the U.S. market.
Local startup RaceIQ, which is working to build a device for cars that would detect threats and malware in their internal software systems and notify auto makers, is also among the first entrants. Founder and Georgia Tech executive MBA James T. Jones sees Atlanta as the perfect spot — a growing tech hub smack in the middle of the South’s automotive manufacturing cluster — with an airport to boot.
“If we moved, I would have to pay talent to move wherever I go,” said Mr. Jones, who now has to turn away engineers from Georgia Tech. His company has also been a part of the Advanced Technology Development Center and is working with Panasonic Automotive, which has an auto electronics research center at the university.
The event precedes the 14th annual Georgia Tech Cyber Security Summit Sept. 28. Just after their pitches, companies were invited to have lunch with the executives to foster opportunities for business. Learn more about the full day here.
Georgia is home to more than 115 information security companies and ranks third in the nation with more than $4.7 billion in revenue in the sector, according to the Technology Association of Georgia.