RSAC 2015 Spotlight: Innovation Sandbox

Posted on by Fahmida Y. Rashid

Is there innovation left in the information security industry? Or are companies faced with the same catalog of over-promising/under-delivering products year after year? The Innovation Sandbox at RSA Conference is designed to show off exciting developments in our industry.

Innovation Sandbox WinnersFor conference veterans and first-timers alike, the week will be jam-packed with talks, keynotes, and sessions, as well as meetings with infosec peers and experts. Innovation Sandbox contest is something different. The half-day program is part of The Sandbox, a space dedicated to hands-on demonstrations and collaborative events, and showcases ten startups with innovative solutions to security problems.

"If you want to learn about the up-and-coming vendors and technologies, this is one place to do it," Rick Holland, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, wrote in March after RSA Conference 2014. 

During the competition, each startup has the opportunity to present its product to a panel of judges (this year's panel  includes representatives from venture capital firm Greylock Partners, Salesforce, Google, and Cryptography Research) in a "Shark Tank"-style competition. Dr. Hugh Thompson, the program committee chairman of RSA Conference moderates the event.

Past winners include Sourcefire (acquired by Cisco for $2.7 billion), Altor Networks (acquired by Juniper Networks for $95 million), and Imperva ($90 million IPO).

Why Practitioners Should Attend Innovation Sandbox

Innovation Sandbox provides attendees an opportunity to learn about ten promising startups they may not otherwise get a chance to talk to. Most people don't have time to keep track of what startups are doing and what technologies are disrupting the marketplace. "When you are just trying to stay above water in your day job, you don’t have bandwidth for these types of extracurricular activities," Holland wrote. The judges have spent months reviewing startups before coming up with the final ten.

"They've done the legwork for you; take advantage of it."

Holland also noted the practitioners can learn communication skills from watching the presenters. "Trying to condense the value of an offering into 3 minutes is challenging, and pitching to a noted panel of judges is stressful," Holland said. But watching the presenters gave Holland ideas on ways he could improve his own presenting skills. "How would you approach demonstrating the value of your security team, or job to senior executives within your organization?"

Why Companies Should Enter

While being crowned "Most Innovative" would be great, just the exposure of being a finalist can be valuable to startups. "Just because we didn’t win this award, doesn’t mean we won’t be successful,” one CEO told Holland after the last contest. For example, Purewire, a finalist in 2009, was acquired by Barracuda Networks in 2009 for an undisclosed amount. 

To be included in the competition, the company must be privately held with less than $5 million in revenue in 2014, and have a management team with a proven track record in bringing products to market. The product has to be on the market for less than one year, must have the potential to make a significant impact on the information security space, and must be set up for a live demonstration during the contest.

If you think your startup is doing some innovative and will disrupt the security industry, the submissions process is now open. Deadline to submit is no later than 8 p.m. PST on Friday, February 28, 2015. Finalists will be notified March 16. Innovation Sandbox starts at 1 p.m. PST on Monday, April 20. The winner will be announced around 5:15 p.m. PST.

Visit the RSAC Innovation Sandbox Contest website for more details and to apply. Don't forget to check out the handy list of Dos & Don'ts before submitting your application! 

Fahmida Y. Rashid

Information Security Journalist, Editor-in-Chief, RSA Conference

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