From the Mouths of Judges: A Glimpse into the RSAC Innovation Sandbox and Launch Pad Competitions

Posted on by Kacy Zurkus

Innovation continues to fuel our industry's growth, and nowhere is that innovation more palpably obvious than at the RSAC Innovation Sandbox (ISB) and RSAC Launch Pad competitions, where new ideas are transformed into opportunities. For the second year, security technology visionaries have presented their ideas to the RSAC Launch Pad judges, giving them a front-row seat to innovation.

Wondering what the judges thought of this year’s pitches? We were, too. So, we asked them for some insight into this year’s pitches and finalists. Of course, they couldn’t divulge specifics about the technologies and solutions that most impressed them before the contest happens in February, but many of them overwhelmingly agreed that they were wowed.

What’s so exciting about being a Launch Pad judge? Theresia Gouw, Founding Partner at aCrew Capital who was one of the inaugural judges last year where the contests also had a very strong group of finalists, said she gets to see companies from all over the world focused on solving new problems and new challenges in almost real time. And, according to Niloofar Razi Howe, Senior Operating Partner at Energy Impact Partners, 2020 has been yet “another year where the caliber of companies made judging tough and absolutely worth giving up my downtime over the holidays.”

This year, judges saw companies trying to get ahead of the coming changes in the encryption world, trying to catch up to privacy regulations around the globe, and working to corral the explosion of cloud computing and the complexity that it can imply for security requirements. “What’s great about the Launch Pad is that you get to see these companies way earlier than you might otherwise as the contest is (by design) for essentially the earliest of stages,” Gouw said.

At the RSAC Innovation Sandbox, the judges overwhelmingly agreed that this year’s pitches were both “strong” and “diverse,” which Paul Kocher, security entrepreneur and researcher, said made it unusually challenging to pick 10. “Many of the companies that applied this year are focused on helping organizations improve their processes and make better sense of security-related information. For example, there are a lot of interesting applications of AI to try to manage risk or identify anomalous behavior.”

Asheem Chandna, Partner at Greylock Partners, echoed Kocher’s statements and added, “We saw applications from around the world—in addition to the US, saw applications from Israel, Europe, India and Australia. We are also seeing more women CEOs. The cybersecurity threat landscape and stakes have never been higher, and innovation pipeline is very strong within emerging/new companies.”

Which pitches remain front of mind for Chandna? Some of the most impressive cybersecurity innovation drivers included those that deal with the secular move to SaaS and hybrid cloud, the rise of AI/ML and the tremendous shortage of security talent. Indeed, the ideas and technologies presented to the judges represent what entrepreneurs consider to be the most pressing needs of the industry, according to Dorit Dor, VP of Products at Check Point.

“The best way to maximize the potential to ensure comprehensive security is by viewing the landscape and seeing what ‘the field’ believes is coming up next,” Dor said. “RSAC Innovation Programs as a whole, and this competition specifically, are extremely useful to that end.”


“The RSAC ISB and Launch Pad programs are fantastic representations of what our industry needs,” Dor said. “We all cover different fields and scopes but share one important mission, which is becoming more crucial as connectivity dominates the path to improvement. For us as judges, it’s humbling to be able to share our experiences with the current and next generation of cybersecurity entrepreneurs,” Dor added.

Kacy Zurkus

Senior Content Manager, RSA Conference

RSAC Insights Innovation & Startups

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