IN the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack, companies are more often considering how personal data is protected. It appears no business is too big to avoid the threat of ransomware, as global companies including Disney and Sony have reported cybersecurity breaches which have resulted in heavy financial losses.

In response to this growing threat posed by modern hackers, Scott Handsaker, the CEO of Melbourne's new cyber security accelerator program CyRise, believes the best solutions are couched in entrepreneurship.

Handsaker says Australia has the potential to be a global leader in the cyber security space, and he on a mission to support its innovation.

Handsaker's company CyRise will accept five early-stage cyber security startups into its accelerator program this September.

These startups will be mentored by industry leaders including Craig Davies of the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, Didier Elzinga of Culture Amp and Debro Bordignon of Dimension Data Group Australia.

Handsaker says CyRise will forge connections between entrepreneurs and corporate partners, attract around $50,000 in capital to each business, include a trip to Israel and the USA and also allow the businesses access to office space in the CBD.

Business News Australia spoke to Handsaker on the topic of cyber security in business ahead of the national CyRise roadshow event.

Do you think Australia is lacking in the cyber security space? If so, why?

I don't think that we're lacking in all areas of cyber security, I think around R&D we're quite good.

I think there's a lot of investment in R&D whether that's through various universities, so we have a strong R&D capability.

But where I think what we're lacking is convincing more entrepreneurs and more startups founders to have a go in cyber security.

I think that that's a weakness for us because cybersecurity is a great growth area and if we can get more people to have a crack at cyber security we'd be better off as a nation.

What's involved in the CyRise program?

The CyRise Program is an early stage accelerator and it's focused purely on cyber security which makes us quite unique.

There's lots of great accelerators but they tend to have a more generic focus; we're vertically focused just on cyber security.

What we're looking for is great early stage teams who are building something around cyber security whether that's software or hardware.

If they successfully get into our program they'll get $50,000 in funding, they'll receive access to world class mentors, they will receive a fully paid trip to Israel, and they will receive access to early customers.

Cyber security startups tend to be B2B enterprise sales so the sales cycle can be quite long. At the end of the program we are also looking to take the startups to the USA.

We're engaging with corporates who are willing to be a partner with us and they will be happy to engage with our startups and help validate the solution.

It will also allow our startups to run their idea in a sandbox environment within that corporate to validate the solution against the raw data.

What type of companies do you foresee coming out of the accelerator program?

At this stage we're not that sure what stage of company we're going to attract.

What we're looking for is entrepreneurs who are highly technical with expertise who are looking to build a software or hardware solution in the cybersecurity space.

Typically, there'll be hopefully two founders or a single founder or a small team, they're probably in the early days of it, and might have a product built, they might not.

But even though they'll be early stage they'll be incredibly ambitious. They'll know, or we'll tell them, that the Australian market is too small to build an entire business on, and their companies need to be global from day one. 

The companies that come out at the end of six months should feel that they've validated their problem, it's a real-world problem that's been validated against various customers.

They should have some traction and have a number of customers using the products.

They should hopefully be growing, and they should hopefully be in a spot where they're ready to raise money and they may not raise money as soon as they get out, it might take them another 12 to 18 months but they should also have deep connections that we've given them into various networks. Hopefully they've reached a point where they're ready to really put the foot on the gas at the end of the program.

Where do you see the cyber security space going in the next few years in Australia?

I think and I hope that the Australian market will be more open to buying cyber security solutions from Australian startups, I think that at the moment they're quite reluctant to and they tend to be a bit conservative.

Is there any reason why you think Australian companies are reluctant to buy from Australian groups?

Maybe not Australian but more from startups. Big successful businesses don't want to make mistakes and on paper startups look a bit risky.

But corporate Australia should look to startups because they tend to be more advanced and I'd love to get more of that happening.

In Australia, I think it's only going to get bigger and more focused because the opportunity is only going to get bigger and the problem is only going to get bigger in terms of corporates and individual hackers.

Business News Australia



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