Note to future security entrepreneurs: Solving big enterprise problems is a good strategy.
In a field full of innovative technology solutions, Waratek, an Irish startup that aims to make enterprise applications more secure, took the top prize in the RSA Conference's 10th annual Innovation Sandbox contest. And it did so with a simple but compelling value proposition.
"Enterprise applications are the blind spot of security," Anand Chavan, Waratek's co-CTO, said during his three-minute presentation. "We want to make your applications self-protecting, self-diagnosing and self-testing,"
The panel of judges was apparently impressed, although it should be noted that for the first time in the history of the competition, they had a deadlock in their voting, with Waratek narrowly inching out Ticto, a maker of electronic ID cards that enable "visual crowd authentication." Ticto was named the runner-up.
Waratek also beat out a field that included companies in a variety of hot new areas of security, a fact that was not lost upon a clearly relieved Chavan.
"We were not prepared for the level of competition," he said, shortly after the winner was announced. This is also the first time a non-North American company has won the title in the contest's 10-year history.
Overall, the competitors shined a light on emerging security trends. There were solutions that apply behavioral analytics to plug security breaches, analyze the mountains of data companies now manage in frictionless fashion, or crowd-source the security community for answers to complex problems.
Hugh Thompson, program committee chairman for the RSA conference, emphasized the fast-changing nature of the field in a couple of slides that illustrated how the industry's buzzwords have changed. The terms that dominated the 2015 slide—threat, cloud, mobility and data, for instance—didn't even appear on the slide depicting 2008.
Given such change, the smart money was on one of the sexier competitors—such as Bugcrowd, which markets a platform that gives IT security folks access to 16,000 "white hats" and generated the most audience buzz—to claim the inaugural "Crowd Favorite" competition. Alas, a technical snafu nixed the new contest, and an obviously disappointed Thompson promised a second beta version of it next year.
"We'll get it right by year 2020," he quipped.
Maybe by then we'll all have expelled the image Thompson put in our heads earlier, when he suggested that smart phone owners now do their banking "at home, in the bathroom, naked."
Thompson was simply making a point about how mobility has changed the security proposition at most companies (although the idea of him banking while, say, lying in a hammock in his backyard might have been a bit less suggestive), and has thus raised the bar for what vendors must supply.
Joining Waratek on the list of finalists in this year's Innovation Sandbox competition were: Ticto; Bugcrowd; Vectra (malware mapping); TrustInSoft (software security); SentinelOne (endpoint protection); SecurityDo (breach information event management); NexDefense (security for control systems); FortScale (behavioral analytics); and Cybereason (real-time threat detection).