Utah Next Big Cyber Security Incubator
Already a contemporary hotbed for online marketing and analytics, Utah is quickly becoming the next big cybersecurity incubator. Ten years ago it was a regional hub for technology companies, but far from a leader in the security space. Now, dedicated research and deep public-private partnerships are setting up Utah as the next leader when it comes to protecting cyberspace and beyond.
Brigham Young University, University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, and many other Utah universities — along with the NSA’s Utah Data Center — are developing rich curricula dedicated to cybersecurity research and education. By the time the next generation of vulnerabilities comes around, experts from Utah may well be at the forefront of fighting against them.
Silicon Slopes: A Destination Location
Before we get into some of the deeper points that make Utah the next cybersecurity leader, let’s look at why it excels as a tech town. Unlike other tech towns — most notably Silicon Valley or its fast-paced brethren Silicon Alley — Silicon Slopes is a destination community. People don’t come here to land a job, put in a couple quick years of work, and go back home again. This goes for companies as well as employees. Big brands come here, and none leave.
In the Valley or the Alley, you might spend four hours a day in your car on your daily commute. Here, you spend four hours a day on your mountain bike. There’s something to be said about a black diamond slope and working for a startup. There’s a thrill and excitement to each, and Utah offers the perfect blend of both.
While I think this appropriately explains my passion for Utah as a technology hub, it lacks the reasons behind its recent propulsion into the cybersecurity space, which may be briefly defined by three big letters: NSA.
The NSA: Pushing Utah to the Forefront of Security
In 2011, construction began on a $2 billion NSA data center that would not only bring tens of thousands of jobs to the state, but also pave the way for deals with local universities to create specialized curricula and produce the highly trained workforce needed to operate such a facility. In 2013, for example, the NSA partnered with the University of Utah to develop on such a program that “will ensure students know all facets of data-center management, from the computing to the importance of heating and cooling to the electrical requirements.”
Recent years are speckled with similar stories. In 2012, Utah Valley University was awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help provide post-baccalaureate degrees to help students land advanced management-level cybersecurity certifications. In 2013, another $3 million grant was awarded again to University of Utah to develop software to help thwart sophisticated algorithmic attacks that were flummoxing leading security methods.
These close partnerships between government entities and the private sector are just the beginning and the impetus for further expansion in Utah’s burgeoning cybersecurity scene. Just earlier this year, for example, Intermountain Healthcare announced that it would be working together with the University of Utah and three unnamed (but certainly recognizable) healthcare organizations “to collaborate on a security operations center to deal with the looming menace to the whole industry.” I see new partnerships like this pop up all the time, and won’t be surprised to see Utah become a global hub of cybersecurity expertise in coming years.
A Unicorn of a Different Stripe
When I launched my startup, I had to decide whether to locate here in Salt Lake or in Silicon Valley, and it was almost a no-brainer in favor of Salt Lake. There’s an immense talent pool to select from. A pool that speaks cybersecurity, meaning they have the right combination of skills in online security, math, physics and machine learning, all of which are necessary for today’s advanced cyber tools. To boot, people tend to stay in Salt Lake, so I could build the kind of loyal, passionate team I wanted, largely without fear of churning and burning through people.
All the signs point to Utah cybersecurity startups playing a big part in the next wave of successful exits. While previous Utah unicorns such as Domo, Qualtrics and Ancestry.com were outside of security, the next big bangs in the startup world could well come from the security space — and Utah is smack in the middle of it all.
Read the entire article posted on Beehive Startups.