For 10 years, RSA Conference has highlighted companies with innovation information security products as part of its Innovation Sandbox Contest. Who will we see this year?
Every year, 10 companies go head-to-head on the Innovation Sandbox stage at RSA Conference to nab the "Most Innovative Company at RSA Conference" title. Teams from each company present and demonstrate their product in front of a panel of judges and answer questions. Check out the Gallery of Victors to see the list of past winners.
This Q&A is with Domingo Guerra, president and co-founder of Appthority, the app-risk management service named the "Most Innovative Company at RSA Conference 2012." Since its win, Appthority has raised $6.3 million from two investors.
RSA Conference: What was the biggest benefit of participating in the Innovation Sandbox contest?
Guerra: The Innovation Sandbox helped put Appthority on the map at the highest stage in the information security industry. Although we started the company in 2011, we mainly operated in stealth mode as we developed the product and reached out to potential customers to learn about their app security needs. The RSA Innovation Sandbox helped us launch into the public eye with a big bang, and winning the competition gave us great exposure and momentum with both customers and investors alike.
RSA Conference: Did your team check out other companies which were finalists in the contest or were you focused on your own tasks?
Guerra: Part of what made the Innovation Sandbox such a great experience was being able to see other top startups in the space and learn about the latest technologies. The RSA Innovation Sandbox committee did a great job selecting the top 10 finalists. We still see most of our "cohort" at major security events and in the market. 8 of the top 10 2012 finalists are still successfully operating today (the other two have since been acquired).
RSA Conference: What did you learn as part of your experience with the contest?
Guerra: One of the key lessons was the importance of a short, crisp, presentation. It is definitely not easy to summarize very complex technology... a complete company, really... in just 30 seconds for the contest application video. After clearing that hurdle, we then had to convince a panel of well-respected security judges that we had the best technology and business approach, in just a few minutes. These lessons transfer well to the crowded security market in general, there is a lot of noise out there due to competition and successful companies need to be able to cut through the distractions, deliver a message that is clear, and quickly demonstrate value to security buyers who get pitched all day long.
RSA Conference: What would you say to someone thinking about entering the contest?
Guerra: Do it! Whether you end up winning or not, the application process and the competition preparation both force your company to take a deep look at both your technology and your business model. You then have to prioritize your talking points into very short storylines, which is great focus. Further, if you end up being a finalist you get a lot of exposure in the security space, with customer prospects, venture capitalists, analysts, and media.
RSA Conference: It’s been a few years since your win. Has the experience in the contest, or winning the contest influenced the company’s growth in the years since?
Guerra: Winning the Innovation Sandbox had an immediate impact in our fundraising process. My cofounders and I were all first time founders. Although we were building very cool technology, we lacked relationships with the VC community and we hadn't been very successful in raising capital. We had thus bootstrapped through all of 2011 and early 2012. After our win, we saw a dramatic change in momentum. We had received 3rd party validation that our technology was indeed impressive and VC interest quickly grew after that. The win also helped us with large enterprise customers, who are sometimes weary of working with a startup. The market in general respects the Innovation Sandbox panel as experienced security experts and that carries a lot of weight.
If your company is doing something innovative in information security, check out the submission guidelines. Hope to see you on stage in April!