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On Tuesday April 22nd, myself and Ostendio’s CEO, Grant Elliott, attend DCA LIVE’s 2018 BIG Cyber Growth Summit. As a cybersecurity product company headquartered in the greater Washington DC area, I found it very interesting to learn that only 11% of the 177-pure play cyber firms sell a product – the other 89% are solutions and services companies according to data collected by American University’s Kogod School of Business.

Here are my other 3 surprising takeaways:

1. Competition for talent is as fierce in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area as it is in Silicon Valley.

Jennifer Thornton, Director of Workforce Initiatives, Greater Washington Partnership, talked about some interesting statistics including that in the US, cyber activity accounts for $14 billion, or 2% of US GDP. She also shared that when taking a very narrow definition of what cyber includes, there are 105,000 job openings available in the US, with 18,000 of those in the DMV area. This means that job hunters have their pick of position and company, making the fight for talent as tough in the DMV as it is in Silicon Valley.

The solution? Invest in creating a more diverse talent pipeline.

2. The DMV needs better access to capital.

One common theme that emerged throughout the several panels I listened to was that cyber entrepreneurs in the DC region need better access to capital. Capital is critical for growing and expanding a business – no matter what industry you’re in. However, historically the DMV area has not experienced the big venture capital deals which Silicon Valley or New York has, which is often contributed to DC being considered a risk-adverse city. Investors are more focused on wealth preservation than wealth creation. DC Mayor, Muriel Browser, is trying to change this with a new initiative called Pathways to Inclusion whose goal is to make it easier for minority entrepreneurs to gain access to much needed capital.

Related to need for better access to investment funds is that start-up founders also need guidance from leaders who have been in their shoes. Once a company has received a large infusion of capital, they need advice from entrepreneurs who found themselves in a similar position. We need more serial entrepreneurs who have started and exited several large companies to then sit on boards, provide guidance and be a sounding board. The DMV still needs to work on cultivating an ecosystem of mentorship.

3. “Slow velocity in business makes investors take note.”

When Steve Smoot, General Partner with Lavrock Ventures said that "Slow velocity in business makes investors take note” it made me, well, take note! Speed is often associated with start-ups, so it’s an interesting idea to take the time to work on going slow with your product, customers and funding. This statement was echoed by John Funge, Chief Product Officer with DataTribe who said that “Building trust and third-party validation” is something that he strongly recommends when scaling a company – 2 things which can’t definitely can’t be rushed.

Working for a product company in the Greater Washington area, it was great to learn more about our growing cyber community. What are your thoughts on the cyber industry in the DMV?

Post by Niamh Bennett
May 1, 2018