For the past 30+ years, it has been a pleasure to contribute to the wireless ecosystem through the ongoing evolution in this space. From AMPs, to CDMA, to GSM, to 3G/4G and now 5G it has been a period of exponential change, though none of it included discussions about security. You would have thought that I had seen it all…until now. Recently I had the privilege to be a part of the Australian Trade Mission’s Landing Pad program in San Francisco. I can honestly say that I, my company, and my world view have been positively transformed as a result of the 90-day residency.
The transformation began when AustCyber suggested we apply for the San Francisco Landing Pad project through Austrade. We were one of five Australian cybersecurity companies that were selected to participate. These five companies now became, affectionately known as the AustCyber Cohort.
What is it like to participate in one of Australia’s Landing Pads? The best way to describe it is intense, demanding and surprisingly collaborative. I was locked in a room everyday with other Australians whose sole focus aligned with that of our company, Cog. With feet on the street in Silicon Valley (the global hub of innovation), we got down to business (and a bit of fun, as well). Yes, it was difficult at times, but the work environment led to less day-to-day distractions, kept me highly focused and ultimately led to significant results for Cog.
Our company went into the Landing Pad project with three goals:
- Raise the company profile among influencers and decision makers in Silicon Valley
- Obtain new customers
- Expand relationships in the VC community
My days were filled with prospecting and meetings across the Bay area with potential customers and VC’s. The goal was five meetings each week, which allowed us to compress outreach into three months versus what would have normally taken a year as you fly back and forth to try and accommodate schedules.
Talking to so many folks helped me validate and hone the message for Cog with both our customers and potential investors. While I took the opportunity to experiment with unique angles at times, I quickly figured out what message hit the right notes for the right audience. Soon, the message (Monolithic to Modular) became the offer (We Secure IoT) and the offer became the solution (D4 Secure). It was messy at times and I floundered a bit, but I could always count on my fellow cohort members to lift me up to keep at it. Ultimately the process was illuminating and gratifying as we expanded our relationships in Silicon Valley and began to build awareness around our solution.
Comradery among my fellow mates was also a big part of the experience. Austrade loaded up the landing pad with other cybersecurity companies from Australia, plus six other non cyber-security companies. The AustCyber Cohort was a great group, which was nice as we all spoke the same language. As the cohort had so much time together, we began to form a sense of community more out of necessity than choice. Though to do it again – I would tell you it was a choice all day long. Nothing was sacred among the cohort and no one was better than the other. These factors created a think tank-like atmosphere where we could share ideas, collaborate, learn, relate, all while stitching in comic relief.
Our partnership with SIEMonster was born as a result of this work environment. Together, we launched the Redback appliance utilizing Cog’s D4 Secure platform. This partnership provided the perfect foundation to set up both companies for success at RSA 2018 in April where we were named one of the “hottest cybersecurity products” by Peter Sayer, IDG News Service.
There were several key takeaways after this experience:
- We held 100+ meetings in 90 days as a result of being immersed in Silicon Valley.
- As an Australian company, we benefited from walking/living in someone else’s shoes. We now have a better understanding and can more effectively extend our company into this new market.
- The VC’s in Silicon Valley are very much focused on a ‘pay it forward’ approach. Even if they can’t help, they will ask how they can help. Call it karma – or as I like to say – it is just how they do business in the Valley.
As you know, Cog is an Australian company. Everyone in the cohort was from an Australian company, as well. Uniquely, I was the only Yank among all my Aussie mates in the cohort. This did require a pretty thick skin as one is not always sure when your mates are actually picking at all things American. And, the U.S. and San Francisco bring plenty of fodder for commentary. However, I think it is important that we all note that only Australia has fought side by side with the Americans in every conflict going back 100 years. We are true partner, allies, and friends. If there was nothing else to take from this experience, I will be forever grateful to be offered the chance to be an honorary Aussie for those 90 days.
Thank you to Austrade and AustCyber.