Meeting Washington’s security entrepreneurs

As a hub of entrepreneurship, Washington D.C. is home to companies that specialise in a number of industries associated with the federal government. In particular, the security sector (both physical and cyber) is renowned for its presence in the region. In order to find out more about the world of security we caught up with Steve Van Till; Founder, President and CEO of Brivo Inc., and John Czupak; CEO of ThreatQuotient.

Van Till founded Brivo in 1999 during the rise of the e-commerce sector, as individuals sought more security for package deliveries that arrived on their doorstep. After creating the 'Smart Box' as a physically secure and connected device linking merchant and consumer, he realised the potential in securing entire buildings and public spaces. "We pivoted the whole company to provide commercial access control using the same underlying infrastructure. It turned out to be a great decision because our cloud-based commercial security offering is thriving, and the consumer logistics space has adapted toe-commerce in other ways," explains Van Till [below].

Brivo’s subsequent success led to Van Till being honoured as one of The 25 Most Influential People in the Security Industry by Security Magazine. Brivo currently works with mid-market and enterprise clients, with property management as the single largest vertical alongside other large user populations in healthcare, retail, education, professional services, and federal government. Brivo serves over eight million users who are tenants, residents, visitors, or customers in the buildings managed with their security platform. Their cloud-based solution means that in future they plan to see increased demand across all types of critical infrastructure, "From electrical to telecom to food services supply chain. These are all great fits for the highly distributed nature of cloud solutions," Van Till explains.

More recently, Brivo brought mobile technology to the business and developed the first commercial access control system with a Mobile Credential app that allows users to open doors with their phones using only cloud-based services. 

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This is the area that Brivo is most excited about; Van Till says, "[Mobile Credentials] means putting an app in the hands of people who are actually coming and going from buildings - that’s a new capability in our market and completely changes the relationship between the security enterprise and the people being protected."

We asked Van Till about the Internet of Things and how that would affect Brivo and the wider security industry. He says, "The cost reductions driven by IoT technologies will make it much less expensive to acquire the data required to ensure public safety. That’s because we can deploy much greater numbers of sensors at a much lower cost. Coupled with the ability to perform complex data analytics in the cloud, this will revolutionize our ability to detect adverse events in real time."

The federal government is among Brivo’s clients, Van Till explains that working with the government involves considerable amounts of regulation and rules, particularly in the security sector. "The incidents of 9/11 gave rise to what is known as the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), which led to uniform authentication requirements for all federal employees and the systems used to manage their access to federal properties" he notes.

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In addition to physical security, the D.C. Metropolitan Area is home to a series of companies (particularly start-ups) in the cyber security sector. ThreatQuotient was founded in 2013 by Wayne Chiang and Ryan Trost as a provider of a Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) that aggregates and organises complex cybersecurity system information via a dashboard.

The company was founded with the aim of operationalising threat intelligence and recently won Security Start Up of the Year award at the 2016 Info Security Global Excellence Awards. Through its threat intelligence dashboard, Czupak says that the reason why ThreatQuotient have been so successful is due to the team’s past experience and domain knowledge. "Our platform has a very intuitive workflow and user experience, and a flexible architecture that lends itself to quick and easy customization. This environment allows for more successful data enrichment and nurturing for our clients," Czupak says.

Read: How Washington’s entrepreneurs are revolutionising the way we learn

Currently ThreatQuotient works with well-known Fortune 500 class companies across a variety of industries including finance, retail, manufacturing, technology, gas & oil, and healthcare. Given all industries are susceptible to cyber threats, there is vast potential for growth.

At the end of 2015, ThreatQuotient secured $10.2 million in Series A funding. We ask Czupak about his plans for 2016, "For starters, we are aggressively expanding our engineering investments to continue to offer our customers the best product possible. We are also looking to build out our go-to-market operations, including both our sales force and marketing efforts."

ThreatQuotient’s priorities also lie in expanding globally, "In the last six months, we opened our official headquarters in Virginia, opened offices in the UK and France, and we are in the process of identifying our next international location. And with our new channel program, Threat Alliance Program (TAP), we are excited to be working with partners from all over the world," Czupak explains.

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Both Van Till and Czupak highlighted the advantages of working as a security company in the D.C. Metropolitan area. Czupak says, "D.C. is home to much of our country’s national security efforts. As a new security company, D.C. offers an exceptional pool of experienced cyber executives and engineering talent. Without these folks, no start-up would stand a chance. It is certainly D.C.’s history of very big and successful cyber companies that gives start-ups an advantage."

Van Till also speaks of the region’s prestige, "D.C. is a great town for all kinds of talent, and of course it’s a great magnet for new talent from outside the area. We’ve had many people join Brivo from all around the world, and I have to think that our location in the nation’s capital has something to do with that."

The D.C. Area breeds talent and success; as the security industry in the D.C. region continues to flourish, entrepreneurship from both start-ups and larger companies shows no signs of slowing down.

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