On Wednesday, 7 startups were chosen for first ever GCHQ Cyber Accelerator program
Wayra UK, the accelerator hub at the center of Telefónica Open Future_ network’s innovation efforts in Britain, announced on Wednesday that they had finalized their selection of the seven startups that would be joining their cyber-focused program.
The initiative for Wayra UK’s latest venture is backed by the British government, with involvement from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the GCHQ, the UK’s equivalent of the NSA that is responsible for signals intelligence among their other duties.
The accelerator will be located at the Cheltenham Cyber Innovation Centre, a government-run facility where the companies will have access to the talents and resources of GCHQ’s elite cyber personnel.
The companies that made the list are CounterCraft, Cyberowl, Cybersmart, FutureScaper, Spherical Defence, StatusToday, and Verimuchme.
Following the completion of the accelerator program, the spokesman told Geektime that, “The programme will be reviewed after the first 3-month period and a decision on what happens next will be taken then.”
This could mean either funding from a related investor, acceptance into another Wayra related accelerator, contracts with the GCHQ, or other possibilities that are still very much up in the air.
There is a clear focus among these startups on the B2B market. Looking at the various banking and IT industries served by the companies that made it into the program, a spokesman from Wayra tells Geektime that many of these solutions work to protect user data that are held by companies using their services. This can include cases where a consumer signs up for a service, giving their name or financial information like a credit card, or even more personal details like health status. In the rush to bring everything online and into the cloud (think IoT), the protection of user data has unfortunately been amongst the first victims.
While CounterCraft is headquartered in Spain, the rest of the companies are reported to be UK-based. Known more for their role in fintech and consumer markets, it is interesting to see a push in the UK for promoting the cyber market. Director at Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future_ (UK) Gary Stewart, said in his statement to the press that, “The opening of the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator is a significant step forward for the UK’s ambitions to be a global hub for cyber talent. By bringing together GCHQ’s world-class security expertise and pairing it with Wayra’s track record in accelerating businesses, we will give entrepreneurs with exceptional cyber security ideas the opportunity to develop them in the best possible environment. This accelerator could have a huge impact on the global cyber security sector, generating the next generation of systems that will make everyone’s online experience safer and more secure.”
Still developing, the cyber sector is being looked at as a high value industry in the very near future as expectations of requirements from companies begin to change. The cyber security market reached $75 billion in 2015, and is expected to top $200 billion by 2021 according to a Markets&Markets report.
Geektime Data Intelligence’s Beni Hakak points out that while areas like banking face significant requirements to implement certain cyber protections, most companies and government offices are yet to feel the impact of the pending regulation that is yet to come. Whether for e-commerce or even simple operations that hold any kind of sensitive data, Hakak says that like all organizations are required to work with an certiorari standards today, tomorrow they will need to be up to snuff with cyber security checks.
New regulations would mean a boon for cyber companies like fire code for smoke detectors: just a lot more profitable for the companies here.
So beyond the desire to help make the country safer as a part of the National Cyber Security Strategy, which has been backed by a £1.9 billion investment, there are definitely hopes that encouraging the growth of the sector, it will be able to help put back solid capital into the economy.
The US Department of Defense, as well as other government security bodies known for their outreach to startups in recent years, is looking to stay on top of the latest developments and offer contracts where possible. Interestingly, the model has been to send a clear message to companies that while the government or military may wish to become a customer, it is still beholden upon the companies to find other forms of revenue, and not become dependent.
I am personally a fan of these types of accelerators that give members of the private and public sectors a chance to intermingle and share (approved of course) information and practices, thus improving the ecosystem as a whole. If government organizations are able to pick up better products to help achieve their missions through these exchanges, then this should be considered a win-win.