• Photo Illustration. Credit: Shutterstock/Dmitri Ma
     Photo Illustration. Credit: Shutterstock/Dmitri Ma

Cyber Technology Dives Into Shark Tank

February 21, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

It’s down to five companies as a competitive series aims to make a big splash in innovation development.


Five cyber technology firms will vie for top honors as a six-month series of shark tank competitions reaches its climax on February 27 in Arlington, Virginia. These efforts are part of an ongoing attempt by AFCEA to apply the principle of the popular venture capital television show to bring new technologies to the attention of government organizations seeking vital solutions. Following the cyber technology shark tank, AFCEA will host another shark tank at its Small Business Innovation Summit on May 1.

The February 27 event, presented by the AFCEA Washington D.C. Chapter, is an element of the chapter’s annual Cybersecurity Technology Summit. Barbara Ellen Bridges, president and founder of Empower Cyber and a board member of the D.C. Chapter, explains that the February 27 shark tank will differ from previous sessions in that the audience will choose the winner, as opposed to selection by a panel of judges.

Companies that participated in the screening processes were required to have innovative technology or a capability that applied to government cybersecurity needs. Even with these limitations, companies could submit a broad scope of capabilities for meeting cybersecurity challenges throughout the digital spectrum. The goal was to provide as many different possibilities for companies to present their innovations, Bridges explains.

The five shark tank sessions that chose the finalists relied on judging panels comprising former White House, Defense Department and National Security Agency officials, along with other experts. The finalists chosen were Mojo Networks, Akamai, NormShield, Bastille and Qnexis. In the final round, each of these winners will give the same pitch that won them entry into the summit. They will have five minutes for their presentations, which are limited to only two slides. At the end, the audience will select the winner.

For the latest shark tank series, each preliminary session was conducted at the studios of Cybersecurity TV, an Internet TV channel, Bridges explains. The network keeps the sessions on for one year, during which time the winning companies can send viewers to the website. The same will apply to the winner at the summit, she adds.

Bridges says she and the CEO of Cybersecurity TV, Dave Gardy, will provide synopses of the questions and comments by the judges in the earlier competitions. This way, the voting audience will have a flavor of why the judges selected each company.

“They are all such different technologies,” she offers.

Bridges notes that the chapter is working with the summit’s keynote speakers to arrange meetings with the winning firm. It also wants the winner to return to a later chapter function to present its technology. Many benefits can emerge from the championship designation, she offers, noting that the winning company from the first shark tank several years ago recently was acquired by Amazon Web Services.

The shark tank at AFCEA International's Small Business Innovation Summit on May 1 will follow many of the approaches used in the Cyber Shark Tank, but it will have a key difference. The May event will not limit itself to cybersecurity solutions but instead will be open to a broad range of innovative technologies. However, it will be open only to small businesses that are AFCEA member companies.

Planners will hold three preliminary shark tanks well before the May event. These will provide competition to select three winners for the final shark tank. Bridges says that many small businesses have expressed interest in participating.

Because this shark tank is open to a wider range of capabilities, planners are asking government agencies to express items at the top of their technology wish lists. Agencies may have webinars that describe their specific needs to prospective firms, she notes, which will arm companies for meaningful discussions with government officials at the innovation summit.

For more information on the February 27 cyber summit, visit the event website.

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