CyberLaunch shows Atlanta’s strengths in machine learning and cyber
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CyberLaunch opened its doors to its first cohort in October 2015 (screenshot)

The accelerator hopes to pave the way for cybersecurity and machine learning startups to scale

For all the trendy talk about machine learning, little attention has been given to the vertical’s lack of business prowess. At the same time, it’s becoming an indispensable component of technologies in various sectors, including cybersecurity. That’s the conclusion the boys at Atlanta’s new cybersecurity and machine learning (ML) startup accelerator CyberLaunch reached.

“We are transitioning into funding more software-focused neuroscience companies, specifically companies that use machine learning in the context of neuromodulation, mental health, and therapeutic/drug R&D. The accelerator experience will really depend on the specific startups we fund and grow,” CyberLaunch co-founder and partner Kyle Grossman told Geektime.

It’s the second major accelerator project for Grossman and co., following up on the NeuroLaunch accelerator they started in July 2014 specifically for neurotech companies. NeuroLaunch co-founders Kaneva CEO Chris Klaus and co-founder BlendLogic Jim Schwoebel are also founders of this project. As a result, the new program will have a lot of overlap with, but not mamu new contours from, the original one.

“Since the milestones are different and the mentors that can help our companies are different for cyber and neuro companies, we thought it would be simpler and more focused having two entities,” Grossman added. “Often machine learning startups create algorithms that can apply to anything and have trouble defining who their end customer will be.”

NeuroLaunch's Demo Day in October took place at the Atlanta Tech Village (source: @NeuroLaunch on Twitter)

NeuroLaunch’s Demo Day in October took place at the Atlanta Tech Village (source: @NeuroLaunch on Twitter)

The program is 90 days long and provides somewhere between $20,000 and $100,000 depending on the venture. They’re also offering about $100,000 in additional perks, according to the accelerator’s website. More than 60 mentors are on the roster: legal aid from Foley & Lardner; reps from Ionic Security, Payoff, and local ML company Predikto; individual mentors include venture capitalist Ashish Mistry, Bluebox founder Caleb Sima and Yik Yak director of ML Marsal Gavalda, among many others.

The sole financier to the program is co-founder Chris Klaus, who made a small fortune off the $1.3 billion sale of port-scanning company Internet Security Systems (ISS) in 2006. The new program has also identified 10 different verticals for both cyber and ML that participating companies should target for best use of their algorithms.

A nascent and a booming industry

Machine learning is a subsection of artificial intelligence where computer algorithms can receive new information and learn without supervision. Others treat it as synonymous to deep learning or image and speech recognition.

It’s a growing industry by any account: Research and Markets values AI at $11.1 billion by 2024; Companies and Markets puts speech recognition at $133 billion by 2017; and Markets and Markets estimates the image recognition sector will be worth $25.65 billion by 2019.

“With machine learning and security startups, the focus is more on rapid software prototyping, showing growth, and on finding the right market. Common to both is showing traction and reaching the next milestone for follow-on funding from angels and VCs,” says Grossman.

The team isn’t alone as several corporate-sponsored programs have emerged in machine learning, including Microsoft Ventures’ machine learning accelerator in Seattle and InsAnalytics‘ new artificial intelligence oriented program.

While there is no shortage of security startups, it will be interesting to see how CyberLaunch aids startups in cybersecurity, a vertical extremely tied in with progress in machine learning because of its need to automate various tasks like threat detection.

Tomahawk tech

Atlanta's Tech Square neighborhood at night (CC BY SA 3.0 WestinPeachtree via Wikimedia Commons)

Atlanta’s Tech Square neighborhood at night (CC BY SA 3.0 WestinPeachtree via Wikimedia Commons)

Atlanta is getting noticed. Right next to fellow American cities Philadelphia and Denver-Boulder, it bore an honorable mention by Startup Compass’ annual ecosystem ranking report, placing the Georgian capital in the un-ranked top 50. The city is home to cloud-based mobile security firm AirWatch, which was acquired for $1.6 billion by VMWare in 2014, as well as Lancope, which Cisco acquired for $452 million in October.

“Atlanta is a great place for software companies, especially in security and machine learning,” CyberLaunch co-founder and partner Kyle Grossman told Geektime. “For security, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) also houses significant defense contracts that can lead to high-value spin-outs in security. Suffice it to say Atlanta has a fairly robust ecosystem to grow security startups.”

But it’s far more important to highlight the rise of ML in the Athens of the South.

“For ML, we have a few startups here already in this space. Predikto is using ML to make sense of massive datasets in transportation, [and] Kimberly-Clark is looking to use machine learning for their e-commerce business sector,” adding that big corporations like CBS, CNN, UPS, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot are adapting ML for distribution, optimization, and media data.

“This is an emerging space and Atlanta is rapidly growing.”

CyberLaunch was co-founded in October by serial entrepreneur Kyle Grossman, Kaneva CEO Chris Klaus and co-founder of BlendLogic Jim Schwoebel. The team also founded the NeuroLaunch accelerator in July 2014.

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